Soulfly incorporates thrash metal, groove metal, with Brazilian tribal music and world music. The band has had all six of their studio albums debut on the United States Billboard 200, with a peak position at number 32 with their second album Primitive, and the band's debut album Soulfly, has been certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Brazilian heavy metal songwriter, guitarist and singer Max Cavalera formed the band in 1997, following his split with the legendary Brazilian thrash metal band Sepultura in 1996 and the death of his stepson Dana Wells. The lineup consisted of former Thorn and Nausea drummer Roy Mayorga from New York, guitarist Jackson Bandeira of Brazilian based Chico Science & Nação Zumbi, former Sepultura roadie Marcello Dias from Brazilian based band The Mist on bass, and Cavalera on guitar and vocals.
Prior to forming Soulfly, Max Cavalera made a guest appearance on the Deftones breakthrough album Around the Fur in 1997 on a song called "Headup". This song is about Wells' death, and it is said that Cavalera got the name for the band from the lyrics of this song.
The time during the recording of Soulfly's first album was admittedly troubled for Cavalera, and on the band's website Max Cavalera said that he founded the band "with the idea of combined sounds and spiritual beliefs". As well as leaving one of the world's most renowned thrash metal bands, he had to deal with the death of his stepson and best friend Dana Wells. The first self-titled album, Soulfly, was released in the spring of 1998 and reached number 79 on the Billboard 200.
In addition to the core band that was assembled, the debut album featured Mario C., Burton C. Bell, Dino Cazares and Christian Olde Wolbers from Fear Factory, Fred Durst and DJ Lethal from Limp Bizkit, Chino Moreno from Deftones, Benji Webbe formerly of Dub War and now Skindred, Eric Bobo from Cypress Hill and Jorge do Peixe and Gilmar Bola Oito from Chico Science & Nação Zumbi. The album was recorded at Indigo Ranch Studios in Malibu, California and was overseen by producer Ross Robinson.
In addition to fronting Soulfly, Cavalera also branched out into other areas usually not associated with heavy metal musicians. He became a much-sought-after speaker at music conventions, as evident by his appearances at CMJ's New Music Marathon in New York and Holland's Crossing Boarder Festival, both in late 1997, signed on to sing a TV commercial for Sprite in his native land of Brazil, and is a devoted family man and valued member of the Phoenix community.
After recording the first album, Jackson Bandeira returned to Brazil with Nação Zumbi and was replaced by Logan Mader of Machine Head for the live tour that followed. Soulfly played on the 1998 Ozzfest mainstage alongside Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth, and Tool and played small club tours around the world with bands such as System of a Down and Snot. After the world tour in support of Soulfly, Logan Mader departed the band to pursue other musical interests and was replaced by Mikey Doling who had just been displaced by the tragic breakup of Snot.
A variety of unique influences including nu metal appeared on 2000's Primitive, and it was the most successful album by the band in the US reaching number 32 on the Billboard 200 and number 11 on the US independent charts. Joe Nunez from Chicago replaced Roy Mayorga on drums for Primitive. Primitive featured a large number of guest appearances as well, including Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour, Sean Lennon, Chino Moreno of Deftones, Tom Araya of Slayer, Grady Avenell formerly of Will Haven, Cutthroat Logic, and Asha Rabouin and was produced by Toby Wright. In addition, artwork was created by longtime Bob Marley artist Neville Garrick. The release of the album was followed by world tours with the likes of Pantera, Morbid Angel and Ozzfest.
In late 2001, Joe Nunez left Soulfly to join Stripping the Pistol, citing that it was "time for [him] to move on". Roy Mayorga departed from his band Medication to rejoin with Cavalera, Doling, and Dias for the recording of the band's third album. 3 was the first Soulfly album which was produced by Max Cavalera. Other musicians performing on 3 included Christian Machado of Ill Niño, Danny Marianino of Arizona based North Side Kings, and guitarist Wiley Arnett and drummer Greg Hall of Sacred Reich, and Max's stepson Ritchie Cavalera. The album reached number 46 on the Billboard 200 in that year. After the release of 3 on June 25, 2002, Soulfly toured throughout Europe and North America with bands such as Slayer, In Flames, God Forbid, and Will Haven.
