Published Mar 29, 2012[Editor's note: Cannibal Corpse are a death metal band who utilize horror-themed imagery, lyrical content, song titles and artwork that may not be to everyone's taste. Proceed with caution.]
When the members of death metal granddaddies Cannibal Corpse got together back in 1988 they were just looking to play some music while not slogging away at their day jobs, which involved everything from putting up drywall to working in a ruler factory (seriously). Today, they are the top-selling death metal band of all time in the U.S.; worldwide, they have sold almost two million records. This, from a band who in 1991 and 1992 put out two albums with cover art so shocking they were banned from sale in several countries, with the members of Cannibal Corpse facing heavy fines or even jail time for playing the songs live in Germany. Through a public and bitter split with a lead singer who many fans identified the band with during their early controversial era to a quietly underrated mid-era to a shocking late-career resurgence with three powerful albums (including the new Torture, their 12th full-length), the band has proven they are more than the sum of their shocking parts.
Cannibal Corpse form in December in Buffalo, NY out of the ashes of two other bands: Beyond Death (which included in its ranks bassist Alex Webster and guitarist Jack Owen, who grew up together; the band also featured Darrin Pfeiffer, who would later play in Goldfinger) and Tirant Sin (which included drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz, vocalist Chris Barnes and guitarist Bob Rusay; Barnes also played in a band called Leviathan). "It was just friends getting together playing music that we loved," says Mazurkiewicz. "That's as simple as it was and that's how it starts: you're not thinking of anything in the future, you're just thinking, 'Let's get together, make some cool music that we enjoy.' When Cannibal formed we were definitely looking to take it to the next level, but we were still just playing music we liked."
Cannibal Corpse release a five-song self-titled demo (commonly referred to as A Skull Full of Maggots) and play their first gig, opening for thrashers Dark Angel. In July, they sign a contract with Metal Blade Records, the label they are with to this day; someone Barnes worked with at a record store knew someone at the label, so he helped make contact. "I loved the original demo," says Metal Blade chairman/CEO Brian Slagel on why he signed the band. "I thought it was really interesting and cool. Plus, 'A Skull Full of Maggots' is one of the greatest song titles ever."
Cannibal Corpse release their debut album, Eaten Back to Life. Eaten showcases an early stage of the band, not quite as extreme as they would become, incorporating more heavy thrash elements into their sound as opposed to the straight-up no-nonsense death metal the band would adopt on their next album and continue to run with for the rest of their career. The cover, although tame compared to their next two, is quite graphic, depicting a zombie tearing himself apart. Still, it doesn't get too many people up in arms, and the album flies largely under the radar. Glen Benton of Deicide performs guest vocals on "Mangled" and "A Skull Full of Maggots." "It was all new and fresh in the early days," says Mazurkiewicz. "It was unbelievable; it was a dream come true. When we signed the contract with Metal Blade, we were only a band for eight months. And here we are having to finish off writing material and record a record. It was a lot of fun. Very exciting." The band play some shows in support of the album but don't tour for it.
Where it all begins: the band releases Butchered at Birth, notable for featuring a heavier, more extreme style of death metal and Barnes' more guttural singing approach; he's one of the first real guttural death metal vocalists. Death metal fans love Barnes due to his extreme vocals and lyrics; he becomes one of death metal's biggest personalities. Glen Benton of Deicide again provides guest vocals on "Vomit the Soul." "It's more intense, more extreme, the cover is so shocking, especially at that time," says Mazurkiewicz about the album. "That was the beginning of it for us. We went to Europe for the first time, did the first bit of touring. It was incredible. People were freaking out. This was really the beginning of the Cannibal Corpse entity." The album puts the band at the top of the death metal scene, which is booming. With better production, better songwriting, and more controversial cover art (evil zombie doctors pulling a dead baby as it comes out of a dead woman… or something like that), the band has found their calling, and, for better or for worse, it's for the shocking lyrics and artwork. "We come from a standard, middle-class American background," bassist Alex Webster will tell Monday Magazine in 2004. "It's not like we're maniacs. People from outside the death metal scene get a little spooked sometimes because they just don't understand we're just doing this for entertainment. It's really ugly entertainment, but if we enjoy it, and it's harmless, why not?" The album is shrouded in controversy, with some stores not selling it to people under 18. "We had been through controversy before with the whole PMRC thing in the '80s, so that was nothing new," says Metal Blade's Slagel. "I actually like the fact that people were shocked at it all." The band tour Europe for the first time in October. The members quit their day jobs.
