JUBILANT MURMURS OF DOOOOOOOM, BARKLESS ENTS!
YOU COME EXPECTING MUCH; CANNIBAL CORPSE HATH MUCH TO GIVE.
But not a playlist, as which each first Monday of the month up until this point I have always christened with. Admittedly, I could simply have made a playlist of any of the gazillion songs that I love from CC, but lo and behold they were kind enough to release their newest technical dominance in the form of their 14th studio album “Red Before Black”. We’re gonna run through it track to track just like I did my first ever review of that Ghoul album, as I am equally passionate of how fantastic a release this is for both the band AND for any of the fans out there who have been waiting three years for some delicious new butchery. Before we run it strictly into the thumpy side of this, we’re gonna start with two things:
- REMEMBERING “SKELETAL DOMAIN”.
- THE COVER ART.
“Skeletal Domain” was easily my favorite run of new death metal along side very few other albums. The only others that may make that list since the peak of highschool would be “At War With Reality” by At The Gates, and anything Vader releases, as they maintain some serious consistency when it comes to putting out material. So, back to back, I would say that almost nothing on “Skeletal Domain” ever felt weak, persay. There are some obviously dominating tracks that you are more likely to remember, and the overall clarity of the mix is what I would honestly call perfect. It showed extreme progression to the overall sound of the band, and was their most potent offering since “Evisceration Plague”, in my opinion. Shattering choruses that you can just picture the crowd roaring out, with solos that lamentably seem to require seven fingers on one hand to play, it is instantaneously apparent why the CC boys continue to be some of the best in the whole business.
At a one-off glance, it really just looks like a super standard Vince Locke piece, BUT IT YOU LOOK AT ART FOR MORE THAN ONE SECOND “EVERYONE ELSE IN THIS GALLERY” you can see where artists added details and why they matter amongst the splatter. First off, I don’t know what in tarnation to call that weapon other than a “Bone-Sword”. Obligatory jokes aside, that thing looks like the most heinously shoved together combination of jagged steel and broken bone I’ve ever seen, and my mom made me watch a recent Steven Seagal movie. It looks haphazardly thrown together in the heat of the moment, but KEPT for it’s efficiency, showing the wildly thinking mind of this bloodstained psychopath. On the other hand (literally) he has a woven together bracelet of teeth, implying that at some point he stops the onslaught to rest, reset, and do arts and crafts. After listening to the album a couple times I very much relate the imagery to one particular song, but we’ll get to that in just a mo’. Opening the gates on this Thunderdome of an album is one of two tracks I would have tied for “best”,
1.ONLY ONE WILL DIE
I used that Mad Max reference because this is a great interpretation of this sort of scenario, ‘cept they’re murderers (then again, I guess if you survived the Thunderdome you were just surviving through the competitive nature of murder). I love all the heavy leans into single words in the choruses, they evoke the primal thought-process of men consumed with rage, locked in mortal combat. I imagine that two individuals accustom to flash attacks on victims, some accostum to a little fight every once in a while. Moreover, I think that an aspect many of us as can relate to is that “surviving with 1 health left” feeling when you’re playing a video game. That last quarter of a heart in Zelda with that permeating alarm sound that will probably be carried in my brain until I die. Nothing quite gets the adrenaline going and the blinders on like the brink of “digital death”, so I imagine apart from the stinging, searing pain, the real thing is about as intense as it gets. This is a very in-your-face track, and the mastering from the previous album has not faltered, leaving Webster’s bass sounding like if you snapped a suspension line on the golden gate bridge, every inflection of Fisher’s voice forefront and clear, more snap in Mazurkiewicz drums that an entire box of Rice Krispies, and O’Brien And Barrett don’t know the meaning of the word “slouch”. Out the door they are here to run the show, no slow songs. The tempo change and dimensions to the riffs after the second chorus are so pleasing to the ear that I had to rewind it upon my initial listen even, just to take in how neurotically technical the first god damn song was. THIS IS (as I’ve said before) HOW YOU START AN ALBUM!
2. RED BEFORE BLACK
Title track on the album is mostly three things: F’in Brutal, Fast, and Faster. Though perhaps the most grinding track on the album, you could say that it “paints a picture”, mostly with blood. The trade-off solos begin with the coolest harmonic usage I’ve heard in like a decade, and blends seamlessly between the two guitarist as if they are one amorphous flesh behemoth. Anyone who knows a little about the history the band will catch a possibly purposeful nod to another one of their songs in the line “Disemboweled frantically“, throwback to an album from over a decade ago “The Wretched Spawn” and to this day magnanimously one of the most INSANE CC songs to even try to mentally follow along with, “Frantic Disembowelment”. There is double track or Fisher’s vocals doing both his more fry scream and another one of his lower, booming, signature bellows over the title words in the chorus, and it caught me off guard at first, but it shows a whole separate aspect of mastering music that most people don’t think about when they hear a song on the radio. Great song, moving on.
