Soulfly: London Astoria

Austere but strangely moving, megablast loud but packed with subtleties...

Surrounded by dense camouflage netting, there are extraordinary things going on in the Soulfly war bunker. Namely Max Cavalera plays a stick to rapturous applause while the crowd defy Tory Euro scepticism by singing along in Portuguese. So while Soulfly might look and sound like a pitch battle, as these things indicate, there is much more here than sheer mind-warping volume.

In a world where agitated rockers with a taste for other rhythms are distressingly commonplace, few have the pedigree of Max. No fleeting tantrum of mall rage, he spent years in Sepultura putting a voice – albeit one that tonight makes Barry White sound like a eunuch – to Brazilian politics and building up a reputation as the ?Bob Marley of Heavy Metal?.

His righteous ire and political fury doesn?t preclude entertainingly dumb rock though. ?Jump Da Fuck Up? and ?The Prophet? are elastic giants of rap/rock genre-collision, while Sepultura oldie ?Roots? rips up the medical textbooks on tinnitus with its awesomely succinct assault. It?s fearsome stuff, and these are songs that evidently come not so much from the heart as the twisted ulcerous guts.

But while all that on-stage army surplus gear and artillery strength riffing might make this seem like a boot camp for distressed sounds, this is really far more complex. Austere but strangely moving, megablast loud but packed with subtleties, Max easily straddles the dichotomy of trying to stimulate your brain with political lyrics while simultaneously pip-squeaking it with the music. Especially as ?Bring It? delves into mantra-style atmospherics, ?Boom? is as oddly tuneful as Queens Of the Stone Age, and massed Slipknot-mask wearing bongo players make ?Umbabarauma? sound like a Rio Mardi Gras for the terminally heavy.

From carnival it?s quickly back to carnage with the bellowing ?Terrorist?, but this is humanist metal where Max Cavalera?s understanding that mammoth noise levels don?t necessarily preclude rational thought rules supreme. For Soulfly fans, this music is the perfect machinery for dealing with life?s general shittiness. And nobody wipes and cleanses better than this favella superstar.

Jim Alexander