By Marvin Dotiyal, Features Editor
[Metal Blade; 2017]
Key Tracks: “Red Before Black”, “In the Midst of Ruin”, “Destroyed Without a Trace”
It seems like Cannibal Corpse toned down their gory, over-the-top, macabre album covers, but they still carry the same visceral energy they did decades ago. Cannibal Corpse’s fame and image still remain to be religiously symbolic and influential in the metal community, even spawning a cult following with ridiculous song titles like “Hammer Smashed Face” and “Meat Hook Sodomy”. Cannibal Corpse lives up to their name in their 14th studio album, Red Before Black, but this one’s more for the fans.
Right off the bat, “Only One Will Die” makes it clear that they haven’t gone full 180 or “matured” over time. The album’s title track resembles a thrashy death metal sound with ruthless speed and energy, sounding almost like an early Slayer song with more umph. “Remaimed” starts slow and heavy, but immediately picks up the speed with frontman George Fisher’s guttural growls. The band maintains its aggressive brutality in each song yet again with graphic song titles such as “Heads Shoveled Off” and “Shedding My Human Skin”. Speed and intensity is a must; the band makes sure that every blast beat evokes impending doom and every note melts your soul with crushing guitar riffage.
The whole album is a constant head-banging session, but head-bangs do come with whiplashes. After nearly 30 years, they are still the same band you heard back in Butchered at Birth with a distinct, classic ‘90s slam death metal influence, just with better production quality and minor tweaks here and there. That becomes a problem when there are other bands like Suffocation and Necrophagist that have experimented and adapted to newer styles, making Cannibal Corpse look antiquated and not innovative.
Regarding the fact that the members are approaching their fifties on this album, it is definitely impressive to see them keep up with what they have created. They do what’s the best for the image they have created for Cannibal Corpse—the musical talent and energy is like no other. However, the lack of diversity in their music limits their creativity and potential, making them sound very cookie-cutter and bland in today’s death metal scene. Also, the edgy lyrics of gory violence and mutilation do get old fast.
If Cannibal Corpse wasn’t Cannibal Corpse, this album would be buried among underground CDs by grindcore bands with unreadable logos. At this point, most of their music aside from their earlier discography shows very little progression and is arguably unmemorable unless you’re a die-hard fan. It’s not to say that Cannibal Corpse musically declined, but they have certainly exhausted their options over the years.