by Ryan Meehan
As FOH’s resident death metal authority, I’ve taken it upon myself to keep up with the death and black metal circuit by way of doing these reviews. I’ve become a little detached from the actual scene itself, but it sure beats carrying equipment up flights of stairs when the end result is maybe fifty people showing up if you’re lucky.
Thank my sweet horns those days are over. Now I get to basically just sit here at work and sift through the wreckage of what’s left of those two genres. Death metal itself is a very odd horse because there aren’t a whole lot of options when it comes to where you can take the vocals. Pretty much everything has been done, and it’s not like there was a lot to work with at the outset. You have your deep growl, your high paint-peeling black metal scream, and (although rare) your occasional early-era Fear Factory melodic low register voice.
On Tuesday, March 13th Tampa Bay death metal legends Cannibal Corpse released their twelfth studio album “Torture”. It was given as a gift to me by someone who knows his metal. He gave me a brief preview of the record, devoid of any kind of spoiler.
See, with Cannibal Corpse there will never really BE a spoiler. They understand that death metal can’t technically be reinvented, unless of course it is reinvented technically. Which might be a bit confusing if you haven’t figured out that I may have just blown your mind. I’m not sure if I’d even really want death metal to change. It’s one of the few genres of music that hasn’t tried to expand itself so far that it’s alienated its core base of fans, which I can’t necessarily say for black metal.
So here we are almost a quarter century after the band’s inception, several top shelf insensitive record covers later, and the band has somehow still managed to retain two of its original members – bassist Alex Webster and drummer Paul Marszewicz. There’s no question that CC still means serious business, so let’s take it track by track and break it down:
CANNIBAL CORPSE – “TORTURE” ORD: 03/13/12
1. “Demented Aggression” 7.4/10.0
First off, I don’t like this song title at all. These guys are capable of so much better than that. Another thing I don’t like here is the predictability of where the title is uttered. There is a school of thinking that will tell you since the growl is so prevalent in death metal that you’re constantly waiting for the title to come up because it brings a sense of relief, but I don’t think that really applies here. And when the title does finally come up, it just seems forced as if they didn’t have anything else to fill that space so he just yelled “DE-MENT-ED A-GRES-SION…” I don’t know…I can’t see that there’s anyway to prove it, but I’m sure your brain thinks about that stuff with death metal more than it does with other genres. Like I said, I have no proof but it’s an interesting talking point.
Nontheless, it at least yielded this comment on Youtube: “I want to have sex with Nicki Minaj, whilst Demented Aggression goes on maximal volume in my player. I’m sure it would increase my sexual performance to the highest possible level.” That guy’s screen name is Brocky Mocky and if anything we at least have to talk to him for 5 questions. (I got kicked off of Youtube many years ago so I can’t do it)
2. “Sarcophagic Frenzy” 9.1/10.0
Don’t even bother to look up what this means. Let’s just say it’s a nicer way of saying “to eat one’s shit in a fit of rage”. Picks up the pace though, it’s tough and there’s a lot of tempo changes in this track. This is one of the better songs on the album and it reminds me a lot of “Sentenced to Burn”. Pure thrash.
3. “Scourge of Iron” 6.5/10.0
Intro to this track is very basic then it slows down to this Carcass crawl like riff. The song alternates between speed and sludge, but ends with sludge so it’s a bit of a disappointment. Not a whole lot to say here other than when you’re a metal band, talking about ferrous metals can be really cool in some instances but not others.
4. “Encased in Concrete” 8.2/10.0
There’s no sludge in this one, just straight speed metal. Begins with a solo, and then moves into a solid breakdown. Lot of dischordancy here, just over three minutes long so it doesn’t drag at all. Sometimes less is more, short is sweet, and putrid therefore becomes glory. Bet your guidance counselor never taught you that shit.
5. “As Deep as the Knife Will Go” 9.4/10.0
This song is kind of different for CC because the prechorus has a little bit of a classic rock hook to it. And by classic rock obviously I mean similar to 70’s dark classic rock such as King Crimson, not like Boston or any of that bullshit. And by “a little bit”, I mean “a smidgen”. After all, it is Cannibal Corpse. But the transitions really work into the chorus, which in contrast to “Demented Aggression” is very to the point and fits the music perfectly. Gets kind of math metal towards the end, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. One of my favorite tracks on the disc, and finishes strong yet again.
6. “Intestinal Crank” 8.6/10.0
Who wants dinner? This song reminds me of “Gallery” yet again, there are several parts (one in particular) where the guitar phrases are very long and stretched out while the drums hold a steady blast beat. But I like that, it keeps it interesting and makes for this bizarre kind of “death metal surgery” like sound. Another reason I dig CC as opposed to some other metal bands it that when they use the pinch harmonics, they use it sparingly. The aforementioned quality is really the only problem that I ever had with Pantera except for Phil passing out on stage. Very Slayeresque solo towards the end.
