It’s been a while since the last time I wrote something on this “blogzine” or however you want to call it. As I supposed even from the beginning the videoreviews just didn’t click, so I am going to revert back to good, honest, old school written reviews, like usual. I haven’t been completely idle all this time actually since I have been writing some stuff for a new issue of the paper version of NA (out some day) but I felt like kicking a bit of dust here with another necrospective. As you might remember from the last one, necrospectives generally are about bigger, less underground bands, I can’t see the need to make extensive biographies on obscure bands even if I might consider that as well one day. Every music writer holds the hidden desire to write about classic albums so here it is a long story about one of the most uncompromising bands of the genre. I wish I could find the interview i did with Corpsegrinder i did on the band’s van in 1996 but I can’t find that old mini tape, if it shows up one day though, it would be a lot of fun to rip it on mp3, even just for my atrocious English (now that I think about it I brough the tape to English class ahah).
It’s quite obvious but worth remembering that these reviews are not objective nor written with the competent ear of a professional. Since I don’t believe in “musical journalism” at all I will try to describe the impression I got from these records the day I bought them and how they just influenced my own life when and if they did. Take all these reviews with a pinch of salt.
I think I’ll just bypass the demo, singles, EPs and live albums since we have plenty of full length studio albums to dissect.
EATEN BACK TO LIFE – METAL BLADE 1990 (7,5/10)
I listened to Chris’ old band Leviathan some time before this album was released on a Metal Forces compilation although I never connected the two Chris Barnes were one and the same until a few years later, uh. “Eaten Back To Life” is a good album, a little thrashier and a bit brighter than the two following monsters that followed it, but good nonetheless. The lyrics were already spot on: high on gore elements involving car crashes, psychos eating cadavers and of course the band’s main theme – zombies. You might have noticed it but every Cannibal Corpse album has at least one song about zombies, starting from this one. For the time this album was quite a shock as few bands actually brought the theme of extreme splatter to these levels. Overally speaking I liked the album a lot, spun it endless times, even though the vocal patterns sometimes just sounded a bit too plain, something however the band completely fixed with their next album, THE real masterpiece.
BUTCHERED AT BIRTH – METAL BLADE RECORDS 1991 (10/10)
Starting from the greatest cover ever, and one of the best covers in the Death Metal world in general, with that thick, almost three-dimensional feel, this album is all in all the best stuff this band ever released in my opinion, listening to Butchered at Birth is like being inside that cover, some forgotten gore covered dungeon cell with zombie doctors butchering pregnant victims. This album has no space for breathing, it’s so grimy the air itself feels thick when it spins. This is one of the albums I’d save should I decide to cut all my record collection to just a shelf. Complete masterpiece. Only problem I had with Butchered at Birth was that it didn’t include lyrics so I had to mail a friend who got a Xerox from France to finally be able to read it. Third generation copies ahah. I think the original one came from their fan club, I had one of those letters years ago and I recall the frame was amazing, I even used that for a couple of concert flyers. Not a lot to add, this is a perfect album, flawless from (severed( head to toes.
I just realized I already did a review of this album long ago, here is the link.
TOMB OF THE MUTILATED – METAL BLADE RECORDS 1992 (9,5/10)
Objectively, from my perspective, THIS is the best album Cannibal Corpse ever recorded. With Tomb these guys just progressed from the path paved on the previous album and took the whole package to an entirely new level of extreme. Even more graphic than before, somehow darker, everything on this album is perfect, not just artwork and music, but the lyrics (this time with some sexual elements) too are so sick they manage to touch some nerves. I honestly felt the album was not as claustrophobic as the previous one, but what it lacks in thickness, it gained in gory, creepy feel. Even if I should rate it higher that Butchered, I consider it a hairline lower in my own personal agenda. Barnes vocals are as dark and deep as ever, but I think in Butchered they just had that extra punch. Some songs are memorable and well, I just can’t find any real weak spot to mention here, it’s a huge classic.
THE BLEEDING – METAL BLADE RECORDS 1994 (5,5/10)
I don’t know if it was the lack or Rusay that left the band before this album, but I was totally disappointed by The Bleeding. I remember I got the vinyl from a record store in Bologna and I was skeptical from the start because the cover was just a big gash instead of that Locke galore I was expecting, I hoped for something over the top and all I got was a small detail from the artwork that could be seen on the back of the sleeve. I spun it a couple of times before realizing this album was giving me absolutely nothing. Barnes vocals this time were way too clear, almost sounding like a bark, and the riffing was not as tight as before, it sounded as if the band was trying to go on the wrong direction although not in a disgraceful way as a lot of their contemporaries. Listening to The Bleeding recently I realized I don’t dislike it as much as I did when I bought it, however it’s just way inferior to the two masterpieces that predated it. I still don’t like much Barnes vocals here, but I think he was starting to work on an idea that would soon turn ito that shit band called Six Feet Under. Luckily enough, the shittiest parts of this album drifted to SFU leaving space for a more than decent follow up, “Vile”.
