Psychosis has come out during a period when it seems the Cavalera name is more visible and relevant to the metal world than it has been in a long time. The iconic Max Cavalera appeared to have hit his post-Sepultura peak with the back-to-back release of Dark Ages (2005) and Inflikted (2008)—the later of which saw him reuniting with estranged brother Igor and the establishment of the Cavalera Conspiracy. From there, however, it seemed Cavalera senior was content to churn out a steady flow of serviceable yet largely unremarkable Soulfly records, while each of Cavalera Conspiracy’s subsequent releases—though certainly each embedded with their own distinct personality—failed to excite in the same manner as their masterful debut. Yet, beginning with 2014’s superb supergroup collaboration, Killer Be Killed, Max’s career looks to be, once again, on the upswing, and Psychosis only further supports such speculation.
The run of fantastic 25-year anniversary “Return to Roots” shows that have occupied both of the Cavalera brothers over the last eighteen months or so appear to have gone a long way toward informing this fourth (eleventh overall) collaborative release. Yet, despite what its (perhaps questionable) cover art might suggest, Psychosis is not a throwback to the Roots era, but would rather fit more comfortably as the missing link between Arise (1991) and Chaos A. D. (1993). If Inflikted remained steeped in the Cavaleras’ trademark “groove metal” aesthetic, while Blunt Force Trauma (2011) and Pandemonium (2014) each gave their respective nods to the hardcore and industrial aspects of their sound, then Psychosis is very much a thrash metal record. The album’s classic tone and full-speed-ahead approach leave little doubt as to which facet of the Cavalera fanbase this record is aimed at, and it would be understandable if the more traditionally thrash-inclined wanted to argue that this was the best Cavalera release since Arise. …They would be wrong. But it would be understandable.
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Yet, Psychosis is also more varied than its largely straight-forward thrash approach might suggest. Max’s M. O. has always been to seemingly blend whatever the momentary flavour of the metal zeitgeist is in among his bands’ more traditional death/thrash sound on each release, and Psychosis is no exception. The record is produced by up-and-comer Arthur Rizk who’s been hard at work with some of the years biggest buzz bands, including Power Trip and Code Orange, and his influence is certainly felt. The deceptively complex “Terror Tactics” proves an early and persistent highlight. Though the song blisters by, at nearly-five minutes long, it’s one of the lengthier Cavalera compositions out there, and it goes through many different stages before it’s over. Though it starts off conventionally enough—holding the pedal to the floor for a minute or two before pulling back into a delicious hardcore swing section—it soon gives way to an industrialised soundscape before kicking back in with a driving groove section that is easily mistaken for the beginning of a different song and finally climaxing in a burst of static and sirens.
The track isn’t alone in its oddities. Another of the record’s standout numbers, “Spectral War”, concludes in a similar manner and features similar textures, courtesy of Dominick Fernow (aka Prurient), who also lends his abrasive touch to “Hellfire” and “Excruciating”. “Hellfire” is a thundering industrial number that almost feels like a throwback to the Nailbomb days and also features guest vocals from Godflesh’s Justin Broadrick,; while “Judas Pariah starts out as a grindcore song that before ending in a similar industrial stomp. Elsewhere, the mighty “Crom” makes the best of all worlds, while the title-track fulfills the record’s quota of “tribal-tinged,” instrumental outings (see also: “Soulfly n”). It is rather fitting then that album concludes with a speech by Jose Mangin (host of Sirius XM’s “Liquid Metal”) declaring the perpetual domination of a “two-headed Brazilian Godzilla”. For it is then—in this most ridiculous and overblown of moments—that you realise that Cavalera Conspiracy have somehow made a throwback thrash metal record that functions far less as a collection of nostalgic compositions than as an inseparable sonic voyage that represents the best of everywhere the Cavalera brothers have been before while firmly setting their sights on where they’d like to go next.
If I can pick one minor, minor, minor flaw with this record it would be to point out some odd inconsistencies with the low-end mix (handled, along with all other frequency ranges, by Toxic Holocaust’s Joel Grind). Somehow the bass, performed by Rizk nonetheless, is both omnipresent and largely undetectable—except in those few moments when it really isn’t—and the booming, “naturalistic” kick drum tone can become rather concussive if you have any sort of heavily bass-boosting equalization going on (which I’m sure many metal fans likely do). Other than that though, Psychosis is a virtually flawless and surprisingly varied and experimental release that stands alongside Killer Be Killed, Inflikted and Dark Ages as one of the best records either of the Cavalera brothers have produced following their initial separation, and arguably beyond.
Psychosis is out now on Napalm Records.