When Cannibal Corpse emerged in the late ’80s, their music was some of the most extreme and brutal many people had ever heard, and they were pioneers in the death metal genre. Their graphic album covers and gory lyrics raised a lot of eyebrows and even got them in some legal difficulties in certain countries. Bands have come along even more brutal and gorier than Cannibal Corpse, but nearly 30 years later they remain a staple of the genre.
The seemingly ageless band’s latest effort is Red Before Black, their 14th studio album. And just in case you think they’ve mellowed over time, song titles like “Heads Shoveled Off” and “Scavenger Consuming Death” should convince you otherwise.
With such a distinctive sound, the challenge for a band like Cannibal Corpse is to remain true to that classic style but still move forward musically. Bassist Alex Webster thinks they’ve done that with this album.
“We’re always looking for ways to move our sound forward while maintaining the style we’ve developed over the years,” Webster says. “I think we managed to do that with Red Before Black – it has some new ideas, but you’ll also hear things on this album that would sound at home on our earlier releases. We want to grow as a band while staying true to our roots.”
The bludgeoning begins immediately with the opening track “Only One Will Die.” Guitarists Rob Barrett and Pat O’Brien get the groove going, the rhythm section of Webster and Paul Mazurkiewicz build a foundation solid enough for a skyscraper, and George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher tops it off with his usual throat-shredding vocals.
Songs like the title track are propelled at maximum speed, while other songs like “Shedding My Human Skin” and “Remaimed” have both deliberate grooves and frenzied, rocket-propelled sections. The shifting tempos and intensities help add variety to the proceedings.
Over the years Cannibal Corpse have been able to add more melody and catchy parts to their songwriting repertoire without sacrificing any heaviness. You won’t hear “Firestorm Vengeance” or “In the Midst of Ruin” on rock radio, but they are more memorable than many songs on the commercial charts.
After working with producer Erik Rutan on some earlier releases, Cannibal Corpse brought him back for Red Before Black. Being an outstanding death metal musician in his own right, Rutan knows exactly what Cannibal Corpse bring to the table. He captures the rawness and power of their sound while keeping the crisp and focused feel of their playing.
2017 will be remembered as the year of death metal, with so many classic bands releasing some of their best work, and many up and comers showing just how deep the death metal talent pool is at the moment. Red Before Black can be added to that collection, another brick in what has become an imposing wall of death (metal) that even Donald Trump would be impressed with.
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