3. CODE OF THE SLASHERS
Thank you Metal Blade Records for funding this video. It tastes like the winner of a local Halloween horror festival, and I could not be happier. The Van with “Cannibal Corp” on it; Magnificence. The “James Bond” sexy girl corn syrup shower; A revelation. Don’t even get me started on how much pork they had to buy to fill an aisle that long, oh my god, I’m salivating. Sarcasm aside, I really do love this song, and it’s the one I was referring to when I was talking about the cover art in the beginning! There’s a line part way through which puts you first person to the victims of the attack. “Your hands; A useless shield”, it’s one of those lines that makes you involuntarily kind of curl away in response. Other examples of this are being told to imagine putting a toothpick under you toenail and kicking a wall, or having yourself NOT die after becoming impaled ear to ear by flying rebar, they are just so potent that we can JUST ALMOST REALLY SORT OF PRETTY MUCH ACTUALLY IN THE REAL WORLD BUT MAYBE JUST IN A PSYCHOSOMATIC WAY, “feel them”. This one starts with a perfect trudge of a pace, and reminds me of the tone of the previous album very distinctly. It takes all of about twenty seconds before they jump right back into the hammer-smashing speed expected of them, which continues through 90% of the song, but then then they do a great call back to the intro and replay dat THICC RIFF. This a Webster shine-r for sure.
4. SHEDDING MY HUMAN SKIN
Shredding forth in this very unique album comes this bomb (in a good way). The lyrics drive a very “b-grade horror movie” kind of narrative, comparable to how the neomorph aliens work in Alien: Covenant. Ancient microscopic organisms laying dormant for millennia, disturbed by man only to find his genetic make-up and physical structure to be an ideal host. Though probably not the first thought through your head when deciding whether or not to “GO HARD” on the gym this winter, a fun fact about us flesh sacks is that we are perfect incubators for viruses and diseases. We cram sugars, fats, and every other possible carcinogen into our bodies and anyone who has had a tapeworm will happily tell you that having a monster within you is something that will happen completely without your consent.
Still wish I had a tapeworm, easiest pet to feed three times a day.
The pre-chorus has a wildly black metal-esque tone to it, with speed picked descending patterns that have more grime to them that some Grave albums. Add this one to the list of solo’s where I just put my guitar down as well.
The “Amon Amarth, but Death Metal” song. Admittedly, pillaging and destroying villages is a hugely colourful tapestry to draw from for inspiration, but you don’t get more visceral than having to eat a dilapidated dong. There are two very cohesive time signatures in this song and there are moments of blending between them which helps give a more individual spotlight to each musician. Getting back to the imagery of the lyrics, where the last song felt very much like Alien: Covenant, this one tastes like Conan The Barbarian. The tides of war never turning in the favour of the smaller unarmed townships, being raided over and over and over again, but this takes it one step farther to the point where the disfigurement leads to birthing of more deformed people, who are maimed over and over and over again. Sick, mean’t in both contexts.
6. FIRESTORM VENGEANCE
From the shriek of the previous songs feedback with nary but a couple bars of warning, Firestorm Vengeance is descriptive of the entire track within its title, an anthem for pyromaniacs everywhere. Evoking that “Backdraft” moment where flames are introduced to a room full of oxygen-rich air, filling it faster than you can take a breath. Every fire fighter knows that one of the most dangerous events that can occur is being caught in that backdraft, as the sheer air pressure is equivalent to standing next to jet engine on take off. This is another track with no seat belt on at all. Just fast, powerful, and signaturely Cannibal.
7. HEADS SHOVELED OFF
No better way to start off than just semi-blatantly blaming Vietnam war PTSD for a ruthless killing spree. In reality, it is fully possible that this is drawn from an actual case, as the world is seemingly that avid for violence nowadays, but I expect that like 99% of their songs, it all comes from fiction. That fact is a very lost notion when it comes to addressing more extreme forms of music from an outsiders pout of view. Cannibal Corpse, Dying Fetus, Suffocation, all those style bands use every aspect to craft their songs, but it almost all comes from fiction, fantasy, and make-belief. No one really wants to listen to a song about the guy who just barely fits into those jeans, or the girl who never had eyeliner trouble, because neither instance makes you want to “care”. My favorite nuances of this piece being the era-appropriate “Weapon of Opportunity”, a WWII trench shovel (assumedly), and the double track of Fisher’s voice making a few more minor appearances throughout. After getting way too deep into Mindhunter on Netflix, the idea of an evolving pathology within a individual has been somewhat weighing on my conscious. Psychosis can take a billion forms, meaning that as long as people keep becoming obsessed with different debaucherous deads directly before dishing out the damage, there will always be those “monsters in the dark”. Compulsions that we may not understand, and yet must heed the call of.
