The biggest knock on nü metal is that it lacks gravitas the way it lacks properly fitting pants. With callow, "nobody loves me" scab-picking pretty much the standard lyrical fodder of everyone from Fred Durst to Aaron Lewis, the subgenre has become a caricature of suburban angst, like Degrassi Junior High with Marshall stacks.
But one of the few bands that has always countered the questionable nature of nü metal's rage is Soulfly. Band frontman Max Cavalera has long established himself as something of a headbanging Bob Marley, railing against the third-world strife of his native Brazil while preaching unity and togetherness like a rock and roll Rastafarian. Cavalera's former outfit, Sepultura, set the bar for vehement, highly politicized thrash in the '90s, and after Cavalera acrimoniously split from that band in '97, he mated Sepultura's savage charge with hip-hop undertones and oodles of indigenous South American instrumentation to form a culturally broad sound that terminally Caucasian nü metal lacked.
All this hasn't come without its drawbacks. On its first two discs, Soulfly was too scattershot, with an abundance of guest vocalists and a deluge of difficult-to-pronounce jungle instruments, making the band's sound somewhat cluttered and indistinct. Some of this has been remedied on the recently released 3, the band's most direct shot to the jugular, with breakneck beatdowns like "Call to Arms" and "L.O.T.M." recalling the blitz of vintage Sepultura. The haunting "Tree of Pain," a remembrance of Cavalera's slain stepson that's equal parts grief and gooseflesh, and a pair of album-ending instrumentals give the disc some breathing room without muddling Soulfly's sound too much (as has been the case in the past). This allows the band to home in on its greatest asset: its ability to offer perspective to a scene often mired in self-loathing; Soulfly has much bigger and better things to hate. Namely, you.