7. “Followed Home Then Killed” /10.0
Taken from Wikipedia: “Of their music, George Fisher once said in an interview: ‘We don’t sing about politics. We don’t sing about religion…All our songs are short stories that, if anyone would so choose they could convert it into a horror movie. Really, that’s all it is. We like gruesome, scary movies, and we want the lyrics to be like that. Yeah, it’s about killing people, but it’s not promoting it at all. Basically these are fictional stories, and that’s it. And anyone who gets upset about it is ridiculous.’ ”
In other words, if you believe it you’re stupid. Take note.
8. “The Strangulation Chair” 9.4/10.0
This song may have saved the album because at 2:15 Webster does this Jaco Pastorius-like bass roll that totally splits the iceberg right down the middle. Perfect track placement here – this riff is exactly what keeps the listener in the game and assured that they’ll stick around until the last track. Fucking Awesome. Although the bass hook is unexpected, when you listen to the whole track the second time around, you can kind of hear that something like that is coming.
9. “Caged…Contorted” 4.6/10.0
“Caged…Contorted” is kind of weird because it starts out like a song that would seem like is going to have a pretty standard ABABCAB structure, but then they take a hard right at around a minute to go and then try to turn the this into this big exercise in technical metal, almost trying to get all Napalm Death on our asses. Chorus also sounds forced here…square peg, round hole. Way too many different parts to the song. Least favorite cut on record.
10. “Crucifier Avenged” 6.9/10.0
Track ten doesn’t sound LIKE Slayer at the beginning, is sounds like it IS Slayer. Once the vocals come in of course that changes, and then it goes into this rolling turbulent buildup that I am in favor of. But here again, too many parts to this song. Just when you get into a groove with it, they have to go and switch everything up. Better than the last track though, that’s for sure. The buildup to the solo takes a while too, which is fine but doesn’t always work with stop and go dynamics. The ending is quite tough.
11. “Rabid” 6.9/10.0
I might be nuts here, but I could swear Fisher says “Dr. Pepper” during the first first of “Rabid”. Cool, but the bass sounds really muddy during the stops and the song ends with that muddy bass on a digital delay that fades out. (I love you Alex but seriously…who farted?) It does seem like the guitars struggle to keep up with the drums, and even though I’m sure that’s not the case it bothers my ear slightly.
12. “Torn Through” 8.9/10.0
One could see how the last few songs might kind of run together on this record, but I love this as a final track. Pauly’s snare sounds super tight and there’s more parts than your standard song structure might require, but they all rule and when the album ends you feel fulfilled. That’s why all you kids at home need to understand the importance of sequencing when it comes to making an album, because if this one was 9th or tenth I can’t say that I’d have as high of an opinion of it. Ties things together nicely.
Extra Behind the Scenes video:
Random Clip of Cannibal Corpse running into Jesse Jackson at an airport in Belgium at 6AM
This record was produced by Erik Rutan, guitarist for Hate Eternal and Morbid Angel. It’s of above average production value but it doesn’t sound anything unlike the rest of their albums, and much like with any drop B death metal there’s a lot of low midrange which sometimes has the tendency to make for a muddy mix. But all that being said, I can’t possibly give it anything lower than the 8.4 score because Rutan does one hell of a job with the separation of the instruments, a seemingly impossible task for most metal producers anymore.
Severity of Song Titles: 7.3/10.0
To be completely honest, I’m a bit disappointed with the song titles on this album. Sure, “Followed Home Then Killed” was likely never intended to be a nursery sing along for decades to come, but when I hear a title like “Demented Aggression” it sounds a little forced to me. It might be because those two words are so overused when it comes to the metal community, which probably isn’t Cannibal Corpse’s fault. However, maybe it’s time for some of these metal bands to dig deeper and come up with some more creative and impressive compound words. If “fishwich” is a compound word, I’m almost sure that Corpsegrinder could come up with something better than that, especially with that name. At least I would hope so.
Overall Score: 7.8/10.0
This album could be a masterpiece and “Gallery of Suicide” would still be my favorite Cannibal Corpse record of all time. Sometimes a disc comes out during a certain portion of your life that you’d do anything to relive again, and “Gallery” is that album. But as far as depth goes, “Torture” comes out about where I expected it to – somewhere around the upper middle of the barrel.
I could sit here for hours and dissect (excuse me, dismember) this album until I’m blue in my hammer-smashed face, but it wouldn’t be anything based on sheer expertise. It would be more jealousy, based of course on the fact that I was never in a death metal band this successful in the first place. Cannibal Corpse does what they do very well. I can’t listen to them for ten hours straight like I once could, but it’s hard to deny such talent and technical ability.
Additionally, as someone who is an advocate of not fixing it if it isn’t broke, to give “Torture” anything less than a 7.8 would be hypocritical.
I’m supposed to get around to reviewing the new Soulfly next weekend, and from all of the reviews I’ve read already it should be a good one. Max Cavalera has always been someone I’ve looked up to as a songwriter so it’s going to be fun checking that one out.
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