Soulfly – Ritual (Album Review)

Soulfly – Ritual
Released: October 19th, 2018


Max Cavalera | Vocals, Guitar
Marc Rizzo | Guitar
Mike Leon | Bass, Vocals
Zyon Cavalera | Drums



One of the hardest working musicians of the last decade, let alone the last three decades, Max Cavalera is back with a brand new Soulfly album, Ritual. The band’s eleventh album was produced by the GRAMMY Award-winning Josh Wilbur (Lamb of God, Trivium), himself a self-confessed fan of Cavalera and from the outset, Wilbur, was determined to bring back that tribalism to the new Soulfly record, which he has achieved with aplomb. Ritual is also the first Soulfly album to feature ex-Havok bassist, Mike Leon.

To be honest I find it hard to lay anything but praise on anything Max Cavalera touches. Hell, I even found some very kind words for Savages, an album which definitely polarised a few in the Soulfly fan club. So where does Ritual sit? For starters, the tribal is back, from chants to percussion, but whereas early Soulfly tended to overplay that tribalism to the point where it was almost rooted in what Roots had previously delivered via Sepultura, Ritual is stripped back and more subtle. Subtle I must add in the tribal stuff not so subtle in the brutal riffage that Cavalera and co. implement on this record. If you thought Cavalera Conspiracy’s last album, Psychosis was huge with thrash riffs, then Ritual will have you salivating.


The album is kick-started with the title track, a tribal slab of thrash melded with nu-metal. It’s brutal and immediately has that Josh Wilbur influence with riff masters, Cavalera and long-time guitarist Marc Rizzo on fire from the beginning. ‘Dead Behind Eyes’ follows on, a track that features Lamb of God vocalist, Randy Blythe. Death metal, thrash, old school Sepultura sound….holy shit….Max is back! Max’s son, Zyon Cavalera, playing on his third Soulfly album has clearly upped the ante. His drumming is now to the Igor Cavalera level, something I could not have stated in the past.

‘The Summoning’ crashes in next, gathering momentum riff by riff. This track has everything you would in a Soulfly track. There’s the “thrashy bit”, a killer breakdown which will destroy many a mosh pit in the near future and an almost industrial metal conclusion. Amongst the mayhem, Max screams, “Will you take my soul”! A great track on top of what is already an impressive start and it follows more with ‘Evil Empowered’, another groove metal/tribal classic. The relentless momentum of Ritual continues with ‘Under Rapture’, a track that features Immolation’s, Ross Dolan. Duelling riffs, more killer Zyon drum work, a cool bass bridge by Mike Leon. You can almost tell Max Cavalera had a lot of fun working on this album, it comes out in the music. Of course his vocals are still as angry as fuck but there is something about Ritual which just connects and close your eyes and you can visualise Max smiling ear to ear when recording these songs.

This unabated punishing force is pleasantly subsided on next track, ‘Demonized’. Where Soulfly’s last album, Archangel was a blatant attack on the senses from its first chords to its last it probably suffered slightly from that kind of barrage as a whole. So, Rizzo cracks out the flamenco acoustic guitar until it leaks into the heaviness which the band are renowned for. Sometimes a little change up in a record can mean all the difference between a good album and a great one, and in my opinion a short interlude or the occasional tribal influences over the top are what makes this Soulfly album one of their best.


Blood on the Street’ and ‘Bite the Bullet’ bring back the more in your face aggression, with the former fully embracing the tribalism and concludes with chants and percussion. I never thought I’d miss that tribe feel on a Soulfly album but listening to Ritual, I’m so glad the Cavalera clan went with Josh Wilbur. His use of these effects has definitely made Ritual all the more enjoyable. If the thrash, nu-metal influence on this album is too much, there is even a punk almost Motorhead nod on the track, ‘Feedback’! That patent bass line stands out giving Max time to shine, which reminds me slightly of the old Nailbomb track, ‘Blind and Lost’. The band conclude with ‘Soulfly XI’. A return to the all acoustic instrumental which is made all the more jaw dropping with a saxophonist thrown into the mix. Yes, you heard me right, a saxophone!

So, if Cavalera Conspiracy’s, Psychosis did it for you, no doubt Ritual will as well. There is undoubtedly some old school Cavalera creeping into his music these days and that can only be a good thing. The hardest working vocalist in the world of heavy music has created another Soulfly gem. An aggressive tribal thrash/mu-metal wall of sound (yes, I said it). May all future Soulfly albums contain Josh Wilbur in its production.


Soulfly – Ritual tracklisting
1. Ritual
2. Dead Behind The Eyes (feat. Randy Blythe)
3. The Summoning
4. Evil Empowered
5. Under Rapture (feat. Ross Dolan)
6. Demonized
7. Blood On The Street
8. Bite The Bullet
9. Feedback!
10. Soulfly XI

Rating: 9/10
Ritual is out Friday October 19th via Nuclear Blast Records. Pre-Order here
Review by Jim ‘Plugga’ Birkin

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About Plugga73 (370 Articles)
Writing, reviewing, interviewing, exploring new and old heavy music. From punk to grunge to hardcore to death metal to thrash and everything in between. I've been writing in the music industry now for several years including the websites LOUD, SF Media, Tone Deaf, The Metal Review and AMNplify. I'll be the one talking about bands from the 90s all the time..... Hit me up on twitter @Plugga73