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By Joshua Jabcuga
April 15, 2004
The Passion of Cavalera: Josh Jabcuga examines the Jesus Christ craze with his review of Prophesy, the latest disc from SOULFLY, in which MAX CAVALERA takes on all of hell, boy.
Thanks to Mel Gibson and projects like the Left Behind series, the Word of God is being pimped out to record breaking numbers. There's money to be made, and the J.C. franchise/brand is a major cash, ahem, cow. Sure, people are buying it, but are they really buying into it? Bah! Irrelevant hearsay, I say, since we all know in the battle between commerce and art, the almighty dollar always takes top billing at the showbiz altar. (The 11th Commandment being: Thou Shall Make Loads of Coin for Movie Studios and Record Label Suits.)
In light of such matters, I find myself not asking W.W.J.D. (What Would Jesus Do?) but W.W.J.M.T. (What Would Jesus Mosh To?). The answer, my friend, is not blowin' in the wind. It's blowin' out of a jacked up car stereo from some teen's Dodge Neon with the windows cranked down at your local mall on a Friday night. See, the kids know. (Was it Jesus or ROGER DAWLTREY who said "The kids are alright"?)
SOULFLY's Prophesy hit stores on March 30 like a swarm of locusts, and let me tell you, my brothers and sisters, MAX CAVALERA and SOULFLY are no Johnny-Come-Lately-Prodigal-Sonsa-Bitches. No, sir, they were there when they crucified my Lord. And not since the Old Testament has God looked so badass. Regardless of who his disciples may be in this army known as the "Soulfly Tribe," or how large the ranks may be, it's apparent that MAX CAVALERA believes in his convictions. CAVALERA and his golden child SOULFLY are to God and metal what OZZY and BLACK SABBATH were to Satan and metal: An unmistakable force to be reckoned with (on par with being an act of God). At the end of the track "I Believe," CAVALERA growls "You can't kill faith / You can't kill God." Indeed, when it comes to a headbanger's beliefs, apparently you can't take yourself or your God too seriously. See, when I was a teen, I was always under the assumption that OZZY was God (unlike other teenagers at the time who believed KURT was God), but it's good to know kids have more options these days. CAVALERA isn't a bad choice to put your faith into.
For those of you just joining the circuit (rock, evangelist, pro wrestling, or otherwise), you need to know that MAX CAVALERA comes from the seminal Brazilian death/speed metal group known as SEPULTURA. SEPULTURA were gods. And then, like the best rock bands, they had their differences that resulted in an apparent falling out on the scale of Cain killing Abel. SEPULTURA marched on with a new lead singer, but it's the same as SABBATH without OZZY, pure blasphemy, bucko. Meanwhile, a displaced MAX CAVALERA and SOULFLY were resurrected, rising from the ashes with even more purpose than before (sorry if this is sounding more like the Dan Jergens' Death of Superman storyline than a Jesus Christ analogy). For those of you that are doubting Thomases, rest assured, MAX CAVALERA still kicks ass.
SOULFLY's Prophesy plays, ahem, host, to some of the hardest hitting metal tracks I've heard in a long time, maybe not since Mary Magdalene was still claiming to be the big "V." CAVALERA has never been much of a pure singer. Not even die hard fans and disciples of SOULFLY deny that. He is, however, one of the most unique and original vocalists metal has ever seen. He yells. He screams bloody murder. He growls. And he's got that cool accent. DAVE GROHL of the FOO FIGHTERS said it best when describing his own PROBOT dream project, and I'm paraphrasing, that when CAVALERA sings, the lyrics just sound...cooler, because everything he says comes out like some Third World dictator barking orders.
Like all mortals, SOULFLY is not without fault. The band's greatest sin is in its lack of subtlety (much like the writer of this column). SOULFLY are about as subtle as a fart in church. There's the occasional inclusion of keyboards, like at the end of the title track, that's borderline self indulgence (read, pure cheese), suggesting ENYA, as opposed to say, DEEP PURPLE's "Perfect Strangers," where such effects compliment the ass-kicking-ness of the track. On "I Believe," there's a brief spoken word bit when CAVALERA says, "Every man has to find his own destiny / Just follow your heart and just let it be / I believe in God immortality." It's at this point in the journey that you realize MAX is on a mission, and also, with the earnest delivery of those sermon-like lyrics, what it must sound like to listen to MARVIN GAYE's "What's Goin' On" in the middle of a frenzied RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE mosh pit.
Make no mistake, though; there's no pussyfooting around here. When CAVALERA unleashes hell, he comes right out and tells you like the Ultimate Warrior reciting Shakespeare. On the track "Defeat U," CAVALERA hollers: "It's me who's out for blood, soon all the floodgates open / Integrity's my only friend, prepared to fight its omens / It won't - Won't break me / It won't - Defeat me / We will - Will break you / We will - Defeat U/ Fire spreads killing fear / Muthafucker your end is near / Can't bring me down / In a sea of shit you drown." When's the last time you heard Sister Mary Christmas say that during Sunday school?
Of all the SOULFLY releases, this is the most consistently realized and easily accessible. Others, such as 2000's Primitive and 2002's "3," were inspired but ultimately uneven efforts. While SOULFLY's 1998 self-titled debut is still CAVALERA's post SEPULTURA opus, Prophesy is CAVALERA & Co.'s most mature work.
Maybe we need someone like MAX CAVALERA during these dark days of war and corporate greed. It's certainly timely and relevant music. On the insanely addictive "Mars," CAVALERA warns: "The new millennium is here / The smell of napalm and fear / All this confusion and mass hysteria / Welcome all to the new frontier / ...I am Mars the God of War / You bow to me like you did before."
While CAVALERA seems to have grown comfortably into his SOULFLY skin, he still finds room for experimentation, which has often resulted in the high points of various SOULFLY albums past, such as his pairing with SEAN LENNON on "Son Song" off the album Primitive. On the track "Moses," MAX goes all MARLEY with the reggae, screaming for help with "Father of creation / Give me inspiration." Relax, Max, we all know that the old school Old Testament team can cream the superfriends of the New Testament any day of the week. The track ends with the sample of a lion growling, and at that moment, any and all subtlety is sent down river like an infant Moses. And don't think that I have a problem with being beaten over the head with a theme, as long as something is consistent and fresh. I give CAVALERA credit where credit it due. Just don't ask for forgiveness for that marching band at the close of the album, MAX. That's just plain wrong.
All in all, Prophesy is more like THE SCORPION KING than GLADIATOR. It kicks ass, but one is pure popcorn, and one is pure Oscar, but both are epic, nonetheless. (It sure as hell beats anything put out by CREED, though, since we all know SCOTT STAPP is a pure poser...and the antichrist to boot.) CAVALERA possesses so much, er, God-given talent, he can carry this album off. With Prophesy, CAVALERA nearly pulls off a miracle, turning water into wine. Or at the very least, he turns chicken shit into chicken salad.
When not doing God knows what, Josh Jabcuga can be found writing Squib Central, published every Thursday, exclusively at www.moviepoopshoot.com.
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