In the months leading up to its release, Soulfly frontman Max Cavalera told fans that their 11th studio album Ritual would be a “tribal thrash” record. Producer Josh Wilbur (Gojira, Lamb of God) said he wanted to make this album with the band as fan, hoping to recapture the world music-inspired undercurrent of their 1998 eponymous debut. Cavalera also said that he wanted to continue making faster and heavier songs as seen on the latest Cavalera Conspiracy record Psychosis, and also on some more recent Soulfly albums. This makes Ritual have an interesting blend of all the sounds Soulfly have explored in their two-decade career.
Max’s signature frenetic grunts and screams seems to be in a higher register than usual, reminiscent of Roots-era Sepultura, and his son Zyon, the drummer, has clearly been taking pointers from Uncle Igor as he pummels each track with impact. Whilst the opening title track shows a clear throw back to earlier Nu-Metal inspired Soulfly albums, the rest of the album doesn’t really go down the same path, offering a more Groove/Death Metal style stacked with shredding riffs from Marc Rizzo as well some of the band’s heaviest breakdowns ever as seen on songs like ‘The Summoning’.
It has become somewhat expected for Soulfly albums to have some guest musicians, and Ritual is no different, with Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe and Immolation’s Ross Dolan making some vocal appearances. Another tradition is also continued here with the instrumental closing track ‘Soulfly XI’, offering some Jazzy world music vibes. With all this in mind, Ritual may not be what diehard fans were expecting based on the build-up, but it’s the one they needed.