Cannibal Corpse has always been a controversial and polarizing band.
Not so much for the reasons one might think, such as all the attention that they received for their gory cover art and graphic
song titles. But within the underground, a lot of people hated these guys just for the fact that their records were considered
to be inferior to those of many of their peers, yet they became the most popular Death Metal band in the world. Though Cannibal
Corpse was never the best, and even their classic years produced albums that were only half-developed, their debut is a different
beast altogether and is often forgotten. Released in August 1990, Eaten Back to Life sounds almost nothing like those
records that followed it.
Musically, this L.P. is much more varied and interesting than the band's
later recordings. The songwriting shows a fairly strong Thrash Metal influence, owing a bit to the likes of Slayer, Sodom
and Sepultura. One can also hear similarities to the second Death album, Leprosy. Rather than being driven by the vocals
and percussion, as is the case with Butchered at Birth and Tomb of the Mutilated, at times, Eaten Back to
Life is very much a riff-oriented album. The guitars are the dominant feature of this recording and there are many memorable
riffs to be found. In particular, the opener "Shredded Humans" includes riffs that will probably remain with you for years,
even if you were to never touch the album again. The same can be said for "Scattered Remains, Splattered Brains" and
"Born in a Casket", both of which feature riffs that actually create a dark atmosphere, something that th band soon after
forgot. There are plenty of high-speed sections, but they rarely last for too long and often give way to thrashier parts.
This is probably a good thing, as the drumming gets somewhat sloppy when the pace quickens. The vocals of Chris Barnes are
much different than the more guttural approach that he would adopt for the next release, utilizing more of a dry and raspy
sound that really gives the impression of a half-rotted corpse that has just clawed its way from the damp soil of an ancient
grave. This adds so much more to the deathlike atmosphere of the album, it is really unbelievable that so many Death Metal
bands preferred the deeper and more useless vocal style that Barnes used after this. He sounds somewhat like a more demonic
version of Evil Chuck, here. Also worth noting is the presence of Glen Benton (and some other guy) doing guest vocals on a
couple of songs. The songwriting, overall, is much stronger than one would expect and never gets too dull. The less interesting
songs actually clock in at under two minutes, so they never get the chance to become too boring or to annoy the listener.
While much of the compositions are different than what they would later do, "Buried in the Backyard" very much foreshadows
the direction that was to come.
In this case, credit should be given to the often-horrible Scott Burns
for managing to give the album a powerful and yet sharp production job. This was before he decided to make the guitars on
every record blend into the background and sound weak and ineffective. On Eaten Back to Life, the guitars are heavy
and the drums are forceful, without distracting, and the overall sound is very similar to Sepultura's Beneath the Remains.
The Slayer-esque solos are clear and carve through you, while the vocals are at an appropriate level, not rising too far above
the rest and yet not getting buried in the mix. Perhaps, if the band utilized this sort of production for the following releases,
they would have been more enjoyable and less bland.
All in all, Eaten Back to Life is a solid old school Death Metal
album. For anyone that has written this band off, without hearing this, you should give it a chance. It fits well among the
likes of Leprosy, Persecution Mania, Consuming Impulse, Resurrection Absurd, Beneath the Remains
and Slowly We Rot and should appeal to fans of late '80s Death Metal as much as the more vicious Thrash that was still
being released at the time. While not exactly a classic, this is probably the best album that Cannibal Corpse ever recorded
and the one that possesses the darkest atmosphere, from the vocals and riffs and even the nocturnal graveyard on the cover.
If you are looking for a good mixture of horror and Metal, this is certainly worth a listen.
(17 Aug. 2013)
Cannibal Corpse has always been a rather prolific band, going all the
way back to their earliest days. Though nearly every album of theirs has sounded the same for well over a decade, such was
not the case in the beginning. Each of their first several records had a rather distinctive sound. Released in 1991, Butchered
at Birth came across as a bit darker and more serious, leaving behind the '80s Death / Thrash and campy horror movie lyrics
in favour of something more disturbing.