VILE – METAL BLADE RECORDS 1996 (7,0)
I was completely surprised to hear Barnes was leaving Cannibal, so much so that I still envision Barnes when I think of the bend even if he left over 20 years ago. But I was even more puzzled by hearing they engaged Monstrosity’s singer, whose vocal style was not just different but right the opposite of the static grunting of Barnes that was characteristic of that early incarnation of CC. Corpsegrinder’s a singer that articulates and modulates his vocals a lot, how could they fit him to sing old CC material? Luckily the band first came to Italy just a few weeks after this album hit the stores, so I could see it by myself (and this is also where I managed to have that interview with George I mentioned before) and what could I say? The guy was a great replacement, even though the style changed dramatically to fit his vocal style from early on. I later heard three songs recorded for “Vile” with Barnes on voals and honestly I heard few things so uninspired, weak and shitty as those. Maybe just Six Feet Under suck that bad, but I can dare to say these songs were even worse. Was he already planning to leave the band before being kicked out? We’ll never know for sure. “Vile” in se is a good album for me, it might have some songs like “Bloodlands” that feel like they’ve been written a bit too hastily but there are some others like “Puncture Wound Massacre” which are real killers. All in all not the pinnacle of the band, but good stuff nonetheless.
GALLERY OF SUICIDE – METAL BLADE RECORDS 1998 (7,5)
Well, this album offically greets version 2.0 of the band. While “Vile” sounded like they were still reasoning how to incorporate Fisher’s vocals to their sound,”Gallery” shows the band’s new ugly face to the world. Pat O’ Brien also chimed in to replace Rob Barrett and the cover art is the first real sign that Locke was changing his style radically even though the work is excellent save for an horrible glow effect on title and that new logo we already saw on “Vile” (Barnes owned the right on the old logo, meh). This albums also mark my departure from the band, not because it’s a bad album, but because at the time I was completely into obscure underground acts and generally was considering these albums “safe to get later”, if you know what I mean. Gallery of Suicide is a good massacre in my book, thicker and darker than Vile, and a decisive evolving of that album’s sound carefully tailored on the Corpsegrinder’s inimitable throat-ripping. Like said before, the evolution in songwriting shows us a different Cannibal Corpse here, with a wider range of solutions and ideas that sometime border on experimental. I have read bad things about the album’s production, possibly because there’s no Burns behind the band from now on, but I personally can’t find anything wrong here, “muddy” to me is Ok if we talk about Detah Metal. You want to hear a “too muddy”, underproduced album? Check out “Breeding the Spawn”, or “Death Metal” by Dismember, certainly not this one.
Layout and graphics aside, this album delivers badly the new Cannibal as fit as ever. I am definitely not a sound technician nor I care much at all, but it’s impressive how everything in this album just stands out neatly, including Webster’s monster bass-work and Corpsegrinder’s words of hate. It also goes a bit beyond that, as the orchestral work also extends to the song writing as well. This might be a mature peak for a band that is known mostly for its uncompromising discipline and dedication to brutal music. It should be remarked that the end of the 90’s was also the time a lot of the second wave of Brutal Death Metal bands started to flower expecially in the States, a genre so loved and despised by many even today. I personally feel both emotions today, preferring the more uncontrolled, chaotic, possibly dirty and ugly sound of punk into my Death Metal, but I also liked a lot of the “cut the shit” attitude of bands during that time lapse that went straight for the deepest, sickest riffs and guttural vocals. It’s a long story that doesn’t change much my opinion on this album, as you can’t really classify it in the Brutal Death galore of that time for reasons both musical and historical. Preachers of the “old school” sound might probably ridicule it, but you know, haters gonna hate.
