posted on 2/2009 By:
My first professional writing credit for something other than a high school teacher was a biography I did years ago for a Cannibal Corpse fan site, chronicling the ages, eras, and what-have-yous of America’s premier death metal outfit for (then, over 15, now) over 20 years. There’s little shame I have of the bio; I utilized simplistic, buzzword language with structural segues thrown out the window, I unabashedly drew vague lines when I couldn’t find definitive stats on sales records and the like, and I indubitably gargled the collective testicles of all the members of Cannibal Corpse until I swore I could sell my spit as a fragrance at K-Mart (“odeur d’ Webster” would sell like hotcakes, I’m sure of it). Later I was called upon to fellate the Cannibals on a more individual basis when I was asked by the same site to do biographies of each of the members. And over the years, I’ve done reviews of some of their albums, shows they’ve played, and held interviews with some of the members. Suffice it to say, Cannibal Corpse is a personal favorite of mine, despite the salty (and strangely bloody) aftertaste.
Let the above not dissuade you from reading onward thinking I am a biased reviewer. It’s true, I hold Cannibal Corpse in higher esteem than any other death metal band ever, but I think that bias is well-earned. I don’t think everything in their body of work is immaculate, and have actually been reamed on multiple occasions for lambasting their more acclaimed work, particularly 1999’s Bloodthirst and their previous effort, Kill. But Cannibal Corpse is nothing if not consistent; consistent in the charge to tell stories of the bloodiest caliber in the most (ahem) BRUTAL way possible.
Truth be told, I didn’t hold out much hope for Evisceration Plague, because as I’ve mentioned, the chord Kill struck was not one for which I particularly cared. Kill had some great riffs, but a hallmark of the Cannibal sound is catchiness. Alex Webster recently stated in a behind-the-scenes video of Evisceration Plague’s production that he “loves to fuck with numbers.” Perhaps that was Kill’s most grating sentiment. But however much Evisceration Plague steps in and out of time signature land, it never forgets how to be catchy and cacophonous too.
The inherent groove Evisceration Plague exudes is no less gripping than some of the band's earlier songs featuring expansive kill counts, appropriate considering the album focuses on large-scale life extinguishing. “Cauldron of Hate” and the title track are among the album’s most thunderous, featuring lofty guitars and bass cannonades, not to mention Corpsegrinder’s mammoth roars. Alternatively, “Scalding Hail” liquefies its audience with its scorching speed and delivery, harkening to earlier classics “Disposal of the Body” and “Puncture Wound Massacre.” However, Cannibal Corpse’s backbone is comprised of its mid-paced tunes; fortunately, the “Hammer Smashed Face” and “Stripped, Raped and Strangled” variety is no less in attendance with ass-flaying upstarts “To Decompose,” “Shatter Their Bones” and “Evidence in the Furnace.”
Though I would like to give Evisceration Plague an indelible thumbs up for being probably the best Cannibal Corpse album since my personal favorite, 1998’s Gallery of Suicide, I know full well that this is not necessarily the expectation some had following Kill, and the album does have shortcomings in its own right. Alex hasn’t been as prominent in a Cannibal album mix since Gallery, and it’s been a decade-long shame considering his formidable playing. And as many numbers with which he likes to fuck, there are fewer bass flourishes present on this release than have been in the more recent Cannibal albums; surprising, considering Alex writes most of their (best) material and is more than welcome to give himself space to twiddle on his five-string. Conversely, Paul Mazurkiewicz now writes songs for the band (starting with Kill), and while I welcome his future contributions with open arms, “Carrion Sculpted Entity” doesn’t keep up with the quality for which Cannibal Corpse is known. It’s appropriately drum-heavy, skimming cymbals and pounding out double bass passages, but the guitar riffs are mashed together with little cohesiveness in a pseudo-stop-start style that props this number to be smacked around like a watermelon perched on a tee.
The album suffers little in these few points, nits I’ve picked furiously, and the individual performances are just what you’d expect. O’Brien and Barrett play off each other perhaps better than any other guitar duo in the band’s history, and the solos littered throughout Evisceration Plague are hefty, sinful grinders with emphasis on the whammy bar. Mazurkiewicz keeps the Cannibal beat while Webster jams out a ballistic low-end. George Fisher still makes oral bowel movements better than the rest of the pack, vocally hurling boulders when others throw stones.
