I have long made a habit of calling Cannibal Corpse "Death Metal For Dummies". Partly that's because of their relatively wide fan base of otherwise death metal illiterates. You know: 15-year-olds who think Immolation is just a spell in World of Warcraft. Partly it's because Cannibal Corpse often serve as a kind of gateway band into real death metal, and the fans who worship them eventually move on to other idols within the death metal world. Mostly, though, it's because if I had to play somebody a song by one band to answer the question "what is death metal?", I'd play them Cannibal Corpse.
The more I think about it, though, the more I question my application of that title. It makes them sound simple, basic, and uninteresting. With their newest release "Torture" back in March, Corpsegrinder and company took another big chunk out of such notions. You see, it would be easy for a band of their stature to just sit back and release the same album over and over for a couple decades (I'm looking at you, Obituary). Instead, as time has passed Cannibal Corpse have grown and progressed and, in my opinion at least, become a much more impressive band than they ever were back in the Chris Barnes years. The basics are all still there: the gut-wrenching vocals, the pummeling drums, the meaty guitars, and the pure monstrous spirit of of unfiltered death metal brutality all still pour from every track. But the quality of their musicianship has improved. The vocal hooks are sharper. The guitar riffs are faster and more complex. The tightness with which the band executes their performances is far better. Frankly, they're now a more skilled band producing more interesting material that is surprisingly energetic and much more fun to listen to.
Of course I've been talking in broad strokes, briefly summarizing my opinion of Cannibal Corpse's collective body of work rather than talking specifically about this album. There are two main reasons I've chosen this approach. The first is that I'm making the assumption that most of my readers are familiar with the band and how they sound. As such I've chosen to skip the traditional preliminaries. If that's an inaccurate assumption then I apologize, and hopefully you'll find the next review more to your liking. The second reason is that this is how I look at the new album. In my mind, it's a perfect illustration of the "now" on a "then and now" journey of musical growth which has steadily continued in plain sight for many years. I realize how weird and unhelpful that assessment may well seem to many of you, but I think there are at least a few people out there who understand exactly what I mean.
Excellent death metal from the masters.
Incidentally, if this review was just too unhelpful for words, please leave me comments to that effect so I'll know to keep things more collected and to-the-point in the future.