Soulfly is what religious music should be: not the insipid platitudes and mealy-mouthed devotions favored by mainstream Christian pop but, rather, a passion play of blood and fury depicting man's struggle to remain faithful in a world that is increasingly faithless. Soulfly's latest album, Primitive (Roadrunner Records), is the sound of faith being tested, beaten and battered yet somehow emerging, bloody and triumphant, from the horrors that beset it on all sides.Vocalist/lyricist/guitarist Max Cavalera (pictured) has produced a batch of songs that make the ideal soundtrack for reading the Book of Revelation. St. John the Divine's wild-eyed, red-fanged vision of the Apocalypse has long been the Rosetta Stone of heavy metal, providing more band names, album titles and song lyrics than any slasher movie or video game could ever inspire, and with good reason. Revelation is a vision of blood and fire and death, the heaviest, gnarliest story in a book dense with horrors.
Cavalera does more than swipe a few lines as grist for the mill: He draws on the main themes of Revelation (violence, vengeance, punishment, justice, faith) and sets them to music that matches the might and majesty of St. John's prose. This is not music for the faint of heart: Soulfly unleashes brutally distorted guitars and explosive percussion, knocking one-third of the stars from heaven as guest vocalist Grady Avenell growls, "Don't fill my heart with love/engulf my heart with vengeance/you need to see our pain," and he could be addressing the man who murdered Cavalera's stepson, Dana Wells, or the God who allowed the murder to happen.
In the end, faith wins out, and the album closes with Cavalera singing, "Pressure building on my soul/I ask God to take control/Guide me through this fucked-up world," and it's the prayer of a man who has earned his faith, not blindly accepted it. It's not just heavy metal for the thinking man, it's heavy metal for the feeling man. Verily, it smites ass.