Cannibal Corpse is not perfect by any stretch. But they are, if nothing else, masters of their domain, and have not softened the focus on their ostentatious zombie tales despite a rise in popularity over the past few years (note: they’ve been selling more, not selling out). Evisceration Plague duly reflects that gorrific ethos the band has carried since its inception.
I have a feeling that I’ll be coddling Cannibal crotch for the rest of my life at this rate.
posted on 2/2009 By:
I could fill a couple of paragraphs with random Cannibal Corpse musings, but who really cares? Instead, here are the facts as I see them. Chris Barnes' departure during the recording for Vile was the second best thing to ever happen to the band; the introduction of George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher as their new vocalist was the best thing. While Barnes and Six Feet Under have devolved into a stale stereotype, Cannibal Corpse has evolved into a genuine death metal powerhouse over the course of the past decade. Not content to simply bludgeon your mind with heaviness, their songwriting has evolved to also bend and twist it. Gore Obsessed and Kill both landed on my Top 10 lists for their respective years, so I had high hopes that Evisceration Plague would be more like those albums than the disappointing The Wretched Spawn. While it does succeed in that regard, it still falls short of those albums; but as top notch as they are, that’s hardly a bad thing.
Cannibal Corpse’s appeal to me lies in the execution. The songs are neither musically nor lyrically brilliant, and at the root of everything, they’re not doing much different from what the rest of the death metal world is doing. My wife, who doesn’t get the appeal of bands like this, once asked me what it was about these bands that I like – was it the speed, the heaviness, the screaming, what? I paused briefly before replying, “It’s the whole package. Everything has to be in place. One bad element can ruin an entire band.” That is something that Cannibal Corpse has achieved, and display prominently on Evisceration Plague. Vocalist George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, to start, may not be the most dynamic vocalist, but he has complete control of his voice as an instrument. His low vocals are guttural yet clear, so we’re not subjected to 3- and 4- minute bursts of belching; his high screams fall just short of shrieking; and he can sustain a note on any register for an extended period of time. Just listen to that 8-second scream at the beginning of “Priests of Sodom” and the dual harmonies in the chorus.
Guitarists Rob Barrett and Pat O’Brien . . . well, I don’t know the virtuoso words for what they do, but I know that they are damn solid, each equally adept at playing tight rhythms, interesting fills, and blazing solos. People are quick to point out bands like Necrophagist and Dying Fetus for the speed and technical prowess, but I’ve always found them both to be a bit over the top, technicality for technicality’s sake. These guys don’t feel the need to show off and there is little wasted motion and few superfluous notes. “Beheading and Burning” certainly has room for showing off, the guys stick to the game plan with a few squeals and of course the obligatory solos. Later on, “Evidence in the Furnace” has its own share of memorable guitar moments.
Another point of honesty – I’m usually too wrapped up in guitars and vocals to pay close attention to the bass and drum battery (which may well render my previous statement invalid). That’s the foundation of the music, though, and there’s always a sense of awareness there. Alex Webster and Paul Mazurkiewicz, the only remaining original members of the band, hold down a heavy rhythm for the six-stringers to play over, with the headbanging grooves that are so crucial to the band's effectiveness, not to mention the bulging muscles in Corpsegrinder’s massive neck. I could pick just about any track here to make my point, so I’ll just go with the title track, which grabs you by the hair with its viciousness, and then proceeds to force your head to move back and forth in time. Be careful, then, because if you’re walking somewhere while listening, you may find yourself moving in step, which would not only look strange to passerby, but possibly cause you to misstep into traffic. Beware also of “Skewered From Ear to Eye” for the same reasons.
When it all comes together, the band is damn near unstoppable. They can play fast, they can play slow, they can go back and forth without missing a beat or losing an ounce of power. “To Decompose” moves from methodical verses to fast bridge sections before going into breakaway leads. Conversely, “A Cauldron of Hate” holds a predominantly midtempo rhythm, and even when the double-bass kicks in, the guitars maintain that slower rhythm. Awesome.
I can’t believe I’ve just written this much about Cannibal Corpse. 16 years ago I was laughing at just how awful Tomb of the Mutilated was (the nicest thing the RIP Magazine review I read commended them for convincing a label to sign them.) Those were my pre-death metal days, though. While they may have ruined their own past for me, the Cannibal Corpse of today is simply one of the top death metal bands going, and Evisceration Plague is just further proof of that. However, I am still laughing at how dull Six Feet Under’s Death Rituals is.
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