It’s not every day that a classic album comes around for a fancy vinyl reissue. In Classic From The Crypt we highlight important releases getting a shiny new update.
In this latest installment, the band is Buffalo’s legendary merchants of gruesome Death Metal CANNIBAL CORPSE and their 2006 release “Kill”, re-released earlier this month in fittingly visceral red and black, and red and white coloured vinyl pressings.
Like many of a certain age my introduction to CANNIBAL CORPSE came in the cinema when the band appeared in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” alongside Jim Carey. But 12 year old me wasn’t really ready for Death Metal back then, so it was a few years later when a Metal loving friend of mine was going over some of the band’s most gruesome song titles like “Meat Hook Sodomy” that I thought “ok the time has come to see what this is all about”. It’s easy to know of CANNIBAL CORPSE even if you don’t really know the band’s music. They have some of the most iconic (and grotesque) artwork in music (thanks to the awesome work of Vince Locke, ever since the band’s first album “Eaten Back To Life”) with song titles and content to perfectly match. Let’s take a couple of the examples from “Kill”:
“Five Nails Through The Neck”: 60 nails adorn the fool, 12 on each leg and arm, 4 of them aerate his face, 3 puncture his abdomen and leave his vitals oozing
“Barbaric Bludgeonings”: Covered in their own blood. The surgical strike must go on. Ripping out organs they’re hung on display. A message to others they’ll die the same way
In fact by CANNIBAL CORPSE standards this is actually fairly refined stuff, when you consider that this is the band that gave us “Entrails Ripped From A Virgin’s Cunt” and “Living Dissection”. Having parted ways with original vocalist (and lyricist Chris Barnes) after their fourth album “The Bleeding”, the band has since shared lyric writing duties between them and though the subject matter remains gruesome, CANNIBAL CORPSE are about more than just making the most shockingly disgusting songs you can imagine (but they can certainly still do that when they want to).
With such an image and the infamy that the band has, it can be surprising to discover both what great musicians they are as well as what thoroughly nice guys they seem to be. In a career spanning more than 30 years, you’ll find very little in the way of controversy and violence in the band members’ own lives (maybe the old expression “better out than in” really does hold water). Having said that, guitarist Pat O’Brian kind of blew that out of the water a couple of years back, but you can read about that elsewhere.
On the matter of musicianship, the band gradually embraced a more technical approach over the course of their first few albums, with O’Brien in particular offering guitar shredding chops of the highest level during this phase of the band’s career. While there can be healthy debate about the virtues of Chris Barnes vs his replacement George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, it remains an impressive quality that you can actually just about hear what “Corpsegrinder” is saying, despite this being Death Metal where vocals can often seem like an angry toad croaking from the bowels of a cavernous pit, and throughout “Kill” his energy and performance cannot be faulted. Any talk of the band’s musical abilities also can’t go by without mentioning bassist and founding member Alex Webster, widely respected as one of the genre’s greatest bass players (check out the nimble playing on “The Discipline Of Revenge” for example). As someone who always likes to hear quality bass playing, a feature of CANNIBAL CORPSE I really appreciate are bass lines that you can actually hear.
In a career spanning 14 albums and counting, CANNIBAL CORPSE have never veered too far away from their own winning formula, and while the quality might have dipped a little from time to time, if you like what they do you’re unlikely to hate any of their albums. Coming 16 years after their debut, “Kill” is an impressively battering assault, worthy of such a brutally direct title. When the band are firing on all cylinders they have a real knack for crafting Metal that is as catchy as it is pulverising. The opening 1-2-3 punch of “The Time To Kill Is Now”, “Make Them Suffer” and “Murder Worship” are an unstoppable freight-train of white-knuckle riffing and pounding drums, smashing you in the face relentlessly until the mid-track breakdown of “Murder Worship”. Barely a reprieve, but just a quick breather (in CANNIBAL CORPSE terms) before a series of artery slicing riffs tear through your flesh for the remainder of the track.
For a time you could always depend on CANNIBAL CORPSE albums being produced by Scott Burns, the person to record with if you were making Death Metal back in the day. But when Burns hung up his mixing spurs the band were forced to go elsewhere. The results since then have been mixed, with some albums sounding more satisfyingly brutalising than others. Fortunately Erik Rutan of HATE ETERNAL does a great job of capturing the band’s power here. On tracks like “Purification By Fire”, “Brain Removal Device” and Submerged In Boiling Flesh” for example you get all the furious pummelling assault, and the squealing guitar leads, with all the elements discernable in the mix; as heavy as you could wish for, but also clear enough without sounding overly cleaned up that it loses its visceral power.
No one should ever come to a CANNIBAL CORPSE record expecting to hear some amazing new innovation or crazy new direction, but why should you? The band found a winning formula early on in their career and there’s never been a need for anything other than just refining and improving the formula from one release to the next. “Kill” stands out as a high point in the band’s more recent records, full of memorable, relentlessly pounding assaults. Keep it fast, keep it heavy, keep it brutal, keep it disgusting, keep it CANNIBAL CORPSE.
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