Tres, Three, Trois, 3. No matter what language it is said in or how it is spelled, the number three is still the number three. And it's a number that has historically and traditionally been steeped in myth and divine spirituality. “There's definitely something powerful about the number three,” concurs Max Cavalera, the charismatic frontman, spiritual leader, tribal guitarist, and lyricist of Soulfly. “It's probably one of the reasons why I didn't even want a title for the album and decided to just call it Soulfly 3. Plus I've always been a big fan of band's third records. When Metallica did Master of Puppets and Black Sabbath with Masters of Reality, those third records were awesome. I hope Soulfly can do the same.”
With their third album, Soulfly is totally on track in terms of unleashing an awesome and essential spate of songs. “This album is definitely an essential album in the Soulfly career,” states Max. “It's the album where we reach the level of maturity that we were looking for with the last two records. But we also wanted to continue surprising people with different elements. So on the one hand it's the chemistry of Soulfly that we've found over the years of the band being together, but on the other hand we've also been developing experimental stuff so we don't become repetitious and boring.”
Part of not becoming repetitious and boring is to constantly be in a state of flux. Yet the more things change, the more they remain the same. Or so the saying goes. While Soulfly 3 sees the band branching out into more experimental sonic terrain, especially in terms of composition, it also sees the band returning to their roots. Case in point, the return of original Soulfly rhythm keeper, Roy Mayorga. “I think he was never meant to leave, but you know, you can't control that. He was going through a weird phase in his life, which ended up leading to that,” says Cavalera of Roy's departure in the wake of the first Soulfly album. “But we welcomed him back with open arms. His drumming is really amazing and I think he really adds a lot to this album. We just think this is the best line-up Soulfly ever had. We finally have a very consistent line-up with myself, Marcello D Rapp (bass), Mike Dolling (guitar) and Roy.”
With Roy back in the fold Soulfly is once again whole. To this end, the band's newfound symmetry and solidarity shines through on the album. Unlike Primitive, which was loaded with high profile guest appearances, Soulfly 3 sticks pretty much to the core quartet of Soulfly. “We have less guests on Soulfly 3,” says Max matter-of-factly.
Max has always been the figurehead of the band (he is, after all, the singer, lyricist, main songwriter, and guitarist) yet Soulfly 3 marks the first time that he has stepped behind the boards, adding the role of producer to his list of achievements. “I felt a lot of encouragement from the guys in the band and from people who have been involved with me,” he explains. “They all said 'It's been enough time that you can produce a record. We also had help from Terry Date with the mixing, which was really great because a new, fresh ear came in and gave a whole other dimension to the vision I had of the album.”
One of the major differences long time Soulfly fans will notice is that while Soulfly 3 retains the traditional rage and high energy the band is known for, especially on tracks like “Downstroy” and “Seek & Strike, ” the album also unleashes some uncharacteristically mellow fare in the form of songs like “Tree of Pain”, “Interlude”, and “Soulfly 3. “I listen to a lot of stuff like U2, Paul Simon, Dead Can Dance and things like that, the mellow stuff that people don't know that I listen to. And I always wanted to accomplish something similar within my music. So I'm really happy with “Soulfly 3” and “Tree of Pain” on the acoustic side of things.”
The song “Tree of Pain” began as a backyard acoustic get-together, further adding to the organic methodology of Max's songwriting. For this epic, 8-minute song Max enlisted the services of Asha Rabouin, who is no newcomer when it comes to working with the band. She sang on “Fly High” which appears at the end of Primitive. “With Soulfly 3 I decided to give Asha a bigger part. She wrote some lyrics that really dig in deep. I really love the first line of the song, 'My pain is as deep as my roots.' That's one of my favorite lines on the whole record,” reveals Max. Max's stepson Ritchie also contributed to “Tree of Pain,” turning it into a three-part tale of loss. “The song is about three people who have lost loved ones in their lifetime and can share that within each other. Each one of us sings in our way. I have my way to express that feeling, Asha has her way, and Ritchie had his way because he lost his brother,” offers Max.
That storytelling aesthetic runs deep throughout the album, manifesting itself in the song “Sangue De Bairro,” which translated from Portuguese means “Blood of the Barrio”. “The song is a cover from one of my favorite Brazilian bands, Chico Science. It's a tale about a Brazilian outlaw gang back in the 30s, Robin Hood type people that would steal from the rich and go divide it to the poor, buy them food and shit like that. There was a cool reason behind their outlaw pursuits. Eventually they got captured, were decapitated, and their heads were placed in the middle of a downtown square. Those names that I'm sayin' in the song are the names of the people who were decapitated. I thought that to be really hardcore, but also beautiful because those people were awesome. Again, it's the extreme Soulfly element, you know the hardcore and the beauty going hand-in-hand.”
As with the band's past efforts, the songs on Soulfly 3 carry a strong undercurrent of spirituality, another example of the hardcore and the beauty coalescing. With the track entitled “One/Namaste,” the latter part of the title refers to the Hindu phrase “I bow to the divine in you”. “Namaste was something that I saw in a movie and I thought what it meant was really cool,” admits Cavalera, referring to Ghandi. “I believe there are good things in all different types of religion.
I try to dissect the bad stuff out of everything and try to pay attention to the things that apply to my life and me. So it's an open-minded attitude.” Christian Machado from Ill Nino, who lends a melodic edge to the track, further enhances the song with a “surprise” appearance. “I wrote the song with a melodic part on it so I needed somebody who has a melodic voice, Christian was the perfect person for the song. The reason I asked Christian to sing is that I wanted to work with somebody who's been into what I do and really enjoys what I do, but also somebody who really wanted to take it further,” explains Max.
But perhaps one of the most surprising inclusions on the album is the track entitled “9-11-2001 (one minute of silence)”. While other artists have addressed the terrorist disaster that shook the world via song, Max felt that silence was the purest form of respect. And it's a touching homage, especially coming from a band known for its high decibel output. “Different people reacted to that in many different ways. Mostly I am talking about musicians and artists. They're singing songs they're doing this and that. I felt that this was my way to show my respect for what happened. One minute of silence on the record to remember because what happened that day affects all of us forever, it changed everything.”
Respect, experimentation, collaboration, angst, anger, heart-aching emotion, global spirituality, all of these elements come together and helps create and prolong the Soulfly vibe. But at the heart of it all is one simple theory, one common goal. “For me the most important thing is to be honest and real. Whether I'm touching upon the delicate sound of “Soulfly 3” or I'm touching the brutal ---- you attitude of “Call to Arms” the most important thing is that I am being very true to the very last drop of each song. It's what I believe, and that's it. And I think that's the main thing that I keep alive when I'm writing is honesty, to write the thing that I feel the most. Like it or not, agree or not, that's how I feel and that's how it's gonna be. Every album needs to be different. I think that's what makes Soulfly interesting, we don't try to repeat the same things all the time.”