SOULFLY + 3 Mile Scream + Shiverdown @ Metropolis

By Jo Satana - Umlauts and Powerchords - 03/01/2005

Montreal truly is blessed. Why, you ask? Because there has never been a better time to be a music lover in a city that is being hailed for loving music. The New Year kicked off with a strange spotlight on Montreal in an article published by Spin Magazine. Similar weirdness ensued as the New York Times hailed Montreal as the next big scene in music. While both articles ignored the strong presence of METAL in this city, the added attention Montreal got as a result is definitely not emptying the pockets of show promoters of any genre. This city is simply booked to the teeth with shows, with no slowing down in sight. What’s my point? That even though the Montreal Metal scene (which has been brewing in this town since the early 80’s) gets no formal press recognition whatsoever, that doesn’t mean that Montreal is devoid of quality live metal performances, as exemplified by the last show I attended: Soulfly.

For those of you not familiar with the band, here is some background: rewind to the 80’s as the world was introduced to Sepultura, a thrash/speed metal sensation fronted by Max Cavalera. Critics agreed: finally a band with American balls and South American spice. Now fast-forward to the 90’s, mix in a crafty female manager and some Beatles-esque drama and what you get is a bad breakup segregating a singer from his former bandmates, thus signaling the death of one of the most productive metal bands ever seen (in my book). Now this breakup did not signal the end of their careers per se. Seputura moved on and is still releasing records while Max took the hard road and decided to work from the ground up with his rotating circus sideshow known as Soulfly.

The Spectrum was the setting for Soulfly’s 2005 visit and I have to say that the venue was just perfect. Soulfly is the type of show that could never really work in an arena setting but is “too big” for a small club commitment. Now let it be known that I was absolutely not enthusiastic about the show when I first set foot into the Spectrum. Soulfly has a sketchy track record at best when it comes to new releases. Don’t get me wrong, I love the new album, Prophecy, but Soulfly’s two previous releases were beyond disappointing in my book; they just plain sucked. Throw in the fact that the band was supported by 3 Mile Scream and Shiverdown, two Montreal “metal/hardcore/whatever” acts that have yet to assert themselves on any stage, let alone one shared with Soulfly.

Shiverdown and 3 Mile Scream both left a sour taste in my mouth. I was totally not into them and was begging the gods below to hasten their presence onstage. I was conflicted; on the one hand, it was cool that these Montreal kids were sharing the same stage with one Max Cavelara, but on the other hand, they kind of sucked and really didn’t fit the bill. It must be noted that select members of the audience were really into the musical stylings of 3MS and Shiverdown, but I was not. Call me an old grouch. I don’t care, I just didn’t get it.

My dear readers, I want to make one thing clear: I was spawned on a healthy dose of 80’s thrash metal and took the Sepultura breakup very badly… very, very badly. Therefore it was incredibly important for me to “like” the show in question so that I could finally validate the drama that I went through that fateful evening so many years ago. I must admit that I have missed every single prior Soulfly apprearance in Montreal pretty much out of “grievance”. Now, the time was 9:45pm and the stagehands were hard at work getting Soulfly’s gear in order. I have just purchased an alcoholic beverage to cleanse my pallet of any residue that might have been left over from the opening acts. Then it happened, all at once it seemed: the lights dimmed and the crowd cheered as Max took the stage. They opened up with the title track of their latest effort, Prophecy, and it was fucking AWESOME!

Soulfly has had some roster issues in the past. Frankly, they sort of became the “revolving door” of metal; you never knew who you were going to see since the band members were always changing. This time around, Soulfly consisted of Marc Rizzo (guitars), Bobby Burns (bass), Joe Nunez (drums) and they were all incredible in their own right. Soufly is known for performing long jams during their sets and this time was no different. Mark, Bobby and Joe totally complemented each other for what was, in my book, one of the most psychedelic passes I’ve heard in a long time. All of them have clearly mastered their instruments to quasi-perfection and I greatly appreciated watching a band onstage that not only knew how to perform, they also knew how to play (yes, there is an important distinction there). Max really knew how to pick his roster this time around and I hope he is wise enough to keep them around as long as possible.

Soulfly’s set consisted of a medley of tunes that ranged from old to new (and I mean old). I was lucky enough to hear a great rendition of a Sepultura classic, “Refuse/Resist”, as well as a nice throwback to Max’s Nailbomb days (that’s right folks, they played some Nailbomb!). In terms of new, Soulfly previewed a new track from their upcoming album that is supposed to hit stores some time this summer. I enjoyed the song (the name escapes me), but it contains elements that I didn’t really enjoy from their previous releases (III namely).

To wrap things up, Soulfly simply killed. The audience was filled with hemp-wearing political activists (who seem to be procreating and spreading like wildfire here in Montreal) and black-wearing metal maniacs. From an aesthetics perspective, this wholly exemplifies the schizophrenic nature of Soulfly. Their repertoire consists of songs inspired by political uprising and activism ("Eye for an Eye" and "Seek ‘n’ Strike" are favorites for those who love to stir shit up), but at the same time, they have songs that siphon ideas and images from religious and spiritual lore, spreading words of pacifism and forgiveness (hence the hemp-wearing, tree-hugging hippies). While some may consider these musical diversions as hypocritical, others like myself see these differences in themes as an example of real life: spirituality is nice and all, but it can hide in the closet when it comes time to get down and dirty.

Definitely check out Soufly when they rip it up in a town near you.

[Jo “Spirituality in my Closet” Satana hosts Ümlaüts And Powerchords every Sunday from 8pm to 10pm]