By Bill Adams
While Soulfly has been instrumental in seeing metal be infused with a variety of different styles since the band formed in 1997, such stylistic incorporations (including punk rock and hardcore of course, but also elements of different musics native to South America) have always been a little bittersweet for devout metalheads; for whatever reason, metal fans tend to take an ‘all metal, all the time’ stance to the music they like and balk at anything that doesn’t fit the paradigm. Soulfly has always managed to come through unscathed somehow and, maybe because of that, they’ve decided to throw audiences a bone by giving them precisely what they want; on Omen, singer/multi-instrumentalist Max Cavalera and company offer up their interpretation of metal and NOTHING ELSE. Oddly, that will probably shock fans – the sudden crash that opens “Bloodbath & Beyond” certainly will.
It’s not that there’s anything particularly outlandish about how the album opens, it’s just surprising how straight-forward it is; from moment one of “Bloodbath & Beyond,” the band cuts Omen‘s eleven tracks right down to their metal base and floors it with no looking back. There is no waiting, no pause and no second guessing, Soulfly just gives fans exactly what they’ve been quietly hoping they’d get for years. Through songs including “Rise Of The Fallen,” “Kingdom,” “Jeffrey Dahmer” and “Vulture Culture,” no punch gets pulled as the band successfully cuts all the filler and leaves all the killer guitars, double-kicking drums and vocals that sound like unsuccessful attempts to pass a kidney stone. Even when the band does touch on thrash and hardcore (“Off With Their Heads” is about as close as they get), the metal edge glistens through and takes the spotlight from everything else.
That should make fans happy right? They’re getting exactly what they asked for, shouldn’t that be enough? Well, maybe.
The thing about Omen is that it feels like Soulfly is running through the motions in a lot of ways. The clue to that lies (again) in the Jeffrey Dahmer referencing; the cannibal was arrested and tossed in the can in 1992. He died in ’94; this was the best the band could do? The song is far from timely, far from particularly interesting and miles from anything that could be qualified as either criticism or glorification. The other songs – which are fairly decent from a thematic standpoint (read: they’re not quite so anachronistic) and composition, still suffer much the same fate because they all feel like a soft option; they’re not particularly original.
So how does one qualify Omen with all of that in mind? The songs aren’t pitiful but are dated. It’s like they’ve been kicking around for years and Soulfly pulled them out of storage because they were short on new ideas. The album is the epitome of a double-edged sword really; while Omen might be what fans have been hoping for from Soulfly for years, they’ll either love the results or hate them bitterly.