Cavalera Conspiracy-Blunt Force Trauma (Roadrunner)

How fare the Cavalera brothers? Evidently, the middle of the road most traveled seems to have become their chosen path.
Release Date: 
29 Mar 2011 - 1:30pm

 

The brothers Cavalera have returned with their second offering under the Cavalera Conspiracy banner, Blunt Force Trauma, letting loose a thrashing blend of new wave heavy metal and early Sepulturian riffage wrapped in the warm safety of modern sound production values. You can bet your ratty dreadlocks and Brazilian flag guitar that on any project front man and rhythm guitarist Max Cavalera lends his name to you're going to hear the song titles repeated ad infinitum in the chorus and intros and the heavy gauge top strings of the rhythm guitar will be well worn through, and from the outset we are reminded of these ever enduring aspects of his songwriting proclivities.

Warlord gets the album going with a typical, bludgeoning double bass intro courtesy of drummer Igor Cavalera and Max's prototypical bark of the simple lyrics. The song gallops into the chorus and later guitarist Marc Rizzo unleashes a fret-tap solo. Overall, the sound is clean, safe and sterile, like most new wave thrash. Torture continues the re-thrash theme, puzzling given that it is coming from one of the genre's prodigal sons, and this song is one for the pit crew, with basic retread riffs recycled from the back of the brain vault kept well stocked over the years, no doubt. Solo fills and vocal lines that cleanly follow the guitar melodies imply an approach of “safety first.”

The record's first guest spot comes on Lynch Mob, featuring Agnostic Front's Roger Miret on vocals, reminding of another Cavalera project, Soulfly, and its penchant for a We Are the World approach to guest vocalists. Clearly living in America for so long has rubbed off on Max, as this could well be a New Jersey NWOAHM band—all that's missing is the clean vocals. Simplicity is taken to new heights, but not for lack of songwriting skills. The songs thus far are solid, but do seem a hastily thrown together cobble of metal clichés.

And speaking of rehashed ideas, the next track, Killing Inside, actually features the line As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. At the best of times modern metal isn't exactly known as a bastion of constant innovation, and let he who has never included a throwback line or blatant rip-off riff in a song cast the first stone, but it is a bit disheartening to hear a man who was once a driving force, a trend setter for a genre that eschewed trends and spat in the face of the music industry's corporatocracy, lick that same loogie up off the sidewalk and send it sailing for the nth time. These songs are catchy, to be sure, but ridden with threads from coattails long worn out, with Rizzo's solos trying deftly to cover up the averageness of it all.

Max's vocal delivery, as always, is simple but powerful, as evidenced on tracks such as I Speak Hate, but he hasn't really advanced much beyond the broken English of Morbid Visions, and lyrically hit his peak in the early to mid nineties. From this standpoint, there has been no progression from Cavalera Conspiracy's debut, Inflikted, but Max is likely one of those sacred cows of metal who will be more celebrated for sticking to his guns than castigated for failing to evolve, though you can't take away the fact that he has remained as angry as ever, and musically speaks his mind without pretension or trying to hide behind veils of metaphors. He's always straightforward, with his heart on his sleeve, which does command respect.

The album is rife with pure mosh anthems, such as Target, which falls in to new wave groove break downs, with a string bending double stop solo and a simple rhyme scheme that lends itself well to memorability. Most songs here, however, follow a similar thread, doing little to set one apart from the other in a broad sense of emotion or feel, and it does feel a bit like listening to the same song on repeat. As for subject material, Max and company are looking for water in a well long tapped out, with enjoyable but obvious songs about tyrant Genghis Khan and Russian mystic Rasputin. Perhaps less obvious is a song about the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in which Igor is in his thrashing element and Max's shrieks are taken to a new place, but the solos, and there is one in every song, seem to be filler that covers or compensates for a lack of overall content. Thematically, the album is all over the map and a bit late to the table on certain subject matters.

Bringing the album to a close is the title track, with a wall of death ready intro, it too, sadly, seems formulaic and predictable. Can the Cavalera brothers really be out of ideas two albums in? But really, they are far more than two albums deep, as Cavalera Conspiracy is the logical continuation of what Sepultura may have become had the brothers managed to stay together. Thus, this is the start of the culmination of a long, storied, and beyond respectable career, that, for the present, has descended into solid state mediocrity.