Review Summary: Meat's back on the menu, boys.
The notorious American cannibal gang has been accumulating dead bodies for three decades now in an unprecedented killing spree. The pile of corpses is so impressive that even the cold-hearted cannot remain indifferent to a slaughter of this magnitude. Meat hook sodomy, necrophilia, severe decapitation, disembowelment - you name it. The sicko death squad has already inflicted all kinds of damage and suffering, showing no sign of regret. This musical psychopathy, despite its different cycles and actors, has never undergone drastic changes. Granted, the Chris Barnes-era can be singled out since it does mirror a rather particular early stage of the band, but the creative DNA, in its essence, has remained unchanged over the years.
The arrest of guitarist Pat O'Brien in December 2018 is a relevant fact in the band's most recent history, not only due to the bizarre nature of the event but also because it led to musician, producer, and longtime friend Erik Rutan joining the band's ranks. With the possible exception of Jack Owen, no one else could fit in so easily. Erik's recruitment not only ensures a smooth transition into this new cycle but also generates high expectations about what he might actually add to Cannibal Corpse's sound. There is common ground between Hate Eternal and Cannibal Corpse, namely the relentless and brutal character of both, yet the question that matters is whether Erik will embed his ultrasonic imprint into Cannibal Corpse's more orthodox DNA, and ultimately whether this blend will warp the identity of the cannibal collective.
Of the three songs Erik Rutan wrote, 'Condemnation Contagion', 'Overtorture' and 'Ritual Annihilation', the latter is the one that gravitates closer to Hate Eternal while being one of the most interesting tracks on the album. It manages to inject some fresh blood into the band's trademark by adding the recognizable Rutan-ish ultrasonic layer I mentioned earlier. This song somehow unveils what it would sound like if Corpsegrinder were part of Hate Eternal's ranks and if Rutan replaced his usual warp-speed blast beats with Mazurkiewicz's more old-school tempos. While 'Ritual Annihilation' and 'Overtorture' catapult the band to breakneck speeds, 'Condemnation Contagion', through its midtempo approach and tasty power chords, mirrors a more restrained side tailored to Cannibal Corpse's personality. Rutan thus succeeds in introducing some novelty into the mix while respecting the band's marked character.
Keeping the tradition alive, the album takes off fiercely. 'Murderous Rampage' and 'Necrogenic Resurrection' are both relentless assaults in the vein of classics like 'The Time to Kill Is Now' or 'Demented Aggression', and honestly, I wouldn't expect anything less. It's the boys' usual warm welcome to their slaughterhouse. This overwhelming facet of the band works like a serial killer's signature mirroring their modus operandi. However, these overpowering moments are promptly counterbalanced by 'Inhumane Harvest' and 'Condemnation Contagion', two mid and slow tempo offerings that not only bring contrast to the chromatic palette but also contribute to the album's initial flow. This balance, while not new, generates dynamics and the required diversity in a style that easily falls into repetition. The catchy breakdown in 'Surround, Kill, Devour' or the superb groovy riff in 'Bound and Burned' are other contrasting moments worth highlighting.
Overall, Cannibal Corpse sticks to its usual formula, swinging between grinding power chords and high-speed tremolo picking, with occasional pinch harmonics. The Webster-Mazurkiewicz foundation remains among the most solid in the business, and even though Paul is not a virtuoso drummer his trademark pounding is already part of the band's brand, along with Corpsegrinder's massive gutturals. Rutan's leads brought colorful tones to the heavy landscape, among which I would highlight the solo in 'Condemnation Contagion' for its interesting flow. The high-caliber performances and in-depth know-how are a common denominator, mirroring the collective's long experience. This musical maturity coupled with the lads' genuine enthusiasm override less accomplished moments such as 'Follow the Blood' and 'Cerements of the Flayed', which despite not being by any means a failure, do not match the quality of the remaining songs, thus not adding value to the whole.
Thirty-two years after the first killing, the vile cannibal squad shows no signs of slowing down or willingness to change its disgusting diet. Meat is back on the menu, now with fresh blood and repulsive new ingredients, courtesy of chef Erik Rutan. Violence Unimagined
is thus not only a treat for those who feast upon flesh but also a proof of resilience, power, and determination. It is yet another successful chapter in one of the best portfolios the genre has to offer.