The sophomore effort from Cannibal Corpse is a much heavier record and this
is a result not only of the lower tuning for the guitars, but also the thicker production and the bludgeoning riffs. Also,
the vocals become less discernible and more of an instrument that pushes the compositions forward, as Chris Barnes uses a
deeper and more guttural style than before. This is one of the more negative aspects of the album, as his voice on Eaten
Back to Life possessed a deathlike feeling that was lost with the arrival of the infamous "cookie monster" vocals. As
for the music, the band discarded more of the trappings of their Thrash Metal roots and embrace a more pure Death Metal style,
featuring more droning tremolo riffs and blastbeats. In some ways, Butchered at Birth seems to utilize a more percussive
approach. Rather than just keeping a beat, the drums drive the music along just as much as the guitars and vocals. Even during
the mid-paced sections, the double-bass never stops rumbling. Some of the riffs start to blend together, and one may have
a hard time remembering which one belongs to what song, but then there are tracks like "Vomit the Soul" (featuring guest vocals
from Glen Benton of Deicide) and the powerful closer, "Innards Decay", that stick with you long after the album concludes.
Though the production is not as raw and the vocals lack much of the unique character from before, Butchered at
Birth is filled with memorable riffs and still stands as a guitar-oriented album. Because of the tuning of the guitars,
the lower-pitched vocals and the prominence of the drumming, the sound of this album comes off as rather muddy, in a sense.
It is like a wall of sound that repeatedly smashes you in the face, which may have been what the band was going for.
Corpse was never the greatest Death Metal band out there, gaining a lot of notoriety from their album covers and promotion
and so on, but they were solid in their early years. Butchered at Birth shows a bit of decline in quality from Eaten
Back to Life, but it is still a decent Death Metal record with a fair amount of memorable riffs and ideas, if not actually
memorable songs. If you are new to the band, or only familiar with their recent output, put that trash away and stick with
their first few releases.
(23 Apr. 2014)
Tomb of the Mutilated, released in 1992, very well may be the
most well-known and beloved album from Cannibal Corpse. This is quite unfortunate as, even for this band, it is far from the
best of their early works. It has its moments, but too many negative things drag it down.
To begin with, the vocal
performance by Chris Barnes is terrible. His voice is much deeper and more guttural than before, lacking any feeling whatsoever.
As opposed to the evil, risen-from-the-grave ghoul from Eaten Back to Life, he just sounds like someone vomiting into
a toilet bowl and capturing the sound on tape. It does not to evoke a feeling of death or horror. It's just another percussive
instrument, on an album that has far too much of a percussive sound as it is. Occasionally, he lets out a raspy scream, though
these moments only prove that he could have done better and just chose not to.
The songwriting is not as good as that
of either Eaten Back to Life or Butchered at Birth. There are far too many plodding, mid-paced riffs that really
do nothing but serve as a background for the horrible vocals. The thrash influence seems to have completely died by this point,
as well. There are some decent faster-paced riffs, but the wretched production has them buried beneath the percussion. Nonetheless,
Tomb of the Mutilated does possess several memorable parts, found in tracks like "Addicted to Vaginal Skin", "Necropedophile"
and "The Cryptic Stench". Things gradually improve throughout the course of the album, with the riffs creating a bit of a
dark and morbid atmosphere, despite all the rest of the elements that are actively working against this. Some of the guitar
riffs from songs like "The Cryptic Stench", "Entrails Ripped from a Virgin's Cunt" and "Post Mortal Ejaculation" really could
have been expanded upon and worked into better, darker songs. As for the latter, it features the best moments of the whole
record, with some riffs that might have been better suited for Black Metal. The break near the end, with the guitars standing
alone and then a high-pitched cry and the blasting drums coming back in... this small part of the song possesses the darkest
feeling and shows a bit of potential. Ever since my first time hearing it, so many years ago, I've felt like they could have
done so much more with that section and with this album, in general.
The lyrics are a point of interest for many, and
in this regard Barnes did quite a good job at conjuring up a variety of unsettling images and scenarios. While many have attempted
to write rather disgusting lyrics, often just to outdo the next band, Barnes comes across as genuinely disturbed and that
does add to the atmosphere of the record, to an extent. The lyrics would have had more of an impact had he chosen to utilize
a more raw and decipherable vocal style, however.
The production is a definite step down from Butchered at Birth.
The bass and drums are far too high in the mix, giving the overall sound a really weird vibe. The guitars do not possess the
same kind of tone as on the previous two albums, somehow feeling weaker. The poor mix only emphasizes this even more. The
vocals are probably mixed about as well as possible, given the circumstances.
In the end, Tomb of the Mutilated
could have been much better than it is. A different vocal approach, and a production job that was less percussive, would have
done quite a lot for the album just as it is. As well, some of the more boring riffs could have been scrapped. Despite all
the setbacks, Side B showcases some rather decent material from Cannibal Corpse and certainly beats the hell out of anything
they have done in the past twenty years. There's much better old school Death Metal out there, but this is still worth a listen
if you're a fan of this band.
