Criminally Slept-On: Cannibal Corpse

In this new series, AudioPhix’s resident death junkie, Schuler Benson, will discuss (at exhausting length) some of the lesser-known gems from his favorite bands’ back catalogs.


 

“If Cannibal Corpse did not exist, no one would dare to invent it.” – Bible of Butchery
Cannibal Corpse’s latest album, A Skeletal Domain, dropped last September, and it was incredible. It was one of my top picks for 2014, and it’s gotten better with every new listen. Not that their last three Erik Rutan-produced albums haven’t slayed… they most certainly have. But the latest release from Buffalo/Tampa’s godfathers of gore finds Mark Lewis behind the board, revitalizing the band with amazing production and some of the tightest, most memorable songwriting the guys have doled out on one record in years (if “The Murderer’s Pact” and “High Velocity Impact Spatter” aren’t some of your favorite Corpse tracks, I don’t know what to do for you). These guys are still improving as musicians, and lyrically, as storytellers. This far into a career, that’s an achievement in itself. So, in celebration of the amazing new, let’s take a pick axe-induced limp down memory lane to have a look at 14 criminally slept-on Cannibal Corpse songs.


 

14. “Torn Through” – The closer from Torture is one of the tightest songs on the record. To the best of my knowledge, they’ve never played it live, but they should. This is some of the catchiest music Pat O’Brien’s ever contributed on a Corpse album, and it’s an excellent marker for how perfect the chemistry between O’Brien and his lyrical partner, Paul Mazurkiewicz has become. Listen for the “counting-down” number after the break (“four more to kill, four more to kill, three more to kill…”). It’s so good.

13. “Shatter Their Bones” – While I loved, and still love, Jack Owen, I rejoiced when Cannibal Corpse announced Rob Barrett had returned to the fold just in time to release Kill. Going back as far as Vile and The Bleeding, Rob’s contributions have always been top-notch. “Shatter Their Bones” was his sole solo contribution to the band’s superb Evisceration Plague. This track is heavy and catchy as all hell, and Rob’s zombie-themed lyrics are always stand-out material in what could probably be considered a pretty saturated market. A Skeletal Domain‘s “Kill Or Become” feels a little like a sequel to “Shatter Their Bones.”

12. “Submerged In Boiling Flesh” – One of the first things I do after purchasing a new Corpse record is look through the liner notes for writing credits. I was interested to see a song in Kill attributed solely to drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz. The guy’s a death metal drumming legend, and his prowess as a lyricist has gotten stronger and stronger since those duties fell to remaining members after Chris Barnes’s pre-Vile dismissal. This song, as far as printed credits state, is the first track Paul ever wrote on his own, and we’re led to believe that means he wrote the guitar parts, too. I don’t wanna say it’s simpler than most Cannibal Corpse songs, but writers like O’Brien and bassist Alex Webster are skilled theorists, so there’s definitely a tech slant to most of what they produce. With this song, which closes the album in combination with the O’Brien-penned instrumental, “Infinite Misery”, Paul introduces a catchy, relatively straight-forward number that has, for me, become a tent-pole on an amazingly brutal album.

11. “They Deserve To Die” – I swear, I’m not trying to only mention closers here, but I can’t sleep on this song and neither should you. “They Deserve To Die” brings the superb The Wretched Spawn to a harrowing hault with one of the band’s catchiest numbers. Breaks throughout the song throw in some great headbanging groove (tell me you don’t snap that neck at :46), and Webster’s lyrics are fantastic. Even though Corpsegrinder typically provides minimal lyrical or musical insight, his delivery’s to be praised on this one. Vicious, son.

10. “Worm Infested” – I pay attention to EP’s. Worm Infested contained some covers, a re-recording of an Eaten Back To Life track, and what Cannibal Corpse’s recently-released Bible of Butchery Official Biography refers to as “leftover material from the Gore Obsessed album.” For my money, “Worm Infested” is the unsung hero of this disc. It contains some great O’Brien riffage, some of Paul’s nastiest lyrics, and what I think are probably Corpsegrinder’s fastest vocal acrobatics ever.

