Tonight sees the return of Brazilian metal heroes Soulfly, to London. I’ve not seen them since 1998, so do they still have the spark that they once had?
Kicking off the show tonight in the relatively small Islington Academy are British thrashers Designs Of Chaos (7/10). As a new band on my radar, they come out swinging and are very impressive. Singer Jay Shields growls every word aggressively and prowls around the stage in front of a wall of sound. The crushing bass and tight riffs are cascading over the crowd with absolute fury. Jay seems like a genuinely nice guy when he converses with the fans and the rest of the band look like they are having a lot of fun. Despite the venue only being half full at this point, they still give it 100% and play a good sized set comprising of stand out tune Strength In Numbers.
A welcome change of pace is what the second band on the bill bring tonight. One For Sorrow (7/10) opt for a slower, more methodical momentum. Joe Thompson the singer is a fantastic showman and really knows how to work a crowd. His growls are nice and the vocal delivery is superb but my only concern is that they could be louder as he gets drowned out by the guitars. With the room being ¾ full at this point, the fans bang their heads in time with the beat and the energy in the room rises. The band are a little static in their delivery but this can be somewhat blamed on the small stage they have to play with. I’d love to see what they can do in a different venue.
When the lights dim to signify the arrival of Sau Paulo’s favourite son, the crowd go insane. Max Cavalera is an institution in the world of metal. Most famous for his contribution to Sepultura in the 80’s and 90’s, he has more recently been banging out some of the greatest metal songs of our time in Cavalera Conspiracy and of course, tonight’s headliners Soulfly (8/10).
For me at least, tonight is all about seeing if the veterans have still got it. I’m pleased to say that for the most part, they definitely have. Their unique blend of thrash and traditional Brazilian tribal sounds are as good today as they always were. In fact for a band as big as they are and on top of their game, I’m quite surprised to see them play at this modest venue in the middle of a shopping centre. I would have considered them to be of a magnitude capable of a Brixton Academy appearance. Perhaps this was a deliberate decision to have a more intimate show with the fans but it meant that they had a smaller stage than they were used to which limited any theatrics and movement that comprise a visually spectacular show.
Despite this, the place is now packed and chants of ‘Ole ole ole, Soulfly, Soulfly’ echo around the room. The unique line-up of the band is pretty much a family reunion as Igor Jr plays the bass and Max brings his other son Zyon on tour too. With so many albums to draw from, tonight’s setlist has a massive amount of variety. From the timeless classic Sepultura song Refuse/Resist, all the way to 2015 with brand new song We Sold Our Souls To Metal.
The latter of which is frantic, loud and totally unrelenting in its delivery. Reverting back to the first eponymous album, No Hope/No Fear and Zumba are belted out with the bombastic ferocity that we’ve come to expect from this band. Eye For An Eye is another golden oldie but the star of the show, as it so often has been, is crowd favourite Roots Bloody Roots. The whole place seems to be chanting along to this evergreen classic.
So as the night draws to a close, I evaluate what I have just witnessed. The venue was a strange choice, Max has got a little portly with age and the band don’t have a lot of room to move or explore anything visually spectacular. However what they do show is they still have the talent, the energy and the vast back catalogue of crushing metal anthems that count. The crowd show immense support and love for them, including waving quite a number of Brazilian flags and football shirts in the air.
This is a band that is loved the world over and are welcome back to the UK whenever they like.
SoulflyO2 Academy, Islington - July 25th 2015
Photographer: Colm Browne