(22 June 2014)
The Bleeding (1994)
My best friend and I were in junior high when this was released, in April 1994. A short
time later, we got our hands on a Metal blade catalog and proceeded to order the fourth full-length album from Cannibal Corpse,
The Bleeding. It is most unfortunate that this has the distinction of being the first Death Metal album that we ever
heard. I'd grown up with traditional Metal and Thrash, so the only thing that was really new about this was the vocal style.
I've encountered a lot of people that have had difficulty in getting into Death and Black Metal, due to the vocals, but I
took to it quite easily. Despite the fact that I moved far beyond this album, in the years that followed, I must give credit
where it is due. This acted as the gateway that would lead me into the realm of Death Metal, where I'd soon discover much
more relevant albums, such as Altars of Madness, Scream Bloody Gore, Consuming Impulse and many
more. This opened up a world beyond NWOBHM and Thrash Metal. Whatever my current opinion is, I cannot deny the importance
of this album, on a personal level.
It begins with "Staring Through the Eyes of the Dead", opening with rather odd sounding
riffs. The song speeds up a bit, about halfway through, though this does not last long. As it slows down again, there's a
nice morbid effect with the vocals and the bass. A couple of Slayer-esque solos follow this, being kind of worthless, in the
"Fucked With A Knife" was the one that got me into a lot of trouble, at home. When
this album was discovered in my possession, this created some annoyance for me. Unfortunately for me, I didn't have the censored
version. No, I had the uncensored version, complete with lyrics. It's funny to look back on, these days. Musically, the song
wasn't too far off from the Thrash Metal that I was already quite familiar with. Only the vocals were new, really. The high-pitched
scream, at the end, was always one of my favorite parts. Chris Barnes utilized more variation in his style, on this album,
and it probably helped prepare me for the Second Wave Black Metal bands that I would later discover, as well. I always thought
the band would have benefited had he chosen to use these raspier screams on earlier albums.
The next song has always sounded like the one that was intended to become a staple
of the live shows. "Stripped, Raped and Strangled" has that radio-single quality to it, though there was no way in Hell that
this was seeing any airplay, with the exception of college radio. However, it seems really catchy and this always got on my
nerves a bit. However, the faster riffs make up for this. Of course, this was my first exposure to such lyrics, and I enjoyed
them in a sick way. This was before I was completely desensitized to this stuff, by hearing it a million times.
"Pulverized" starts with a decent tremolo riff and a lot of speed and intensity, compared
to the previous song. Lyrically, the approach isn't simply that of random violence; there is a dark and twisted element present.
The main character of the song, literally, asks to be stopped. It adds an interesting dimension to the story. While being
fairly straight-forward, there are still variations in the tempo and a few riff changes. Again, Barnes employs a raspy, high-pitched
vocal style, near the end.
"You tried to stop me
Dead before you started
Put me away
Before I put another in the grave"
"Return to Flesh" begins with a mid-paced riff, accompanied by a razor sharp tremolo
riff that nicely accentuates the main theme. This is one of the best of the whole album, though it comes and goes. As the
song gets going, it alternates between a mid-paced thrash riff and the aforementioned tremolo melody. This comes together
well, creating a morbid feeling. The solo is much more thought-out, adding something to the song rather than being pointless.
With this song, Side A really ends on a strong note, as this is one of the best songs on the record.
Side B starts out with "The Pick Axe Murders", which sounds like the name of a novel.
Whereas the previous song ended with a slow pace, this one is much faster. Even at this point, the band's thrash roots are
still quite evident. Another Slayer-esque solo precedes the vicious vocals, again alternating between high and low. While
many Cannibal Corpse fans probably prefer earlier albums, The Bleeding succeeds where the others failed; i.e. each
song stands out from the rest, being easily identifiable. The album never gets boring, even by Death Metal standards.
"She Was Asking For It" begins with explosive riffs and tremolo melodies. It has such
a fast pace, that the drums almost seem as if they're having difficulty keeping up with the rest. But this is only an introductory
section, as the song slows down as the first verse comes in. As before, the lyrics are interesting and are easy to follow
along with. This one features more of a complex structure than some of the others, giving it sort of an epic feeling. following
another fast part, the song gets even slower and utilizes some whispered vocals to add to the eerie effect.
"Dead to the world, I see only black
There's blood on my hands
Dead to the world, I see only black
The blood of the dead"
The title track opens with a very good riff, building a decent atmosphere of horror.
