‘Totem’ Continues To Cement Soulfly’s Place In Metal’s Upper Echelons

Courtesy: Nuclear Blast Records

A wait of almost four years for new music from Soulfly officially came to an end this month when the band, founded by former Sepultura front man Max Cavalera, released its latest album, Totem.  Released Aug 4 through Nuclear Blast Records, the 10-song record came more than three years after the release of the band’s then latest album, Ritual, which was also released through Nuclear Blast Records.  The band’s 12th album, it shows as much change in its content as the lineup that recorded the LP.  One of the record’s most notable entries comes early in its 40-minute run in the form of ‘Rot In Pain.’  This song will be examined shortly.  Also of note much later in the album’s run is ‘Ecstasy of Gold.’  It will be examined a little later.  ‘Superstition,’ which serves as the album’s opener and lead single, is yet another key addition to the album and will also be examined later.  When it is considered along with the other songs noted here, that collective joins with the rest of the album’s entries to make Totem in whole one of Soulfly’s best albums to date.

Totem, Soulfly’s latest album, is a powerful new entry from the band.  Coming almost four years since the release of the band’s then latest album, Ritual, the record shows a certain amount of growth from the band both in terms of musical and lyrical content.  ‘Rot In Pain,’ which comes early in the album’s run, is just one of the songs that serves to make that clear.  The song’s musical arrangement is unlike anything Soulfly (in any of its lineups) has crafted over the years.  It is a full-on death metal style composition that hits listeners right from its opening bars.  The pummeling (and sometimes shrieking) guitars pair with the drumming of Max Cavalera’s son Zyon and Max’s own vocal delivery to make the overall composition comparable to works from the likes of Morbid Angel and Entombed just to name a couple of bands in that vein.  Audiences could even make a slight comparison to works from the likes of Exodus along the way, too.  The overall musical presentation makes the song so powerful in itself.

The lyrical theme that accompanies the song’s musical content makes the song all the more powerful.  Max Cavalera talked about the song during a recent interview with Apple Music, noting that it is a song of pure anger.

“It’s about having an enemy and wishing that he would rot in pain – not just die, but die in pain,” said Cavalera. 

This is a topic that is accessible to nearly everyone out there.  Whether it be in the workplace or somewhere else, we all have that one person that is just a complete enemy.  They live to make us (and others miserable) and we wish the absolute worst on them.  To that end, this theme will help any person deal with those despicable people without doing something that could land them in jail.  The full-on anger is presented right from the song’s lead verse in which Cavalera screams, “Arteries open/Festering wound/Bleeding out maggots/Lifeless tomb.”  Yes, that is a pretty graphic visual, but who out there has not had violent visions of what they would like to do to those people who are their enemies?  Again, allowing Cavalera and company to express the anger is therapeutic to a point.  The pure fury continues in the song’s second verse in which Cavalera screams, “Bodies on bodies/Flesh/Worm feasting now on human trash/Disintegrated mindless brain/Acid burns on a hollow face.”  It is all capped off in the song’s chorus, which states, “I feel the need/Wide as the world/Deep as the grave/Cursed be the death that you know/Rot in pain.”  Again, this is complete fury.  This is emotion that everybody has felt at one point or another in life.  Being able to vent that frustration through these accessible words and the equally powerful musical arrangement makes this song stand out so strongly.

‘Rot In Pain’ is just one of the songs that makes Totem stand out.  ‘Ecstasy of Gold’ is another key addition to the album.  It should be noted here that this song is not a cover of the song that was originally used in the timeless spaghetti western flick The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and then made even more famous through Metallica.  This is a completely separate song from that composition.  That is obvious in the song’s arrangement, which is another full-on death metal composition.  While it is a death metal style work on the surface, audiences could also argue that there is a touch of groove metal in the mix, too.  The blending of those separate but still similar styles makes the overall arrangement so impacting and at the same time unique from any of the album’s other entries.

The hard-hitting musical arrangement presented in ‘Ecstasy of Gold’ is just part of what makes the song worth hearing.  The song’s lyrical theme makes for its own engagement.  As Cavalera pointed out during his conversation at Apple Music, the song focuses on the greed that has driven so much of mankind throughout history.

“This one talks about human greed and what gold fever does to a person’s psyche,” said Cavalera.  “Countries were built by gold fever.  There are stories about the Portuguese going to Brazil and totally raping the whole side of a mountain for gold. It’s in all the cathedrals in Portugal right now.” 

In other words, the song is another sociopolitical commentary from Cavalera.  That is nothing new from him and to that end, is something that is certain to resonate with his longtime fans.  The message is most clearly delivered in the song’s chorus in which Cavalera states, “Pounding hate from my hands/My hands/Solar eyes have deceived you/Thirst for wealth bringing pain/Ecstasy of gold remains.”  He even mentions in the song’s lead verse, “Pounding hearts full of grief/Greed of lust has no relief.”  Again, this is a clear illustration of what Cavalera was talking about in his comments.  This is addressing that greed that humans have for not just gold but wealth in general.  It is a fully accessible theme that when paired with the song’s equally powerful musical arrangement, makes the song in whole another example of how much Totem has to offer audiences.

While ‘Ecstasy of Gold’ is a clear example of what audiences have to expect from Totem it is just another example of how much the album has to offer.  ‘Superstition’ is yet another positive example of the record’s positive marks.  The musical arrangement featured in ‘Superstition’ is impressive in its own right as it takes listeners back to Cavalera’s days with Sepultura.  That is evident in the full-on thrash approach taken here.  More specifically, it takes audiences back to the days of Chaos A.D., which is going back quite a way.  Cavalera’s more familiar tribal elements are most prominent in this arrangement than in any other point in the album. 

The lyrical theme featured in the song makes for its own interest.  That is because as Cavalera noted during his interview, it is based on his research into the Superstition Mountains, which he said are not far from where he lives in Arizona.  According to legends, the so-called Lost Dutchman’s mine is located in the Superstition Mountains.  Cavalera’s mention of “Superstition/Harder than stone” is an interesting play on words given the legends of the Superstition Mountains.  What’s more, the fact that few if any other act out there has crafted a song about this topic makes the son stand out even more.  When the song is considered with the rest of the record’s entries, the whole makes Totem an overall successful new entry from Soulfly.

Totem, the latest album from Soulfly is another successful offering from the veteran metal outfit.  That is made clear through its musical and lyrical content.  The songs examined here make that clear.  When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes the album yet another welcome addition to Soulfly’s catalog and to this year’s field of new hard rock and metal albums.

Totem is available now through Nuclear Blast Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:




To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.