Review Summary: Cannibal Corpse erupts into the death metal scene with their excitingly traumatic and exquisitely filthy debut album.
Eaten Back to Life: The twisted album that introduced Cannibal Corpse to the world and acquired infamy after its string of banning’s for both its artwork and lyrical content. Will you find intricacy, delicacy, deep meaning or outstanding musicianship on this album? No. What you will find however, is an authentic and unapologetic death metal experience from start to finish that delivers what it promises; brutality and rawness. Eaten Back to Life is extremely reflective of the band, and as far as debuts go, it’s enjoyable and accurate. To explain that last phrase, an analysis of the sound achieved on this record is required.
First of all, although there is no denying this is a death metal album, there is an unmistakeable thrash influence on this release (which is quickly rectified on the follow up album). What that means in terms of style is that this death metal experience is delivered at a breakneck pace that shows no signs of slowing down to ascertain your head is still attached after the first five minutes. That’s right, they continue this assault throughout the entire album, so prepare yourself.
Instrumentally, it’s hard to say what is accomplished here. The drumming is excellent, the bass is easily audible, and the guitars are fast and heavy. So what’s lacking? There is minimal variation from song to song which is likely this album's biggest flaw. I wouldn’t call the album repetitive as there are numerous hooks and catchy riffs here and there, but there is a general theme on each song that is imitated from the first to last track. That theme revolves around detailed descriptions of slaughter and bodily mutilation, delivered with an unceasing brutality. I know BRUTAL is an over-used and generally hyperbolic description, but it’s far too apt in this case, and I don’t mean that in the complimentary way it’s usually intended. What I mean is that it can cause some songs to sound tired after a while. Most of the time, this disc is easily listenable the entire way through, but sometimes, the exciting and adrenaline fuelled attack grows wearisome. You have to be in the mood for something hard and angry to fully enjoy this.
Now, onto the more positive and flattering section of this review. To begin with, the drumming is very enjoyable and certainly adds an interesting kick to the overall sound on each track. The tribal feeling simplicity to the drumming is very at home on this album, and mixed with the continued ferocity of both the guitars and Chris’s vocals, it definitely lifts this album into the realm of greatness. As aforementioned, the bass is visible within the mix of warring guitars and rhythmic drumming, which is always a welcome surprise, especially in a debut. The guitars are definitely the focus on the album; they build the atmosphere after all. Interestingly enough, despite having a similar sound on almost every track, the guitarists manage to maintain the listener’s interest. Perhaps it’s the little changes that are interspersed throughout each track, which inevitably returns to the chugging thrash sound they are known for, or maybe it’s just the exciting feeling they create. Whatever it is, it’s certainly a positive feature on this album.
I suppose now it’s only proper I delve into the wonderful discussion on the vocal component. To begin, I will immediately state that Chris Barnes was essential to Cannibal Corpse and founded the band along with the other original members. Chris is an accomplished vocalist, very suited to his role in this album. He has given life to some of the lowest growls and harshest screams ever to be let loose on the world. His very callous vocals are put to great use here and are certainly applied to the right genre.
Lyrically, this album is just like any other CC release. Like a vocal retelling of a horror movie (in great and unnecessary, yet intriguing, detail), they include all the gory bits that initially got them banned in several countries. Overall, the lyrics are pretty much there only to entertain and don’t end up having a lot of meaning (assuming you can understand them all with Chris’s low growling). Some listeners find them offensive, but you should come to expect such things when you listen to a genre titled ‘death metal’.
Very predictably I am going to tie this conclusion to my introduction by finally explaining the somewhat rhetorical and questionably worded phrase that ended the first paragraph and all of you reading this have already forgotten about; “Eaten Back to Life is extremely reflective of the band, and as far as debuts go, it’s enjoyable and accurate”. Well, this debut prophetically tells the tale of what Cannibal Corpse will sound like on the next few records. There are certainly modifications along the way, but Cannibal Corpse have forever been consistent with their core sound, and never stray uncomfortably far from their roots.
So tracks that you should definitely check out are:
*Scattered Remains, Splattered Brains
*Born In a Casket
*A Skull Full of Maggots
Add this timeless album to your death metal collection for its brutality and unwavering devotion to its own genre.