This, easily, solidifies this record as being the most interesting of this band's career. It seems that this is around the
time that the band, finally, gave in to creativity and put more effort into making something interesting, as opposed to trying
to be the most brutal band out there. "The Bleeding" is filled with awesome riffs, a lot of thrash actually, and good variation
in the vocals. The whole album is like this, really.
I am not sure if epic is the right word, but I cannot think of anything better to describe
the feeling that builds throughout the latter half of this album. "Force Fed Broken Glass" shows the continuation of something
that has slowly grown, over the course of this record. In some way, you can tell that the album is reaching its conclusion.
The first minute or so is pretty fast-paced, though not incredibly intense or anything. A couple minutes in, the pace slows,
considerably, and there are the sounds of someone gagging and choking (presumably on broken glass). The riffs create a sense
of dread, working well with the vocals as well. The song speeds up again, but this is ephemeral. Again, the pace slows to
something morbid, as hellish solos are accompanied by sparse acoustic notes. This is a flash of brilliance, by the standards
of this band, and something I wish they had explored. There is the feeling that this would have been a good way to end the
album, but it isn't over yet.
"An Experiment In Homicide" telegraphs the fact that the end is upon us. It's faster
than the last song, though possessing slower parts as well. It is a fairly short song, giving the sens that the life has been
fully drained and that there's no point in going on. As the last echoes fade, your fate is clear.
"I set the dead on fire
To decay in flames"
The Bleeding is, by far, the most interesting album Cannibal Corpse
ever recorded. It was at this point that they seemed fully comfortable with their instruments and willing to go beyond the
strict boundaries established by their earlier albums. Perhaps sentimentality plays a part here, but it would seem that the
band was well on their way to achieving something greater than they would actually go on to do. This would mark the end of
the Chris Barnes era. After a couple more albums, they decided to make a career of rehashing old material. However, more than
a decade since I have cared at all for this band, this album is still quite enjoyable. I recommend this as a good starting
point for anyone looking to check them out. It may also serve as a good stopping point, depending on your point of view.
(3 Aug. 2009)
Upon its release in May 1996, the fifth Cannibal Corpse L.P. was surrounded
by some amount of controversy. Chris Barnes had been kicked out of the band and replaced with George Fisher, only known for
his work as part of the very mediocre Monstrosity. Along with the new frontman was a new logo, which looked awful. As such,
Vile was under closer scrutiny than any of their previous records. The end result was quite disappointing.
While one would think that Death Metal vocalists are much more interchangeable
than someone like King Diamond or Rob Halford, the truth was that many considered Barnes to the driving force behind the band.
He drew the logo, came up with concepts for the cover art, wrote all of the lyrics and did all of the interviews. Even though
his 'cookie monster' vocal style seemed rather generic by this point, changing the voice of any band is always a tricky move.
His replacement didn't help matters by giving a rather half-hearted and weak performance. He failed to either match up to
his predecessor's work or to stand out on his own and really leave his mark on the album. Anyone could have taken his place
and done a better job. He honestly sounds like any Cannibal Corpse fan trying to do a Chris Barnes impersonation.
Musically, Vile follows the approach of The Bleeding, in
some instances. Whereas the last album sacrificed some of the 'brutality' of the earlier offerings to focus on atmosphere
(with songs like "Return to Flesh" and "Force Fed Broken Glass"), the bulk of Vile feels a little more technical and
this doesn't really work so well. There are some decent riffs here and there, like the tremolo bit in "Perverse Suffering",
though the majority of the track is dull. Similarly, there are very brief parts in "Bloodlands" and "Orgasm Through Torture".
Songs like "Disfigured" and "Eaten from Inside" sound like rehash from previous records, something of which Cannibal Corpse
would go on to build their entire career.
By 1996, it appeared that Death Metal had pretty much run out of steam
and all of the classic albums were already at least a few years old. None of the bands seemed to really have anything left
to contribute, other than to just rehash what had already been done. After hearing the Created to Kill recordings,
it is clear that the fifth Cannibal Corpse album was destined to be boring, no matter what (and Six Feet Under's second full-length
proved that Chris Barnes had allowed his voice to completely deteriorate and should have quit making music). People can blame
the new vocalist or the different logo as the only reasons why Vile is looked down upon, but the fact is that it's
just not very good. Making an album of regurgitated ideas, spiced up with extra technicality, was never going to work. If
you're a fan of this band, stick with the earlier albums; not just because of the vocalist or the logo or any reason other
than that Cannibal Corpse said all that they had to say with those first four records.
(27 Dec. 2016)
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