Review Summary: A choice cutlet.
Butchery, Slaughter, Corpses. Not typically the kind of mental images most album titles evoke from their audiences, but then, Cannibal Corpse have never really conformed to even the vaguest conception of what makes up a ‘normal band’. From their grotesque album covers which were “embraced wholeheartedly” (censored and banned in many countries) to their over-the-top lyrical descriptions of varying degrees of horror-inspired violence, Cannibal Corpse have managed to gather quite a sizable following in the death metal community. After exploring this timeless death metal masterpiece it’s a simple matter to identify why.
The most prominent difference between ‘Corpses earlier work and their latest efforts are the vocals, supplied on this release by Chris Barnes (now of Six Feet Under). After this album, Chris would remain in Cannibal Corpse long enough only to release two more full-length albums before his departure.
From the albums inception; the beginning of ‘Meat Hook Sodomy, Chris announces his presence with low, guttural roars after a distorted, guitar driven introduction. Suddenly the pace is increased and the roars give-way to deep, raspy growls on Chris’s part, whilst the drummer lifts his speed and the guitars chug along menacingly. As far as lyrics go, the content is soul meltingly graphic throughout the album, assuming that you can make any of it out beneath the overtly heavy shroud of Chris’s vocal delivery. While it’s possible to struggle stringing together a coherent story in any of the tracks without a lyric sheet, the garbled sentences here and there that you may find yourself capable of deciphering are enough to inform you that it’s not the friendliest of subject matters. In fact, while the lyrics morbid subject matter is attributed to the horror-movie influence, they tell a startlingly vivid tale of their own. Near-unintelligible lyrics aside Barnes harsh vocal nature is convincing enough to paint a gruesome picture all on their own.
The opening track introduces the album in a deliciously accurate manner. The album continues in the vein of heavy chugging, speedy drumming and growling that ‘Meat Hook Sodomy’ greets the listener with in the beginning of the album. However, this album is not just a single indistinguishable block of sound, no. Each track sounds unique: the riffs are fresh, the groove is different and the hooks, whether vocal or instrumental, are interspersed in a new way each time. Not only are the tracks within this disc different from each other but there is a notable change in Cannibal Corpses’ sound since the debut ‘Eaten Back to Life’. While that album had a noticeable thrash influence, it is no longer a part of the Cannibal Corpse sound. Instead, they have opted for a straight up death metal album from beginning to end.
Tumultuous guitar assaults permeate this album, ceaselessly pommelling the listener into submission. Despite the unrelenting heaviness, there are interesting hooks and riffs in abundance on Butchered at Birth. Rather than make an uninteresting, boring follow-up, Cannibal Corpse have crafted an album that builds on the excellence of Eaten Back to Life and stepped up the heaviness, while infusing it with numerous guitar techniques that give this disc insurmountable replay value.
The drumming on this album is tremendous. Blasting away at the kit throughout this 37 minute long record, the drummer keeps this album fast and heavy. Some impressive footwork is made a focal point on tracks such as ‘Vomit the Soul’ and the title track. Thrumming in the mix between the guitars and drums is the bass, a noticeable and welcome addition to the Cannibal Corpse sound; the bass brings an underlying impact to the metaphorical table. Back to the matter of running time though, what would normally be considered quite a short time to work with (under 40 minutes) ensures that there is zero filler. If they had so desired, they could have easily tacked on another sub-par track or two, or extended some shorter tracks but they didn’t. Evidently, it’s because they didn’t need to, the work speaks for itself, with no tracks running on and lingering when you wish they would do something interesting or get to the point (similar to what myriad other artist in the genre resort to). There is diversity in track length with the first track running for almost 6 minutes while the following one just tops 3, and so on. The album length seems to suit metal of this calibre but it also makes it easier to replay this album and avoid boredom.
Cannibal Corpse has become pretty much synonymous with death metal and there’s a reason for that. They are one of those bands that almost HAVE to be mentioned when you speak of the genre, and it’s through albums like this one that this is the case. There are countless reasons to re-visit the earlier albums in the Cannibal Corpse back-catalogue. Some of the most interesting and band-defining tracks can be found within the first four albums from these death metal heavy-weights. So remove the thick film of dust your old favourites have gathered and submerge yourself in some of the finest music the death metal genre has to offer.
-Meat Hook Sodomy
-Vomit the Soul
-Butchered at Birth