9. “Compelled To Lacerate” – A friend mentioned to me last year that he found Gore Obsessed to be Corpse’s weakest release, claiming it contained “nothing memorable.” Even though “Compelled To Lacerate” is a celebrated track from the release (not as infamous as “Savage Butchery” or “Pit of Zombies,” but it’s not obscure either), I’m including it here because Sean was right; for some reason, this album is criminally slept-on. And that’s absurd, son. This track is nasty groovy, it kicks in right away, and it doesn’t take a calculator to bang your head to it. Get on down.

8. “Staring Through The Eyes of The Dead [LIVE]” – Live albums count as albums. Live albums count as albums. Live albums count as albums… sometimes. By and large, at this point in my career as a listener, I can pretty much take or leave live albums. I don’t really go to shows anymore, and I prefer, by and large, most of what I listen to to be studio tracks over live recordings. However Live Cannibalism is an exception, 100%. This was the second Cannibal Corpse album I ever got, following Bloodthirst, and was my gateway to the rest of the band’s catalog. I’ve picked “Staring Through The Eyes of The Dead”, but the truth is I could’ve picked any of the Barnes-era tracks featured here. First reason: this album just slays. The production is rich, the band is at their performing peak, and the set is killer. Secondly, it’s worth the price of admission just to hear Corpsegrinder chop through tracks delivered before his tenure in the band began. I love Barnes’s contributions to the Corpse legacy, but there’s no denying that how Fisher spits the back catalog totally gives it a facelift. Check out Live Cannibalism if you haven’t. It’s worth it.

7. “Coffinfeeder” – Disclaimer: Bloodthirst was my first foray into the world of Cannibal Corpse. To this day, it remains my favorite of the Fisher era albums, and anyone that denies its significance in the band’s history is dead to me. This record is, from top to bottom, filled with stand-out tracks. “Dead Human Collection,” “Pounded Into Dust,” and “Blowtorch Slaughter” have all done significant time in the band’s live sets, and a show without “Unleashing The Bloodthirsty” should never, ever happen; it’s one of their all-time best cuts. I was torn on this one, because “Hacksaw Decapitation” is also the jam. “Coffinfeeder” won out though, because the pacing has fantastic variation, the lyrics are innovative (even by Corpse standards), and the way the opening series of chords recurs throughout the song is so sinister and epic. “Coffinfeeder” or “Hacksaw Decapitation” or whatever, man, just listen to Bloodthirst in its entirety immediately.

6. “Crushing The Despised” – Earlier I made mention of a friend calling Gore Obsessed Cannibal Corpse’s low point. Arguing that this band has a “low point” is tough, but if I had to make that call, I’d say that, for me, that album is Gallery of Suicide. On the whole, I think the band was still learning a lot about how they operated. It was Pat’s first album with the band, Corpsegrinder’s second, and the band’s first album written entirely without Barnes in the picture. I think they did what they could to push themselves to write more technical songs, and while their musicianship on Gallery definitely stands up to scrutiny by anyone’s standards, it’s hard to look at this record and (again, speaking only for myself) find any stand-out tracks apart from “I Will Kill You.” I went with “Crushing The Despised” because it seems like an afterthought. “Centuries of Torment” would’ve made more sense as an album closer, but these dudes were like, “Naw, son, we’re gonna do it to you in your earhole one last time with a fast, concise killer.” Condolences if Gallery is your favorite Corpse release. You’re wrong, and you’re probably alone.

