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Conquer Review

by Eduardo Rivadavia

After mercilessly teasing Sepultura fans by reuniting with long estranged baby brother Igor for the Cavalera Conspiracy project in early 2008 (quite possibly a one-off deal), Brazilian heavy metal icon Max Cavalera waited just a few months before refocusing on what had been his primary concern over the previous decade: Soulfly. Be that as it may, and with the exception of those jilted Sepultura supporters, there was good cause for the metal community in general to look forward to Soulfly's sixth album, Conquer. After all, its 2005 predecessor, Dark Ages, had represented something of a creative and qualitative rebirth, going a long way to rescuing Max's ostensible solo project from years of post-nu metal iniquity. Luckily, that same spirit of stylistic diversity abounds once again throughout Conquer -- as does Soulfly's career-spanning juxtaposition of scholarly cross-cultural exchange and primitive Neanderthal violence. Opening number "Blood Fire War Hate" may be the best example, contrasting sweeping symphonic flourishes against pulverizing metallic brutality, Cavalera's legendary lyrical simplicity (as effective as it can be hilarious at times), and guest vocals from David Vincent for good measure. And even though the next song, "Unleash," comes dangerously close to unearthing lousy old habits -- an imaginatively mellow solo from guitarist Marc Rizzo only barely staves off gimmicky groove metal breakdowns and a wholly unnecessary co-vocal by Throwdown's Dave Peters -- the album rarely falters again after that. On the one hand, it offers up numerous awe-inspiring returns to Cavalera's ancient death/thrash roots in tracks like "Paranoia," "Enemy Ghost," the devastatingly riffed "Fall of the Sycophants," and "Warmageddon," featuring a throwback Rizzo solo filled with flashy swoops and dive-bombs. On the other, it makes room for Cavalera's trademarked tribal percussion bits and "world metal" hobbies, including a nifty reggae breakdown midway through "Doom" and several evocative passages derived from his recent Egyptian travels, often as codas for "Touching the Void" and "For Those About to Rot" (also featuring French dub artist Fedayi Pacha). Naturally, there's a sixth, predictably lame and new agey installment of the band's ongoing eponymous suite closing these proceedings, but its arrival late in the game hardly affects the album's otherwise formidable forward thrust, nor can it stop Conquer from writing one of the stronger chapters yet in the Soulfly saga. And wherever Max Cavalera heads off to next -- even if it comes to that dreamed-of Sepultura reunion some day -- Conquer seems to assert that Soulfly will forever remain his primary home.

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