It's been a while since I dove headfirst into a SOULFLY album. After the self-titled debut and "Primitive", I stopped paying attention and missed out on "3" and "Prophecy". I half-expected album number five to be a watered down, more commercially oriented, "nu" type of album. To say I was "shocked" at the blisteringly metallic qualities of "Dark Ages" doesn't begin to describe my reaction. I'm stunned at just how heavy and SEPULTURA-like (somewhere between "Arise" and "Chaos A.D.") it can be. Is it coincidence that a hard charger titled "Arise Again" appears on an album that often recalls the primal ferocity of Max's former band? Who cares? Just be glad it's not the only stomper of the bunch.Aside from Max's penchant for creating the coolest tribal splashes and exotic interludes, a result of Cavalera's mind-expanding ways and the myriad guest musicians, much of "Dark Ages" thrashes with speed and aggression. Marc Rizzo (electric and flamenco guitars) lays down several ripping solos, while drummer Joe Nunez and bassist Bobby Burns make one mean rhythm section team. The album's fat low-end and percussive intensity should surprise no one familiar with Max's work. There are so many great metal moments on the disc, all anchored by hard grooves and a propensity to get heads bangin' like there's no tomorrow. "Babylon", "I and I", "Carved Inside", "Fuel the Hate", "Frontlines", it's as if Max wanted to remind everyone of just how much metal is lodged in those Brazilian bones. Violent tendencies notwithstanding, this wouldn't be a SOULFLY album without the creative flourishes and decidedly non-metal attributes. Where does one even begin? Well, the album was recorded in five different countries: Serbia, Turkey, Russia, France, and the United States, seemingly anywhere inspiration struck, whether due to historical location or native artistic expression. The outro to "Bleak" contains sounds captured in Istanbul's Haggia Sophia, "Molotov" includes Russian lyrics, and "Innerspirit" contains the clean vocals and trombone of Serbian performer "Coyote". But wait, there's more. Somehow mentioning Billy Milano's name at this point seems a tad askew, but his phoned-in (literally) vocal on "Molotov" hits the mark. Max's stepson Richie sings passionately about the elder Cavalera's grandson, Moses, as well as Dimebag Darrell on "Staystrong", an eight-minute track that moves from heavy to trippy with ease. There are also moments of electronica on "(The) March", and PRODIGY-esque industrial grooves mixed with tribal drumming and chants on "Riotstarter" (also featuring David Ellefson on bass). The fifth installment of "Soulfly", appropriately titled "Soulfly V", is an 11-minute serene beauty. I've not even covered all the musical nuances or creative nooks and crannies on "Dark Ages". All these elements crammed into 15 tracks and yet the album is undeniably metal. Therein lies the magic of a project led by Max Cavalera. Very impressive.
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