Some of tonight’s die-hard audience seem a little surprised that Max Cavalera and the latest incarnation of his groove-heavy, complexity-light, Soulfly are playing to a room as small as King Tut’s. Yet to us, it makes perfect sense. After all their last three albums have been their most death metal influenced yet and with Max himself now something of an elder statesman, this show probably isn’t going to attract the younger, tighter-trousered brand of metal-head en masse. But really, with music this intense, what better way to witness it than crammed into a small club where the band are just a few meters away and the whole room is your mosh pit. So Mr Cavalera, let’s see who you’ve brought out on the road with you.
We like opening act Incite….a lot. They peddle groove metal that edges thrash in tasteful doses and blast tight, single guitar- powered chops out with control and fire. Frontman Richie Cavalera (Max’s stepson) is a lean, mean bellowing unit who connects easily with the crowd. Before their last song, when he tells us that he has travelled four thousand miles for a mosh pit, our immediate reaction is to instantly and violently give the man what he wants! Incite win a good few new fans tonight.
No such luck with the bunch of Aussies who follow. King Parrot (maybe Dead Parrot would be more apt?) fall head first into every grindcore pitfall known to man. They can’t play; a fact they try to mask with irreverence. They can’t write songs; a fact they gloss over with pointless blast beats and changes of tack. Worst of all though is their gurning, squawking ‘vocalist’ who takes the stage bare-chested, apparently oblivious to the fact that he has the physique of Billy Bunter. We have our own shit grindcore bands in the UK, why the hell did Soulfly’s management waste the plane fare on these arse hats?
We last saw Max at Download 2015 with Cavalera Conspiracy and, perhaps surprisingly, they failed to win the crowd. But let’s face it, Cavalera Conspiracy’s material is weaker than Soulfly’s and Sunday morning in the pissing rain ain’t the best slot in the world for an ageing thrash band! By contrast, the guttural groove of Max’s greatest post-Sepultura project playing to a couple of hundred heads in a small, sweaty room is bound to be a better proposition and Soulfly do not disappoint. Crucial cuts from their current album – We Sold Our Souls for Metal and the bruising “Archangel” – determine the tone and the resultant pit and constant stream of bodies being launched over the top of it bears testimony to the fact that Soulfly’s central Scottish fan base is there to party. Hard.
Their current line-up is arguably Soulfly’s strongest ever. Mark Rizzo is a versatile and consistent guitarist and Max’s son Zyon has transitioned from ‘guest embryo’ to world class metal drummer behind the kit tonight. In fact, there is a very real sense that his youth and enthusiasm is subtly giving the rest of the band a kick up their collective arse.
During the set we get the obligatory references to Max’s past – “Refuse/Resist”, “Arise”/”Dead Embryonic Cells” and “Roots, Bloody Roots” get an airing – but to be honest it’s a shame he still feels the need to wheel them out when there is more than enough premium material in Soulfly’s back catalogue to satisfy the fans. Finishing on “Frontlines” and then a rousing, if a little short, “Jumpdafuckup”, Max leaves the stage while his band play him out with a snatch of Maiden’s “The Trooper”. That’s about as fitting as it gets!
In these times of complexity and musical flash, Soulfly represent a primal journey into our shared musical roots and at their helm Max stands as one of metal’s iconic frontmen. Tonight he left the stage to the sound of bellowed approval from every member of that audience. Show over and time for Worship Metal to hit the road, promptly bumping into young Zyon in the corridor; chance taken to offer our congratulations on his performance and a pleasant end to a great show. 8/10