posted on 3/2012 By:
I have generally respected Cannibal Corpse more as an institution than as a musical entity. I have given most of their releases a chance over the years and have yet to really be blown away start-to-finish by any of their albums from Butchered At Birth onward, but there's no denying that these guys are a powerhouse in their chosen style, and their enduring influence and vitality is something to be marveled at. In a sense, Cannibal Corpse has avoided any real "slumps" in their career because there doesn't seem to be any real consensus as to their established high point -- everyone seems to enjoy different eras at different levels. While I was fairly certain that the modern incarnation of their music didn't interest me, Torture has proved that, with the right decisions on the part of the band, this doesn't have to be the case.
I've always enjoyed Cannibal Corpse's pounding grooves and lurches much more than their spiraling technicality in their modern era, and I was happy to see these grooves make up a slightly more sizable chunk of the songwriting than on previous releases. Cuts like the crawling "Scourge of Iron" and the absolutely punishing gallop of "Crucifier Avenged" strike an ideal rhythmic balance between drums, guitar, and vocals. It feels like riffs are literally played by the entire band, as opposed to the instruments tripping over each other to be as convoluted as possible. This sense of groove and timing pervades many of the more complex passages as well, and it really helps pace the album's effectiveness from start to finish -- see the intricate but catchy refrains in tracks like "Intestinal Crank." There's also good examples of the semi-melodic atmospherics the guitarists have been gradually tinkering with for the last few albums. It's nothing too brilliant, but the subtle leads that pepper songs like "Followed Home Than Killed" and "Sarcophagic Frenzy" help add some tonal variety to the proceedings.
The album's huge production is some of the best the band has achieved -- full and rich, with a wonderfully crunchy guitar tone and a clear yet understated drum sound complete with click-free bass drums. It seems perfectly suited to deliver the outfit's more digestible material, and I was pleased to see the band make good on this by mostly sticking to this formula at the expense of their more "challenging" songwriting approach. In fact, the only song that really suffers from being too choppy is penultimate number "Rabid," a bland affair providing a quick burst of rapid-fire vocals, riff-less guitar lines, and one-dimensional drumming that doesn't really go anywhere. There are other moments -- the pointless bass solo in "The Strangulation Chair" is pretty lame -- but by and large, the boys stick to writing engaging and naturally flowing riff work with enough subtle twists to give it an edge.
Torture hasn't revolutionized the way that I view the New York legends, but I will definitely credit it with opening me up to the possibility of enjoying a modern day Cannibal Corpse record again. This album supplies more of what I most enjoy about CC: groovy yet bludgeoning death metal with just enough technical flair to get the blood pumping. I'm not intimately familiar enough with the band's catalogue to formally rank this album in their overall body of work, but anyone who has digged their recent direction will surely find plenty to love here. It's lively and entertaining music that does a commendable job of avoiding the workmanlike feel that often pervades later releases from long-running, "meat and potatoes" projects. Twelve albums into their career, it seems that Cannibal Corpse aren't running short on steam anytime soon, and if they're able to continue to channel their inspiration into efforts like Torture, the death metal scene is all the better for it.
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