Cannibal Corpse tour America for the first time, with Atheist and Canadian death metal band Gorguts; the first two shows are in Toronto and Montreal. During the writing process for their next album, Webster and Mazurkiewicz quit the band for a very brief time due to increasing conflicts within the group; the two write "Hammer Smashed Face," which will end up being the band's most popular song, during this period. They re-join the band and Tomb of the Mutilated is released; the album is a huge step forward again in production sound and, more so, songwriting. The band begin to write really memorable songs without sacrificing any of their death metal heaviness. They also up the ante with the song titles, with such hits as "Entrails Ripped from a Virgin's Cunt" ("'Entrails' isn't even that great," Owen will tell Decibel in 2008. "People were so floored by the song title.") and worst pickup line ever, "I Cum Blood," which, amazingly, will later show up in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned.
"Hammer Smashed Face" is later featured as downloadable content for the Rock Band video games. "That was a very ground-breaking record for us," says Mazurkiewicz. "It's got 'Hammer Smashed Face', arguably and probably our most popular song. People seem to love it; it's been our trademark to play at every show. Tomb took us to the next level. More touring, it was starting to get out of control. We're not going anywhere, we're starting to get more accolades, we're getting better as musicians, we're writing better songs." After this album hits, the band become road dogs, touring the world relentlessly after every album, a pattern they continue to this day. The cover art for Tomb is again extremely graphic and controversial (zombie dude going down on gutted zombie woman… or something like that), however, artist Vincent Locke later says that he drew the woman on this cover having the upper hand, as opposed to being in a position of weakness. "I didn't want there to be a pattern of covers depicting violence against women," he will tell Decibel in 2008. "I tried to put the woman on the cover in some position of power, with her sitting up, and the male zombie grovelling on the floor." (Humorously, the original version of the cover was rejected by Metal Blade for not being graphic enough.) This is the first album the band have to create an alternate, censored cover for. "We just wanted to write stuff and put stuff out there that was cool to us and disturbing," Mazurkiewicz says about the cover art controversies. "It stinks that it gets censored but at the same time we didn't care. It's not stopping us. To us, censored was good. People are going to want to see it more, seek it out, find out what it is. It wasn't a bad thing at all for us. We ate right into it. It's unfortunate that it has to happen, but it didn't stop us." The band put the following statement inside the album sleeve in regards to Barnes' inhuman-sounding guttural singing: "Electronic Harmonizer was not used to create any vocals on Tomb of the Mutilated." "He used a little on Tomb," Owen will tell Decibel in 2008. "Screw it!"
The band releases the Hammer Smashed Face EP, notable for its inclusion of their cover of Black Sabbath's "Zero the Hero," showing Barnes' love for covering classic metal tunes with his death metal growl. Guitarist and founding member Bob Rusay is fired after a subpar performance during the recording session for the EP. The band later admits that Jack Owen played a large part of Rusay's parts on the last two albums, with Owen re-recording some of Rusay's tracks on Tomb. Rusay says he was having a hard time writing material. "On the first two albums, I wrote a lot of music," he will tell Decibel in 2008. "With Tomb, I hit a wall. I wasn't coming up with fresh ideas. I couldn't get inspired." The band members are wary of delivering the bad news to him, for a few reasons. "I wasn't going to break the news to him," Owen will tell Decibel in 2008. "I really thought he'd kill me. Bob was a badass." Rusay goes on to become a golf instructor. "He was a good friend of ours," Webster, who had to tell Rusay he was fired, will tell Decibel in 2008. "And the fact that he hasn't wanted to communicate with us since that happened isn't something we feel good about." Webster calls Rusay to tell him the band's decision; Rusay hangs up the phone, quits the music industry and Webster never hears from him again. He is replaced by Malevolent Creation guitarist Rob Barrett, at first just as a replacement guitarist for tour; he stays on after the tour goes well. Barnes and Obituary guitarist Allen West start death metal band Six Feet Under as a side project.