GORE OBSESSED – METAL BLADE RECORDS 2002 (7,5)
Ah, this new studio album welcomed the Cannibals in the 21st century. If there’s one thing I like about Gore Obsessed is the feel you get that this album is just a big statement of intent, a giant, middle finger blasted high in the open sky. It gives the impression that they wanted to make it clear they just don’t give a fuck about people complaining about the gory topics they keep singing about and therefore released this album that basically says “we’re gore obsessed, OK, fuck you!”. Which is, well, a statement I can’t help but appreciate. There is not really much to say about this album, aside from the production which is now handled by Neil Kernon. It follows ups where Bloodthirst ended, which is not a problem at all to me. The lyrics are still sick stuff, yet still not as deranged as the Barnes ones, an era which is just gone forever and probably for the best.
THE WRETCHED SPAWN – METAL BLADE RECORDS 2004 (7,5)
It takes a lot of effort not to watch Cannibal Corpse’s hideous new logo with random Photoshop effects layered on top stretched as wide as the whole cover with the same shit applied to the title, giving the whole cover the feel of a total print bootleg shirt bought in the parking lot in front of a venue. I personally am not a fan of Locke’s new style that here shows more accurately as well, with that weird method of mixing unnaturally livid colors, yet the artwork is as graphic as ever (I think they also got some problems with it when it was released but can’t remember properly), so much so it was once again censored in some editions. Musically you it once agains follows up where Gore Obsessed ended, maybe with some more accurate metrics by Fisher, but it’s still solid to the face Death Metal the like the Cannibals got us used to, which is not a bad thing in my book. Blastbeats and intricate riffing? Check. Inhuman vocals with impossible patterns? Check. Gore lyrics and theme? Check.
KILL – METAL BLADE RECORDS 2006 (7)
With Barrett (of which I am admittedly no fan – but he basically wrote only one song here) back on rhytm guitars replacing founder Jack Owen our heroes hit the 10th studio album with the minimal-looking Kill. Minimal in looks but not in composition, even though overally this album feels just a bit more uninspired compared to the previous two, Corpsegrinder is the real monster here, with vocals that feel just like out of some cenobite ruled hell of suffering. Production, mixing and engineering are on the shoulders of Erik Rutan this time, resulting in his typically flawless yet a bit plastic sound. The work however is technically superb as all the instruments fall into place clear cut from the rest, which considering the complexity of the songs makes sense.
EVISCERATION PLAGUE – METAL BLADE RECORDS 2009 (7,5)
The cover art on Evisceration Plague is plain terrible, I hoped it was the usual detail of a bigger censored cover but the illustrations on the inner sleeve are even worse, I have to believe Locke scetched this shit during lunchtime thinking about a card game or a teenage book because I really can’t believe it’s the same hand that drew Butchered At Birth. This guy still knows how to do great works, this one is just an evident fail. Yet surprises come in all shapes. This album is in my opinion the best one they have done in the new Millennium right after the following “Torture”. They gained back some of the darkness and harshness of the beginning (just hear the first few seconds of the title track) with some added variety on the songs and a Corpsegrinding vocalist that managed to find interesting patterns on really, really impossible riffs. People consider it a follow up of Kill, I personally like it way better.
TORTURE – METAL BLADE RECORDS 2012 (8,5)
Whoah, despite a string of roughly similar albums, the cannibals ultimately delivers their best album since Tomb of the Mutilated here, with a collection of songs that are as varied as heavy and brutal as they’ve never been since Barnes left the band. I basically like all the songs, including the “zombie song” that always appear in each album and this time runs right after the opening track. Heavier sound, fewer tricks, a choice of just a few killer riffs make this album one of the three Cannibal albums I’d keep if I was forced to sell my collection. Great stuff from start to finish, lots of ideas and definitely no fillers. On the contrary, the album might feel a bit more straightforward and simpler, but the magic worked here was to keep just the best stuff to create a few solid songs that each stand on its own, unlinke some of the earlier albums in which each songs sounded a bit like a variation of the same, if you know what I mean. That’s it, top notch experimentation within brutality.
A SKELETAL DOMAIN – METAL BLADE RECORDS 2014 (7,5)
A Skeletal Domain is a good album, it follows up where Torture left, by maintaining the distinctive “new” songwriting style all the while adopting some of the old solutions as well. It’s a mix of Torture and the previous five albums, in a sense. While Torture was a new breed of CC with a lot of the feel of the earlier days but veichled into some interesing concepts, this album somewhat crosses the path with the post Bloothirst era of the band by picking heavily from the compositions and not just the feel. It’s still an album to have like all the Cannibal ones, in my opinion.
OK this is the last one, from just 2 years ago. Whew, Never would I have thought reviewing the whole discography would take a full week, these guys really went through ages in the Death Metal timeline right through the sedimentation rings of sickness and brutality.