Just when you think that nothing could possibly be achieved in the field of heavy metal that hasn’t already been done to death decades ago, along comes an astonishing new album that single-handedly revitalizes the moribund old genre which, up until now, had absolutely nothing left to offer but rote riff repetitiveness. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you the world’s first metal art rock album, Soulfly’s Prophecy.

Now before you start frantically waving your drool-stained copies of Black Sabbath and Diary Of A Madman around in apoplectic protest, you’d better adjust your bib and take heed of that critical distinction: I didn’t say this was the first metal concept album, I said it was the first metal art rock album; big difference.

And don’t even think about mentioning Master Of Puppets with its hoity-toity acoustic intro because that classical diddling’s nothing but pre-school piddling compared to how Prophecy starts. Any metal album that begins with a corrosive 21-second looped synthesizer shriek the likes of which even Eno dared not play during his most crazed Here Come The Warm Jets phase is guaranteed to get my attention.

And it should get yours, too, because that’s only the beginning. By the time “Mars” effortlessly morphs from cascading thrash metal to castanet flamenco flourishes you’re just about ready for anything. Which is good, because “Moses” has a creamy, horn-backed dub reggae coating over a hard death metal center, “Porrada” is a jazz-metal vamp, and “Soulfly IV” is a straightforward Spanish conga-bongo romp. Oh, and did I mention that the album ends with a spiritually soulful worldbeat gospel hymn called “Wings” that segues into a New Orleans street march?

The man responsible for this daring ambitious swirl of molten aural eclecticism is Max Cavalera, who’s best known for his stint as Sepultura’s vocalizing ax man. Aided and abetted by an impressive array of guest musicians, Cavalera has cunningly crafted a versatile Metal Ono Band that not only changes style and musicians with every release but with every track.

You may think this record isn’t for you, but that only proves it is.

E-mail Jeffrey Morgan at [email protected].

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