October 27, 2015
When arriving to a show, there are always signs of how entertaining an act will turn out. And during a band’s sound check, fan reaction is always a good indicator of how energetic a show will be. Are fans standing around, arms crossed, waiting to be impressed? Or are they claiming their spots early in front of the stage?
Soulfly’s arrival at Scout Bar Tuesday night carried all the normal signs of a promising act — barricades in front of the stage, a packed house and rambunctious fans chanting, “SOUL-FLY! SOUL-FLY!” Sepultura shirts dotted the crowd, a few fans wore Cavalera Conspiracy shirts and many donned Soulfly apparel while three bros next to me had an in-depth conversation about Killer Be Killed, all members of the Soulfly's extended family.
To call the Cavalera clan creatively prolific would be a gross understatement. While guitar techs were tuning and roadies were busy loading out the opener’s gear, fans caught a glimpse of guitarist Marc Rizzo. They shouted. He waved, and one shouted, “Igor!”
Never mind. The crowd had waited long enough for the headliner. Tension building, the chants grew in energy, “SOUL-FLY, SOUL-FLY!” until Max Cavalera took the stage and ripped into the first track from the Brazilian group's new album, Archangel, “We Sold Our Souls to Metal,” truly a punk anthem and the kind of fast-paced song the can only be played as an opener.
Those hard-hitting beats were courtesy of Cavalera’s son and drummer, Zyon Cavalera. Playing on a simple kit for metal (read: one rack tom and one bass drum) Zyon’s technique was brutal, creating an illusion of great wings fluttering behind the drum kit as the elevated stage was a blurred vision of arms and cymbal crashes. Well-executed, Zyon’s force on the drums was striking. Rousing the crowd into screams, he played like a man possessed by muscle memory, physically becoming the music itself.
Filling out Soulfly's lineup was new bassist Mike Leon (formerly of Havok) who notably provided new energy to the band and backup vocals. Actually those vocals felt more like a duet, and Leon’s screaming could have easily been the lead. Bass is clearly not his only talent.
Max Cavalera paused between songs to praise his new bass player and introduce him to fans. Leon plucked through an improv solo and then played the title track from an older release, Prophecy, then, “Titans."
Fans roared in response and the largest pit I’ve ever witnessed at Scout Bar opened up. To which Max Cavalera screamed into the microphone with circling hand, “Destroy this fucking place NOW!” And they did.
When cups fly up out of the pit, that’s a general sign for everyone else to get the hell out of the way. Bodies pushed up against tables and stools…and pushed the writer to safe side-table stage left, thank you.
Soulfly then tore into the title track of their latest album, a song that showcases Max Cavalera’s masterful death growls. It’s hard not to be impressed by a voice like his. He’s held up for so many years and so many projects, yet his vocal ability continues to display such intense and aggressive power.
Soulfly played the heaviest tracks from Archangel including “Sodomites." Max called to the crowd to sing with him and while many people knew the lyrics, many did not. Ever the patient and soulful teacher, the front man led them in a singalong.
He exited the stage and returned playing a Berimbau. Singing in Portuguese into the gourd piece — something beautiful and untranslatable — a still moment opened up in an otherwise angry and aggressive show. He led the audience in singing some chants, “Oh yoi, yoi, yoi, yoi!”
That is the beautiful transcendence that Max Cavalera brings to metal. He is a spiritual, primitive, sensitive musician.
And then, quite suddenly, that moment was destroyed by a fan front and center of the stage screaming above the music, “SEP-PUL-TUR-RRRRAAAA!!”
Really? Have you no respect or patience? Apparently not.
It’s hard to fault fans for what they love, but it was obvious to more than a few in the crowd were solely there to relive days of “Roots."
For all my personal annoyance at some audience members who seemed to only care for a nostalgia piece from Cavalera and his band, Max seemed unbothered.
He even seemed to appreciate whatever love the crowd displayed. Truly a patient soul and a real showman, he then screamed into the microphone with a smile, “Get up, you motherfuckers!”
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Then entire band returned to the stage and teased the crowd with the opening of “Roots” and other Sepulture hits, plus Soulfly’s “Frontlines."
As midnight approached, Soulfly continued to play their songs with all the same intensity as if they had just opened the set. And, I recalled Max’s promise from the interview, “We will give the fans an hour and a half of music. This is for them. I will not let them down.”
True to his promise and beyond, there was nothing left, and Soulfly left nothing untouched — powerful until their last note, they delivered.
Even to the Sepultura purists.