The stalwart Max Cavalera-led metal ensemble's 11th full-length effort, Ritual commences with the familiar sounds of tribal drums and chants, which are eventually laid to waste by the four-alarm-fire wail of Marc Rizzo's Washburn seven-string. Add to the blaze the seismic heft of Cavalera's 60-grit vocals and the savage rhythm section of Mike Leon (bass) and Cavalera's son Zyon (drums), and you've got one of Soulfly's best opening salvos in ages. Steeped in the lurching, groove-laden thrash attack of the band's late-'90s/early-2000s heyday, Ritual evokes the savagery of Cavalera's tenure with Sepultura, eschewing some of the more overt world music predilections that have come to define Soulfly over the years with something leaner and more uncompromising -- some of that sonic fury can be attributed to producer Josh Wilbur (Killer Be Killed, Gojira), who has described himself as a Sepultura superfan. Also joining the fray are Lamb of God's Randy Blythe, who stops by for the punishing, Hellraiser-inspired "Dead Behind the Eyes," and Immolation's Ross Dolan, who lends his shredded tonsils to the apocalyptic "Under Rapture." As per usual, it's Cavalera who looms largest over the proceedings, attacking every syllable with a level of immediacy and vitriol that feels antithetical to the group's long tenure. That vitality is most heavily felt on late-album gem "Feedback!," a blast of Motörhead-worshiping punk-metal that just barely hits the three-minute mark. The only real misstep, and it's entirely forgivable considering the band's penchant for eclecticism, is the instrumental closer, a jazz-kissed metal-lite confection -- it has a sax solo -- that comes off like a dour riff on the opening moments of Metallica's "One."
by James Christopher Monger