Max Cavalera is a metalhead. It is the simple truth that underlies his entire career, more so than any other single legendary figure within metal music. It’s what makes him charming and likeable. James Hetfield might don a patch jacket and Lars Ulrich be keen to talk about DIAMOND HEAD at any opportunity he’s given, but in a world of Ulrich’s expensive paintings and booking the ARCTIC MONKEYS for their Orion festival, METALLICA have sometimes fed the fire of those who would say they no longer belong to our community, regardless of how valid those claims may be or not. Max Cavalera’s had no such issues, no points where he’s been anything other than just one of us, and it’s coloured the art he’s made all across the last three decades. His albums are conduits for whatever sounds in heavy music he is enthusiastic about at that time, what saw SEPULTURA moving from first wave black metal to embracing the sounds of Floridian death metal and then onto something bordering on nu metal within the space of a decade, through SOULFLY’s early nu metal and later more brutal offerings, and right now in CAVALERA CONSPIRACY‘s Psychosis it’s brought him to the best album he’s made in quite some time.
It hasn’t come totally out of nowhere; Max’s love affair with the extreme metal underground in recent years has been well documented, and outside of the obvious representations on his t-shirts, his music has become more and more indebted to it this decade. SOULFLY’s Enslaved in 2012 was primarily the kind of groove metal they’d dealt in throughout the 2000s but saw CATTLE DECAPITATION‘s Travis Ryan appear for a gurgling colossus of a guest spot, and he was followed by NAPALM DEATH’s Mitch Harris and most tellingly NAILS‘ Todd Jones on Savages and Archangel respectively. CAVALERA CONSPIRACY meanwhile, who had a relatively nondescript start for a band heralding the reunion of Max and his brother Igor, suddenly seemed to turn back the clock for their 2014 album Pandemonium, pushing things faster and more frenzied than they’d been since SEPULTURA’s Arise over twenty years before. It’s important to establish that build-up and context because Psychosis feels like the zenith of all of these things. From the moment opener Insane kicks off – its main riff feeling like a nod to Arise’s title track – Psychosis is rampant and destructive, and has a fair few tricks up its sleeve.
Pandemonium was startling because of the Cavalera brothers’ unprecedented burst of speed, but both of its major flaws, poor production value and a lack of memorable hooks, are addressed here. Each one of Psychosis‘ nine tracks (apart from the tribal and synth-laced soundscape of the title track, the only real dud here and an odd choice to be given the title position) is gifted at least one instantly catchy riff and a hefty vocal refrain from Max. Igor remains a powerhouse, and the reintroduction of roto toms gives his fills plenty of character.
Production meanwhile is handled by Arthur Rizk who has recently produced some truly exciting bands from POWER TRIP to PISSGRAVE, and he is a gift to the overall end result. Both sonically and in the music itself, Psychosis seems to marry the spirit of the Cavalera’s past landmarks with their enthusiasm for much of what’s current, Rizk acting as the perfect man to add fuel to the fire. It’s easy to see how bands from the current underground crop have inspired Max and Igor to play and push themselves harder. Crom’s intro is pure death metal that’s easy to imagine with Chuck Schuldiner’s pained howl over the top, Terror Tactics pays homage to hardcore and d-beat crust, and album highlight Judas Pariah is an abrasive romp through the kind of speed and intensity that marked SEPULTURA’s raw and vicious debut Morbid Visions before channelling CELTIC FROST’s Procreation of the Wicked for its mighty second half. Dominick Fernow of PRURIENT provides noise that bleeds from track to track creating a listening experience that never truly gives you pause for breath, and then there’s Hellfire, a scraping industrial track that sees CAVALERA CONSPIRACY stepping wholly into the world of guest Justin Broadrick of GODFLESH more than they have for any guest appearance in the past.
Closing track Excruciating ends with walls of suffocating white noise, from which a disembodied voice appears, detailing a “two-headed Brazilian Godzilla” leaving “permanent sound-scars” on the world before quoting lyrics from Arise. It’s certainly a tad self-congratulatory but it’s not wrong, and it comes at the end of an album that channels a decent amount of that nostalgia into something relevant by meshing it with a very real passion for what’s going on in heavy music right now. If Max Cavalera’s works are often coloured by his passions of the day, then Psychosis paints 2017 in a very good light, because this thing rips.
Psychosis is out now via Napalm Records.
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