The metal world was shocked last year when SOULFLY frontman Max Cavalera effectively fired his entire band, but then again, SOULFLY had never been what one could call a stable entity. Unlike Cavalera's previous band, SEPULTURA, SOULFLY has been squarely his sole vision, with any other musicians seeming more or less like hired hands. This approach has worked in the past, most notably in the thrash/death metal genre with the late Chuck Schuldiner's DEATH.
This time around, Cavalera seems to have been reinvigorated by recruiting a fresh crop of talented, seasoned musicians, including former MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson, PRIMER 55 guitarist Bobby Burns (also playing bass) and ex-ILL NINO axeman Marc Rizzo, who contributes some stark and beautiful flamenco guitars in addition to plenty of crunch. As a result, the first — and heavier — half of SOULFLY's fourth effort is more energized and intense than a large chunk of the two previous SOULFLY discs, "Primitive" and "3".
Cavalera has also dispensed with much of the nu-metal influences that had always been lurking around the edges of SOULFLY's music. The title track, "Living Sacrifice", "Execution Style", and "Mars" are straightforward, almost classic slices of brutality, huge and angry and full of classic-sounding thrash guitars (note the SLAYER lick on "Living Sacrifice") with a heavy emphasis on the hardcore style that was, ironically, a SEPULTURA trademark. "Prophecy"'s first five tunes rip and snarl their way out of the speakers in a refreshingly basic and minimalist fashion.
It's the album's second half that's more problematic. Going back to the SEPULTURA days, Cavalera has expertly blended music from different cultures — especially those of his native Brazil and other South American countries — into a metal framework, doing pioneering work on albums like "Chaos AD" and "Roots". On "Prophecy", the melding of the different genres is more perfunctory than innovative. Beginning with the seven-and-a-half minute metal/dub excursion, "Moses" (which features a Serbian act called EYESBURN), the songs on the album's second half come across as a blend of increasingly generic hardcore — including a faithful but pointless remake of HELMET's "In The Meantime" — and a variety of world styles, with little of it sounding like a unified whole. The album's final two, six-minute cuts — the all-instrumetal, New Age-y "Soulfly IV" and the mellow R&B groove of "Wings" — may try some fans' patience.
Max Cavalera remains a bold artist in many ways, and should be commended for pursuing his musical ideas wholeheartedly, whether he pleases his hardcore fans or not. In fact, SOULFLY fans may be willing to go along for the ride, knowing Cavalera's penchant for experimentation in the past. "Prophecy" is a strong, if disjointed effort, yet SOULFLY itself sounds more and more like a project searching for new ground, instead of a growing and developing rock act.