In September 2003, after the world tour for 3, Mikey Doling, Marcello Dias, and Roy Mayorga all made the decision to leave the band and together they departed from Soulfly, leaving Cavalera as the lone remaining core member for a period of three weeks.
Cavalera recruited a new lineup in October 2003 for the recording of Soulfly's Prophecy album. Joe Nunez was back behind the drumkit with New Jersey native Marc Rizzo formerly of Ill Niño on guitar and West Virginia native Bobby Burns formerly of Primer 55 on bass. David Ellefson formerly of Megadeth also contributed on several tracks on bass on the album in an effort to combine old and new school metal ideas on the album.
Max Cavalera explains on the band's website that he wants to use different musicians as part of the group for each album. "This is an approach that I've wanted to do for a while. I never wanted Soulfly to be a band like Metallica, with the same four guys. On every Soulfly album, we've changed the line up and it will probably continue that way. In order to do that, I had to start from the inside out and bring in people who caught my attention, that I had never played with before, and create this."
In Sepultura, Cavalera had shown an interest in world music as shown in Roots, featuring elements of the music of Brazil's indigenous peoples. This approach continued on the Prophecy album with Cavalera traveling to Serbia to record with traditional musicians. On the track "Moses" he works with Serbian band Eyesburn which features reggae influences from one of his heroes, Bob Marley. Other tracks on the album feature instruments from the Middle Ages, sheepskin bagpipes, and Serbian Gypsies. Danny Marianino and Asha Rabouin returned as guest vocalists on Prophecy, as well, and Max Cavalera produced the album. Prophecy was released on March 30, 2004 and in April of that year had reached a peak of number 82 on the Billboard 200, although it has reached the top 50 of the Australian album charts. Soulfly followed the album release with tours supporting Black Sabbath, Ill Niño, and Morbid Angel.
In February 2005, Soulfly released their first DVD, entitled The Song Remains Insane. This was a biographical look at the band which contained live footage from all over the globe, interviews, and all of the bands music videos. In August 2005 Roadrunner Records reissued their self-titled first album as part of the label's 25th anniversary celebration.
In December 2004, as recording was beginning for Soulfly's fifth studio album, the band was rocked by several tragedies that strongly effected the outcome of the album. On December 8 Max's longtime friend Pantera guitarist Darrell "Dimebag" Abbott was tragically shot to death while playing in Ohio and on December 10th Cavalera's 8 month old grandson Moses unexpectedly passed away due to health complications. The following fall, on October 4, 2005, Dark Ages was released. Many critics have described Dark Ages as a return to Cavalera's thrash metal roots of the early Sepultura days; however, the world metal influence found on the first four Soulfly albums is still definitely present. In fact, this time, Cavalera traveled to five different countries — Serbia, Turkey, Russia, France, and the United States — in order to record all the sounds that he desired to have on the new album.
The core band on Dark Ages still consisted of Max Cavalera, Marc Rizzo, Joe Nunez, and Bobby Burns, and on this album, Dave Ellefson came back to lend his talents to a couple of tracks, Eyesburn vocalist Coyote sang on "Innerspirit", Stormtroopers Of Death vocalist Billy Milano and Russian singer Paul Fillipenko of FAQ screamed on the hardcore influenced "Molotov", and Max's stepson, Ritchie Cavalera from Phoenix-based band Incite, sang on "Stay Strong". Soulfly supported Dark Ages on a world tour with various bands such as Deftones, Korn, Throwdown, and Skindred that has stretched through North America, South America, Europe, Russia, and Australia.
On August 17, 2006 Soulfly played the 10th Annual D-Low Memorial show with several guest artists including Danny Marianino of North Side Kings, Ritchie Cavalera of Incite, Dave Ellefson, and their former longtime drummer Roy Mayorga who currently plays with Stone Sour. Most notably, Max was reunited onstage for the first time in 10 years with his brother Igor Cavalera. Max and Igor formed Sepultura together in the early 1980s, but had not played together since Max's departure in 1996. Igor joined the band mid-way through the set for a jam on the drums and stayed onstage to play the Sepultura classics "Roots Bloody Roots" and "Attitude" on Joe Nunez's drum kit.
