Review Summary: The definitive Cannibal Corpse album, this captures the band at their peak and is one of the finest albums its genre has produced.
When one thinks of Death Metal numerous bands will instantly come to the tongue and one of the absolute first to be rolled out of ones mouth should be Cannibal Corpse. The band are an absolute titan of the genre having consistently released solid material since their inception despite going through so many lineup changes that only two of the original members of the band remain. They have racked up the highest sales figures for a single band in all of the genre and have influenced nearly every death metal band that came after them. Their sound has very rarely strayed away from the path they beat for themselves with their sophomore album Butchered At Birth with it being based around playing the fastest and heaviest style of music the band can without ever really aspiring to do anything truly fresh with the genre. To date there has been but one exception and it might be coincidence that that solitary album is perhaps their finest album.
The Bleeding is the band's fourth outing and marks their shift away from the thrash-influenced riffing and towards a more technical death metal approach to the guitar work whilst pushing for a more groove-oriented sound that incorporates a lot more melody into the frenzy of technically accomplished guitar lines. The Bleeding was Chris Barnes' final album with the band as well as serving as the introduction of Rob Barrett to their ranks and stands as the fifth highest selling Death Metal album in the United States with over 98,000 copies sold and was the first album by Cannibal Corpse to break into the Billboard charts. For much of The Bleeding the tempo sticks to a more mid-tempo and shies away from relying on blast beats and tremolo picked riffs as was the main course on Tomb Of The Mutilated and Butchered At Birth. These changes to the band's style made for one of the most incredible doses of pure gore-ridden Death Metal brutality in history and this is rightfully considered one of the essential albums in the genre.
The Bleeding carries an extremely melodic approach without ever really compromising the flat out heavy sound that Cannibal Corpse are renowned from, and this is in no small part down to the addition of Rob Barrett to the band's lineup. Many of the songs with Barrett's song writing credit on are both classic Corpse songs and groove-ridden masterpieces in their own rights, with She Was Asking For It and Stripped, Raped And Strangled being among these songs. The former opens with a fantastic riff that alternates from low-end chords to one guitarist rapidly playing the same notes that the other guitarist is playing as a trill and this creates one of the most memorable riffs in all of the genre. Stripped Raped And Strangled is rightfully ranked among the finest creations to come from the band's warped minds with some truly haunting lyrics detailing a serial rapist and murdered calling the police and challenging them to "find me before another is found". This song opens up with some groove-laden riffing before diving into a frenzy of mayhem with the band playing chords as fast as they possibly can and Paul Mazurkiewicz pummeling away on his drum kit with as much conviction as he possibly can. Stripped Raped And Strangled is perceived as one of the best Cannibal Corpse songs ever and who can really argue with a riff set like what is found in that song.
The title track to the album is one of the more interesting numbers that has some surprisingly simple riffing with some guitar tones that sound completely odd and loosely fitting with the rest of the album but somehow this does not disrupt the flow of it. Instead what it does is make the song stand out the most with its creative riffing and mindlessly bloodthirsty lyrics from Barnes that for once takes its foot off the technical pedal and instead relies solely on being as groovy and enjoyable to listen to as the band could make it. The same can not be said for all the songs on this album with songs like F*cked With A Knife and Pulverized being technical workouts for guitarists of all skill that thunder along as fast as humanly possible whilst the choruses to both are still extremely infectious. F*cked With A Knife is proof for those that needed it that Chris Barnes, the man who inspired countless bands to compete to create the most sickening songs of all time, had not lost his ability to create truly shocking lyrics by this point without ever sounding remotely fake. In fact this may well be the perfect swan song for Chris Barnes as he really does put in a fantastic performance on this release aside from a couple of hiccoughs here and there.
For The Bleeding Barnes decided to take a much more decipherable style of growling and this really works within the context of the album as he is constantly painting gruesome pictures over the top of some of the most controlled chaos ever put to record. His lows on this album are nowhere near as muffled as they were on Tomb Of The Mutilated and every gore-soaked song is completely decipherable, whilst his shrieks are brilliant to provide a sense of variety in the vocals even though at times they become slightly grating on your ears. The worst vocal moment on this release comes in The Pick-Axe Murders where he declares "You thought it was over, It's not over" in his higher snarling voice but it feels slightly weak and devoid of energy which is so uncharacteristic of a Chris Barnes performance. For the most part however Barnes is at his absolute peak on The Bleeding and it was a great note to go out on. The other members of the band are also on top form with the riff work to this being some of the tightest Death Metal riffing in existence. Later albums may have taken the technical aspect to new heights and earlier albums may have been more focused on speed-oriented riffs but The Bleeding captures Jack Owen and Rob Barrett at both of their peak with some of the most crushing riffs the band has ever created. The guitar work on this album is a mass of trills and sliding power chord with a few tremolo picked riffs scattered throughout which leads to this being a record for any aspiring guitar player out there to attempt to play along to and marvel at the technical wizardry on display. The drumming is a usual solid performance for Paul who is not a drummer known for variety nor playing anything particularly awe-inspiring but rather resigns himself to thundering along as fast as he can and he really does put on a great show. Alex Webster is the final member of the band and he puts in the bass performance of a life time on this album with quick little fills and bass solos being scattered all throughout this album and some incredibly complex lines thudding along behind the guitars.
The Bleeding is an absolutely essential Death Metal album and could be considered as an entry point for anyone who is unfamiliar with the genre to sink their teeth into. This is a fast and furious display of aggression that is packed full of great songs such as Stripped Raped And Strangled and the trill-infested madness that is Staring Through The Eyes Of The Dead. As part of a genre not renowned for being catchy The Bleeding could be considered as somewhat of an anomaly but it is a good form of anomaly and finds the band at their peak of creativity.