Emerging from the Buffalo suburbs as the 80s drew to a close, Cannibal Corpse were a dogged and focused band from the start. Taking their thrash and nascent death metal influences and moulding them into something uniquely unpleasant and vicious, the band decided early on to stick rigidly to a horror’n’ gore thematic approach that set them apart from many of their more Satan-centric peers.
Driven by founding members Alex Webster (bass), Paul Mazurkiewicz (drums) and talismanic vocalist Chris Barnes, Cannibal Corpse released their first album, Eaten Back To Life, in 1990, establishing a strong relationship with Metal Blade Records that survives to this day. They immediately became one of death metal’s most popular bands, discovering that a generation of metal-loving kids shared their enthusiasm for blood-drenched lyrics and skull-cracking brutality.
They followed their debut with 1991’s Butchered At Birth; Vince Locke’s artwork providing an irresistibly gruesome visual layer to the songs like Meat Hook Sodomy and Covered With Sores. After releasing Tomb Of The Mutilated in 1992, the band were invited by Jim Carrey to appear in his blockbuster Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, performing Hammer Smashed Face in one memorable scene.
Chris departed amid much acrimony in 1995, going on to achieve great success with Six Feet Under, and was replaced by George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher for 1996’s Vile, the first Corpse album to enter the US Top 200 Albums chart. The band became unstoppable, outselling every other death metal act and becoming notorious around the world. Denounced by religious groups and politicians for their extreme lyrics and artwork, the band clashed with censors in Germany and were banned from playing songs from their first three albums until 2006, when the powers-that-be saw sense.
A steady stream of excellent albums and extensive global tours has consolidated their reputation as death metal die-hards. A huge influence on today’s death metal and deathcore scenes, Cannibal Corpse have sold over a million albums and, as they unleash their 11th, Evisceration Plague, are currently more popular – and more ear-shreddingly intense – than ever before.
METAL BLADE, 2006
A mighty, murderous milestone
By the time Cannibal Corpse released this, their 10th studio album, they were already firmly established as the biggest band in death metal, with over a million albums sold and a worldwide legion of supporters with dauntingly high expectations. Despite never having released a weak album, this was clearly an important moment for the band; a major milestone, to be treated with utmost seriousness and strength of intent. Whether it was due to a recent line-up change, that saw former member Rob Barrett return to replace the departing Ken Owen, or the fact that Hate Eternal main man Erik Rutan was in the producer’s chair for the first time, Kill turned out to be not just the band’s most critically lauded album ever, but also one of their most commercially successful, entering the US Billboard charts at number 170. Part of the album’s impact may be attributed to the sheer quality of the music contained within. Easily the most brutal album in the Cannibal Corpse catalogue, Kill was also one of the most diverse, with every facet of the band’s sound being explored in full.
From the blistering fist to the eye-socket of The Time To Kill Is Now and the old-school death vibes of Murder Worship to the warped rhythmic complexities of Necrosadistic Warning, the tendon-wrenching hammer attack of Brain Removal Decide and the languorous menace of the closing Infinite Misery, this was far from the generic, meat ’n’ potatoes death metal that more cynical observers often chastise the band for producing. In addition, Erik’s raw and explosive production job made Cannibal Corpse sound more vital and violent than they had in years. No wonder the decision was made to eschew the usual gore-drenched cover art in favour of a simple combination of band logo and album title in bold and bloody red. This was a timely reminder for jaded fans and young pretenders alike: Cannibal Corpse were on raging, career-best form and a long, long way from retirement.
As Corpsegrinder growls at one point, ‘Do not doubt our conviction to kill!’ Frankly, we wouldn’t dare.
METAL BLADE, 1994
A gloriously sick end to Corpse Chapter One
Primarily renowned for being the last Cannibal Corpse album to feature original frontman Chris Barnes, The Bleeding also marked the moment when the band spread their creative wings for the first time, outgrowing their primitive influences and taking a few risks along the way. With a greater sense of groove and dynamics, songs like Staring Through The Eyes Of The Dead and the insanely catchy Stripped, Raped And Strangled went straight for the jugular, combining irresistible hooks with extreme aggression like never before. Even on more relentlessly brutal tracks like the feminist-baiting Fucked With A Knife and the charming She Was Asking For It, Cannibal Corpse were audibly honing their craft for maximum impact. Chris himself puts in a bravura performance and some of his most gruesome lyrics, resulting in a commanding full stop at the end of his tenure in the band.
TOMB OF THE MUTILATED
METAL BLADE, 1992
A hammer smashed hit
Their third album in as many years, Tomb… will always be an important Corpse record, if only because it begins with Hammer Smashed Face, arguably their most popular song and the neck-wrecking climax of virtually every gig the band play.