In the time between legs of Soulfly's world tour for Dark Ages and afterwards, members of Soulfly stayed extremely busy by focusing on projects and activities outside of the band. Max Cavalera guested on the Apocalyptica single "Repressed" with Bullet For My Valentine vocalist Matt Tuck during a visit to Germany, went to Russia in January 2007 to guest on the album Circus Dogs by Russian hardcore band FAQ, played a surprise jam session in Serbia with Dan Lilker of Brutal Truth and S.O.D., and spent time in Arizona writing for future releases. Marc Rizzo spent the year on the road throughout North America playing his solo flamenco-meets-shred metal, gaining him further recognition as one of the world's premier metal guitarists. Earlier in 2005 Marc had released his debut solo album, Colossal Myopia, through Shrapnel Records, and in 2007 he prepared his follow-up, The Ultimate Devotion, which has now been released. Bobby Burns purchased a studio in Orlando, FL with his partner Tim Lau, revived his former band Primer 55, and worked on new releases for his Love Said No and King Street projects. In September of 2006 Bobby suffered a mild stroke, was forced to sit out of Soulfly's North American tour, and his spot in the band was briefly filled by Dave Ellefson and Danny Lilker. Joe Nunez worked on the development of several drum accessories with Slug Drums, and taught drum lessons and worked construction in Chicago.
Soulfly ventured to Undercity Recording Studios in March 2007 to record a cover of the Marilyn Manson single "The Beautiful People" with Logan Mader producing. The song was later released in June 2007 by Kerrang! magazine in issue 1164 as part of their Higher Voltage compilation. During time in the studio, Max Cavalera also recorded vocals for the song "War Is My Destiny" with Ill Bill and Immortal Technique for Ill Bill's second studio album, The Hour of Reprisal, expected to be released on August 26, 2008.
In early June, it was revealed by Sirius Radio that Max and Igor had begun work on their project which would later come to be known as Cavalera Conspiracy. In early July 2007, Max and Igor Cavalera went to Undercity Studios in California with Marc Rizzo and Joe Duplantier from French death metal band Gojira to record Cavalera Conspiracy's first music. Their album, Inflikted was produced by Max Cavalera and engineered by Dirty Icon (featuring former Soulfly guitarist Logan Mader) and was mixed in late 2007 at Undercity. It features a guest appearance by bassist Rex Brown of Pantera and Down on the song "Ultra-Violent". Cavalera Conspiracy's album Inflikted was released on March 25, 2008 by Roadrunner Records. Cavalera Conspiracy will tour in support of the album in the 2008, with dates being scheduled throughout Europe, North America, and Australia thus far.
In August 2007, Soulfly did a tour that consisted of a mixture of festival and club shows through Europe before playing the 11th Annual D-Low Memorial Show in Tempe, AZ on August 31, 2007. Cavalera Conspiracy also made their debut live performance at the show by opening for Soulfly. One week after performing the show, Soulfly went to Bobby Burns and Tim Lau's newly renovated Porch Studio in Orlando, FL to begin work on Soulfly's sixth studio album, which Cavalera had begun writing during the summer. After working halfway through recording until September 29, Cavalera halted the session to travel throughout Egypt to record more sounds to integrate into the new songs. In November 2007, Cavalera returned to Orlando to complete tracking and the album is scheduled to be mixed by Andy Sneap in early 2008. It has been revealed that the album features guest appearances by Dave Peters from Throwdown and David Vincent from Morbid Angel. A late summer 2008 release date has been announced, with Cavalera and Rizzo expected to focus on their Cavalera Conspiracy band in early 2008.
In a recent interview regarding the follow up to Dark Ages, Max had this to say about the new album,
When asked about the new album Max Cavalera told www.thegauntlet.com,