5. “Absolute Hatred” – Another album that found me torn. I had a hard time picking between this one and “Orgasm Through Torture”. “Absolute Hatred” won though. While Vile has some undeniably strong tracks (“Devoured By Vermin” has, does, and always will destroy), it’s not one of my more preferred Cannibal Corpse releases on the whole. “Absolute Hatred” is an unappreciated song, I think. It’s not one I’ve heard of them throwing in the set, even with a lot of variation in their performances in recent years, and it’s another Rob Barrett gem with riffs and lyrics that are worth your attention. Good track.

4. “An Experiment In Homicide” – Ah, the Barnes years. The Bleeding is my favorite of the CB Cannibal Corpse albums, and it’s probably yours, too. So many top-shelf songs, and a ton of them are set mainstays to this day. I started fixating on “Experiment In Homicide” sometime in my early college years (late 2001, probably), and it’s still the closer to most of the Corpse mixes I make. Such thick groove. Interestingly enough, it seems to have made its way into the band’s set over the last several months, which is awesome news. Hope it stays there. More people, especially new fans, should be on this. Catchy, heavy, and the lyrics are fantastically twisted and poetic. Next to “F***ed With A Knife,” it’s also the shortest track on The Bleeding. Just FYI.

3. “The Cryptic Stench” – Another Barnes-era track that seems to be getting more live love from Cannibal Corpse in recent tours. Good, catchy mid-paced tune. Plus the vocals on Tomb of the Mutilated are so low and raspy. I think this album has some of the most depraved lyrical content the band’s ever produced, and the songwriting really started taking shape and reflecting the members’ sharpening instrumental prowess. This album marks the band’s last collaboration with original guitarist Bob Rusay, who was replaced by Barrett for The Bleeding. If the information presented on the band’s 2007 retrospective DVD, Centuries of Torment, is still up-to-date, no one in the band’s heard from Rusay since his post-Tomb ousting, which seems regrettable. He participated in three amazing death metal albums. He’s got a place in the genre’s hall of fame.

2. “Innards Decay” – The closing track off Butchered At Birth is crucial Cannibal Corpse listening, and it doesn’t seem to be one too many people lose their minds over. This album really broke the band as far as their controversy was concerned. The album cover’s gotta be the most risky thing they’ve done to date. Songs from this release are still live staples and fan favorites, including “Gutted,” “Covered With Sores,” and my favorite Butchered song, “Vomit The Soul.” “Innards Decay” has some awesome riffs, throwing in a bit of melody that was definitely atypical of Corpse tunes at the time. The main riff that kicks in around the :14 mark is a phantom influence of pretty much every band in death metal. Variations of it are present in, like, five songs on each Pathology album, as well as several of Dying Fetus’s finer moments. And there’s a reason for it: the stuff’s memorable, and it’s as dark as it gets.

1. “Scattered Remains, Splattered Brains” – I’m kinda cheating with this one. While it doesn’t have the magnetism of, say, “A Skull Full of Maggots” or “Born In a Casket,” this song gained a lot of fans when Cannibal Corpse played it on tour while filming their Global Evisceration video release a few years back. Prior to seeing it performed with Corpsegrinder at the helm, I don’t know that I had much memory of it at all. Kinda like “Bloody Chunks” or “Buried In The Back Yard”. It’s not an obvious choice as a stand-out Eaten Back To Life song, but it’s catchy, fast, and it displays a bit of theatricality the band didn’t really start to perfect until a couple more albums into their career. The opening of the track gets me pumped as hell.


I love Cannibal Corpse, you love Cannibal Corpse, and we should all listen to more Cannibal Corpse. When a band has this rich of a history, this many milestones, and this much clout in a scene containing plenty of other awesome acts, it’s easy for some badass music to fall through the cracks. Check out these songs, man. Maybe you’ll have even more appreciation for this legendary band’s genre-defining output. As the dust jacket of Bible of Butchery states, “If Cannibal Corpse did not exist, no one would dare to invent it.” That’s a ballsy statement, son. And it’s completely warranted. Now go rage, and don’t forget to snag Cannibal Corpse’s superb latest release, A Skeletal Domain, from Metal Blade Records.