Review Summary: Cannibal Corpse can no longer be the poster children for everything that is wrong with death metal.
Death metal is the genre that people love to hate and Cannibal Corpse is the genre’s main target of that hate. To be honest, I can’t really say that the hate wasn’t always deserved. Music with vocals so unintelligible that syllables can’t even be differentiated, coupled with high speed guitar riffs that often lack any melody and drums that only have one speed (blast beat) all combined with over-the-top hammer-horror lyrics, song titles and album covers are always going to attract negative attention. Over the course of their career, though, Cannibal Corpse have slowly perfected their music and toned down their song titles and album artwork to the point that their previous album, “Kill”, left very little for anyone to actually be offended by. One might even say that Cannibal Corpse may have even reached some form of “maturity” within the confines of their chosen genre.
A quick glance at the cover and song titles might quickly validate that assumption as there is still nothing as offensive or shocking as on earlier albums, but the real proof is going to be in the music. In recent interviews bassist Alex Webster stated that the goal of his band is to make each new album their heaviest yet. When speaking specifically about this album he mentioned that the band has never played with more precision and power. These are all opinions that I can agree with, and with the opening screams of “Priest of Sodom” all of their fans should agree as well. The guitar sound on this album is gritty and razor-sharp, the drums are powerful and relentless and George Fisher’s screams and growls are more forceful than I’ve ever heard them. This visceral wall of sound is coupled with a surgical precision that easily confirms that Alex’s words aren’t just baseless boasting.
The interesting thing is that despite an increase in aggression they’ve actually managed to build on the (relatively) catchy nature of songs such as “Make them Suffer” from the previous album. A large part of that catchiness comes from the band’s excellent use of dynamics. Of course, their use of dynamics has nothing to do with loud and soft sections; it has more to do with changes in speed and rhythms. There isn’t one song that is blast beats from start to finish, instead the band integrate those high speeds with riff-heavy mid-paced parts and quick solos to create counter-points that always end up becoming the memorable part of the song. It seems as if the most memorable riffs are those that are used in the mid-paced sections, and as such, they almost become the choruses themselves instead of the vocals. Despite the riffs being the focal point of the “choruses”, they are only enhanced by the very rhythmic nature of George Fisher’s vocal delivery which, despite the growling, is generally understandable (at least to those used to this genre).
Another aspect of this album that has seen great progression is the musicianship on display here. It seems that Alex Webster’s time with Blotted Science
has bled over just a little bit. With headphones on, there are sections where quick little bass-runs become apparent and add an element of actual subtlety to the auditory beating that is otherwise taking place. The closing song, “Skewered From Ear to Eye” even sounds like it could have been an actual out-take from those Blotted Science sessions. The riffs on that song are fluid and angular, and the bass is clearer here than almost anywhere else on the album giving it a more “technical” feel. The progression in musicianship isn’t just limited to complicated playing and arrangements, though, it is also found in the amount of actual restraint found on here as far as not bludgeoning the listener with the same general song for an hour. Songs such as the title track manage to never succumb to the temptations of speed and, instead, subsist off of thick mid-paced riffs and blazing leads that fizzle out as quickly as they appear.
So, the question still remains: Has Cannibal Corpse and their music actually matured? The answer is that they have, but in the same way Sam Raimi matured between Evil Dead II
and Army of Darkness
. Basically, the blood and gore is still there but it’s presented in a more professional and focused way. For Cannibal Corpse that means that the riffs are crushingly heavy, but also manage to not just come off as noise. It means that musically they were able to inject a fair bit of dynamics into their music while not losing the core sound that they’re known for. Overall, it means that they’ve managed to create a death metal album that should keep old fans happy, but also bring in some of those that have always written the band off… or at least shut them up.