Mention the surname Cavalera and everyone involved in heavy music no matter what the genre knows who you are talking about. Max Cavalera, the singer and guitarist of Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy, founding member of Soundwave Festival favourites Killer Be Killed and former front man of one of the greatest thrash/heavy metal bands of the ’90s, Sepultura, is an icon in the genre of heavy metal and has been for the past three decades.
Currently in the midst of a whirlwind UK tour, Wall of Sound caught up with the riff master in Manchester, prior to the August 14 release date of Soulfly’s latest record, Archangel, and he’s pumped,
“I was really quite determined to do something different to this Soulfly album. It has all these crazy elements, really exotic sounds, mixed with classic metal anthems. I’m thrilled with Archangel it’s a really powerful record. I think a lot of people are going to like it.”
The album is one of the most brutal Soulfly albums in the bands discography swaying between thrash elements to intricate fast solos, flowing on from Cavalera Conspiracy’s assault on Pandemonium,
“I think Archangel has its own vibe,” Cavalera argues. “There are different influences. I listen to a lot of metal from around the world such as Melechesh, King Parrot, Psycroptic, Aborted. All these bands influenced or inspired me on Archangel. It’s a brutal album, however, in essence Archangel is a very metal record. It is a full metal record. That is the coolest thing about it,” Cavalera says.
Generic is hardly a word you would use to describe a Soulfly record with the subtle changes from album to album, touches that makes a Soulfly release special, Cavalera explains;
“I like to look at making album as a challenge. I’m proud of all the Soulfly albums. We got all the tribal stuff at the beginning, then thrash, death metal on Enslaved and now some extreme biblical stuff on Archangel. I’ll keep trying to come up with different stuff on future albums but it’s going to be hard.”
Across Archangel, guitarist Marc Rizzo and Max Cavalera both push the boundaries of the Soulfly sound heading into some intricate solos unlike any other Soulfly release, before returning to a thrasher groove. Cavalera details,
“I write the main riff and then Rizzo adds his riff on top. It’s like a two for one. The tracks ‘Ishtar Rising’, ‘Bethlehem’s Blood’, ‘Archangel’ for example. We have a cool dynamic, he’s (Rizzo) my favourite guitar player for this kind of music, and his solos are amazing. The guy is a genius, I love having him in the band.”
Lyrically, the album delves into the biblical story telling more than ever, a fact not lost on Cavalera,
“I love the history of Babylon and the Archadian Empire. The track ‘Ishtar Rising’ is about the Goddess of Babylon, ‘Shamash’ is a God of the Archadian people. Then the biblical stuff with ‘Archangel’ about the war in heaven. ‘Sodomites’ is about God’s wrath and destruction of Sodom. ‘Bethlehem’s Blood’ is about the killing of the infants in Bethlehem and betrayal of Jesus.”
It seems the Old Testament is a must as a bedside table book when Cavalera is in town, “I’m sure I can get more songs out of the Old Testament, I just need to read some more pages. There are a lot of metal songs out of that book.”
The current line-up of Soulfly contains Max’s two sons, Zyon who is now permanent drummer in Soulfly, since last album Savages and Igor Jnr, who is ‘on loan’ from his own band, Lody Kong. Unfortunately the family reunion, whilst fun, is only temporary, Cavalera adding,
“Eventually we’ll find a bass player. Igor Jnr has his own band, Lody Kong, and I really want him to go further with that band. But for the moment we are loving it. Two of my kids on the stage, it’s a dream come true as a Dad, and they are doing good. They are playing their asses off. It’s amazing to see them give 110% every night and come off the stage sweating and red faced, tired from show.”
Zyon Cavalera, the famous in utero heart beat to the start of Sepultura’s classic ‘Refuse/Resist’ track is maturing album by album emulating Max’s brother and Conspiracy drummer, Igor Cavalera. It seems tuition wasn’t hard to find growing up in the Cavalera world, Max adding,
“He fed off all the drummers, my brother, Soulfly’s first drummer, Roy Mayorga, Joe Nunez. He even got to sit behind Bill Ward, Black Sabbath’s drummer on the tour we did with them. He had the best teachers.”
The self-taught drummer still has a few tricks to learn however, as his proud father points out, “It would be very good for him to get some lessons, like deep jazz lessons. Stuff to broaden his brain and make him a better musician.”
So the performances with Igor Jnr and Zyon won’t last, unfortunately, but Max is clearly stoked with the band’s family reunion in the meantime,
“The shows have been great, packed. It’s almost like a novelty in some respects. They (the fans) probably won’t get to see this line up again. We’re a metal family, we stay united. Everyone’s happy, I think Soulfly feels like a new band at the moment, it’s very exciting.”
Archangel features the mandatory ‘guest’ track and Australia’s own King Parrot vocalist Matt Young appears on the track ‘Live Life Hard’, his unique vocal style surprisingly pairing well with the demonstrative Cavalera.
“I checked out the album (King Parrot) last year and I really like the record. I met Matt at Melbourne Soundwave and he came to the show and brought a bunch of King Parrot t-shirts and stuff. He’s such a nice guy, we hit off and I ended up inviting him onto the album.”
“I love his (Youngy) vocals, so killer. So different to my vocals. It’s a breath of fresh on the album when this track comes in. I always like that contrast on my albums. Same on Savages with Neil (Fallon) from Clutch and Greg (Puciato) on ‘Rise of the Fallen’. I think ‘Live Life Hard’ will be one of the fans favourite tracks on Archangel. Its pure punk rock insanity and to the point.”
It seems Max is actually getting faster, not slowing down as he speeds towards his half century in age recording faster songs and recording albums at faster pace, adding,
“I’m getting older, but I’m getting into more extreme metal. I like a lot of grindcore, new bands such as Dead in the Dirt, Coke Bust, Homewrecker. A lot of great music out there. I listen to a lot of death metal too.”
So is it illegal downloads and people not buying records anymore that has Cavalera more busier than any other time throughout his career?
“More about, I quit drinking and doing drugs. Music became my main thing. When music becomes your first drug it does things to your brain.”
Soulfly have yet to play down under since 2010 and are long overdue, something Max is attempting to amend in 2016,
“I hope next year. We are ready. We have a European tour later this year. I hope to do a big tour, maybe something with King Parrot.”
Finally, we couldn’t let Max go without pushing him on the Killer Be Killed update he alluded to a few weeks back, with the news that the band will record a second album….eventually.
“Not writing yet (for Killer Be Killed). I don’t write on the road, too chaotic. I’ve got some ideas though. Now I know Greg (Puciato) and Troy (Sanders) and we have Ben Koller playing drums. We’re going to make a kick ass second record.”
So it seems Dave Elitch (Antemasque) has been replaced in the Killer Be Killed line up for good, Cavalera confirming,
“Pretty much. We introduced Ben at Soundwave Festival and asked him to be part of the group. He’ such a great drummer and musician.”
Archangel is out August 14, read Wall of Sound’s review here
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