Featured in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, the song’s notoriety has unfairly overshadowed the rest of this quintessential death metal album that brims with similarly devastating songs with stomach-churning lyrics courtesy of Chris Barnes. The eye-watering horror of I Cum Blood, the serial killer squirm-fest of Addicted To Vaginal Skin, the morally bankrupt Necropedophile and the what-the-fuck audacity of Entrails Ripped From A Virgin’s Cunt, Tomb… summed up the Cannibal Corpse ethos brilliantly. This was death metal at its twisted best; musically destructive, lyrically deranged and custom-built to delight and offend all the right people.
METAL BLADE, 1999
The sound of brutal evolution
There aren’t many better producers in the extreme metal world than Colin Richardson. Having previously lent his inestimable skills to classic albums by Sepultura, Machine Head, Carcass and many more, the renowned knob-twiddler was the perfect choice to crank Cannibal Corpse’s trademark sound up a notch or three, and from the bruising opening seconds of Pounded Into Dust it was evidently mission accomplished by all concerned.
Heavier and more powerful than ever before, songs like live favourite Unleashing The Bloodthirsty and the pitiless Blowtorch Slaughter were among the sharpest and most distinctive that Cannibal Corpse had ever produced and made a mockery of the idea that the band were guilty of treading water. In fact, Bloodthirst was one of the albums that dragged death metal from its mid-90s slump and prepared it for a new decade.
_THE WRETCHED SPAWN _
METAL BLADE, 2004
A deathly dark horse
Thanks to their ability to produce a new album every two years or so with no discernible dips in quality, certain records in the Corpse catalogue tend to get overlooked. The Wretched Spawn may not leap out as one of the band’s best, but it contains some of their strongest songs, buffed to blood-caked perfection via Neil Kernon’s raw but sturdy production job. With four band-members contributing to the songwriting, there’s great depth and variety on show here. There are brutish blasts of hyper-speed aggression like Severed Head Stoning and Blunt Force Castration, insanely catchy mid- paced thumpers like Decency Defied and Slain and wild and complex mutant onslaughts like Frantic Disembowelment.
There are better starting points for newcomers, but for the initiated, this is an underrated gem.
GALLERY OF SUICIDE
METAL BLADE, 1998
More of the flesh-wrenching same
With 11 studio albums under their collective belt, Cannibal Corpse could easily be forgiven for producing the odd duffer, but even though it is arguably their least distinguished effort, Gallery Of Suicide is still a notably strong album by most people’s standards. Unfortunately, it just lacks the creative cutting edge of The Bleeding or Bloodthirst and didn’t seem to have the same impact or historical significance as Vile (the band’s first album with George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher) or Kill (their momentous 10th). There are a few classic tracks on here, however, and no Cannibal Corpse iPod playlist would be complete without Sentenced To Burn or I Will Kill You, but it’s hard to ignore the nagging feeling that out of all their studio efforts, this is the closest thing to being just another Cannibal Corpse album. Buy the other 10 first.
All the collectables
As integral to the appeal of death metal’s biggest band as the music itself, Vincent Locke’s offal-splattered artwork has adorned countless items of Cannibal Corpse merchandise over the years. Thanks to the timeless quality of these eye-mincing images, most of the shirts are regularly re-printed and are very easy to track down. If you really want to upset your neighbours, the cover art from the albums Butchered At Birth and Tomb Of The Mutilated – the latter featuring two cadaverous monstrosities engaging in a sex act – both take some beating.
If you’d prefer something less familiar, Vincent has produced exclusive artwork illustrating the songs Submerged In Boiling Flesh and Frantic Disembowelment, neither of which will help your mum to keep her breakfast down. Once you’ve got as many Cannibal Corpse shirts as you require, there are also countless other items available from various internet retailers, including mugs, wallets, bags, sweatbands, patches, posters and even thongs.
No collection would be complete without the two EPs that Cannibal Corpse snuck out in between studio albums. The first, Hammer Smashed Face, features covers of Possessed’s The Exorcist and Black Sabbath’s Zero The Hero. The second, Worm Infested, features covers of songs by Possessed (Confessions) and Accept (Demon’s Night), plus a flesh- ripping version of Metallica’s No Remorse and two original tracks that can’t be found on any other Cannibal Corpse release.
Not surprisingly for a band that celebrated their 20th anniversary last year, Cannibal Corpse have also released three DVDs. The first two, Monolith Of Death and Live Cannibalism, are fairly perfunctory collections of live footage; perfect for devoted fans but not remarkable. For the full Cannibal Corpse visual experience, the recent triple- disc extravaganza, Centuries Of Torment: The First 20 Years, is absolutely essential. Easily oneof the most entertaining and comprehensive metal DVDs ever released, its running time of seven hours and 20 minutes makes it an outright bargain. Worth the asking price for the two-hour documentary about the band’s two decades of active service alone, it comes housed in some exclusive packaging and some magnificently horrible artwork by Vincent Locke.
What have Cannibal Corpse been doing? Read about them here.