8. Corpus Delicti
For those of us unfamiliar with the needed Latin to translate that, it is a legal term meaning “Body of the crime”, which in layman’s terms boils down to “Innocent until proven guilty”. The must be proof a crime before anyone can be charged with a crime. I personally take this song/situation as the classic gold digger scenario. Young spouse knocks-off their rich, older counterpart, disposes of the body, and cleans the scene down to the grout between the tiles, but then in jaunts CSI with a little bit of Luminol and goes, “Uhhhhh, you murdered the FUCK out of someone in here”. Leaving me with, once again, a question that seems superfluous. . .OR DOES IT? How many rooms have you been in that have had horribly tragic, absolute wetworks of accidents or events which were merely covered up by new wallpaper or paint? Every time I go to work I see the slight discoloration from where a dude was leaking brain matter after being stabbed in the head, Jackson Pollok’d across a few feet of the sidewalk and I think to myself how many times it’s rained/snowed/hailed/been like sandpaper due to the wind and dust, AND YET those spots remain. It takes a wild amount of energy to clean blood off of damn near anything, and you can nearly never get 100% of it. Corpus Delicti feels like it should almost be on “Skeletal Domain” instead, with the pacing and some off the transition riffs bearing heavily similar patterns.
9. SCAVENGER CONSUMING DEATH
As a bassist, one of my favourite sounds is the exact one that our string section initiates with; your lowest string plucked with such ferocity that it peaks at about a half-step above and you can hear the resonance crawl back down to meet up with the rest of the open chord. Soooo good. Topical to any apocalyptic movie, the scavenger constantly roams, responding only to the most primal of instincts. The need to feed. They aren’t zombies, they are survivors with the complex that “Only One Will Die” and between the two of you it sure isn’t going to be them! Again, huge bass chops throughout, just getting to hear the clean, unabated tone of how Webster sounds on the album in the first few bars is just grand. More “haunting” than many other Corpse tunes, you may need two listens to catch all the bits.
10. IN THE MIDST OF RUIN
Almost prequil-ing the previous song, In The Midst Of Ruin is fully dystopian in it’s description. Endless squalor on a daily basis, where the existence of “human rights” ceases, and the rule of law is that if you rule, you make the law. IMAGINE IF YOU WILL, a solar wave massive enough to cut through solar systems, with such prominent electromagnetic force that it quite literally shears each level of our protective stratosphere away in an instant, nearly boiling everything on the surface alive, turning every battery into a small explosive, and rending every piece of technology we have dead and obsolete. What is left? Bunkered individuals most likely. Not unlike the movie “Reign Of Fire”, nothing really survives a global scourge once all of the fields are ash and just being outside requires a gas mask. I’ve heard plenty of friends say that they long for the day where we get techno-wiped, but I can genuinely say that they only meant that in the moment, and not so much as an “endgame”. Needless to say, those same friends would probably perish without the ability to call Pizza Hut in winter, so I took it with a grain of salt all the same. Lots of very unique aspects to this track as well, once again involving very uncharacteristic placement of harmonics on the parts of the guitarists. There is a whole-note stop before each pre-chorus and it makes the jump extremely noticeable, but in a great way, and the long descending bass slides over the chorus, fageddaboutit.
11. DESTROYED WITHOUT A TRACE
Uhhhhhmmmm, more grinding an’ gruesome. This is probably where I would have to put “least-standout” medal if I had to give one. The first solo leaves something to be desired beyond the chaos, and it doesn’t really un-diminish that return the second time around. The other moment I would heed is how out of this absolutely ripping end-riff, it just kind of has another “water drop in a bucket” ending, with almost nobody trying to make it scream. Not a bad song by any means, but it falls into that section of Cannibal Corpse songs between “listen to all the time” and “probably listen to it like twice”. Hopefully I’m just over-saturated with the rest of the album and it grows on me over time, but for the moment, that’s where my opinion rests.
12. HIDEOUS ICHOR
My opinion especially stands on that last one because the follow-up and final track on the album feel leaps and bounds more constructed that it previous mate. In terms of the entire album even, Hideous Ichor openly stretches CC in every death metal direction, with every riff sounding like it was intended to come next before the song was even written. ZERO SLACK on ANYONE’S part, bridging more than four differently tempo’d time signatures, and even that under-appreciated 3-string semi-sweeping bonanza that Alex Webster is ceaseless with through the entire 45+ minute album. Lovecraftian in it’s lyrics, I was transported back to being 16 and reading “The Tomb” by H.P, a story about a man who begins the delusion that he is sleeping in a coffin with his name on it, inside a locked mausoleum. As he explores I imagined the state of putrid slime and seeping sludge that a sea-side tomb would be in back in those days, and I could almost smell the combination of vile musks. Starting and ending your album with god medal quality songs is hard to compete alongside, and I do not say it lightly when I state that this going to be an ageless album. After just a couple listens it clearly distinguishes itself from the rest of the Cannibal Corpse library, while keeping every ounce of relentlessness that we just wouldn’t love ’em without.
Great job, gentlemen. Please don’t make me wait three years on the next one.
ASIDE FROM ALL THAT; IT’S SNOWY AS HECK. DO YOU WANNA BUILD A SNOWMAN?
You can find Bear smoking bong and building snowmen on instagram.
You can buy “Red Before Black” on Metal Blade Records and if you’re so inclined go check out Jenna’s Thirsty Thursday interview with Paul from Cannibal Corpse.