Cannibal Corpse hit the big screen, with a surprising guest cameo in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Turns out Jim Carrey is a fan; the band plays "Hammer Smashed Face" in the flick (look closely to see the guys from Malevolent Creation in the audience during the clip). "I remember when we met Jim Carrey, he was talking about 'Rancid Amputation' [off Butchered at Birth]," says Mazurkiewicz. "To this day, for us, it's like, 'Man, did that happen?' Surreal." The band is also asked to be in Airheads a few weeks later but the offer is revoked once the producers realize they just filmed for Ace Ventura. The Bleeding, the band's last album with original singer Chris Barnes, is released. It will become their best-selling album. "This was the era where we started really refining our sound and it was the beginning of a more modern Cannibal style of writing," says Mazurkiewicz. "We're just getting better and better as we write, and better musicians. This is arguably our best record. It sold great, and people really loved the album and we had some great songs on the album." The album is more streamlined, has a bigger groove to it and features more decipherable vocals from Barnes. It shows where his future full-time band, Six Feet Under, will go. The album features more outrageous song titles, like "Fucked with a Knife," "Stripped, Raped, and Strangled," and "She Was Asking for It." The band make their first music video, for "Staring through the Eyes of the Dead." After The Bleeding, the band decides to relocate to Tampa, Florida, to be closer to Morrisound studios. The Bleeding is the first Cannibal Corpse album that is legal to be sold in Germany; their first three albums were deemed too offensive for sale there. Also, until 2006, the band is forbidden from playing any material off of the first three albums while playing live in Germany. "That kind of hype was good in the beginning," Webster will tell Monday Magazine in 2004, "because it made people interested to see what kind of band we were. But some of these things are just following us around like an albatross around our neck."
Barnes is fired from Cannibal Corpse during the recording of their next album; the band is unsatisfied with his vocal performance and lyrics. Barnes left the recording sessions to go on a Six Feet Under tour, which is when the decision is made. "We felt Barnes had to go," says Mazurkiewicz. "We wanted to better the band, and we were having a lot of problems within the band. We wrote all the music for Vile, it was going to be called something different. We went into the studio with Barnes; at that point we were taking the music to another level. We felt it was the most intense, strongest material we've ever wrote and we were just put back by his performance and the lyrics. Mostly the performance, we just felt it really deterred the album and made it weaker, and we didn't want that. That's when we made the change. We were in the middle of the recording session when we made the change."
After firing him, they admit that bad blood had been brewing over the years due to Barnes trying to make decisions about the band by himself. Barnes feel like the rest of the band wasn't giving him the respect he deserved and that they were jealous over him doing most of the interviews and being the face of the band. "Those guys, I had less respect for them at a certain point in time because of how I felt I was being treated," Barnes will tell Music Incider in 2003. "I felt like I was being alienated almost, and not really respected for what I had accomplished within the band. I felt they were jealous of me, and those emotions came out in our personal behaviour towards each other. I think that they wanted more say in what I was getting credit for. I didn't go at it to get credit for things. I went at it to create something on my end of things that was just as good as what they were creating with their music. It wasn't my fault that people wanted to talk to me about things, but I think they took it like that and they took it on themselves to really want to tell me how to write things."
George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher, formerly of wildly underrated death metal band Monstrosity, replaces Barnes. "I wasn't nervous; I was excited," says Corpsegrinder about joining the band. "I knew what I could do and what I could bring to the band. It would be a different style, for sure, but I only asked for fans to give me a chance and check out the record or a live show and be open-minded. I think they did that and I am grateful, and here we are 16 years later." Then-senator and U.S. Presidential candidate Bob Dole says that bands like Cannibal Corpse "threaten to undermine our character as a nation." Six Feet Under release Haunted. It's Barnes' first post-Cannibal output, and begins what will be a prolific and popular career with the death metal band. "I'm feeling good where I'm at right now, but I like where I came from too," Barnes will say on Cannibal Corpse's 2008 DVD Centuries of Torment: The First 20 Years. "I'm very proud of everything I did. I stand by it, and it's really held the test of time as far as good death metal goes. I think that it will continue to be thought of as one of the purest moments of death metal history, those first [Cannibal Corpse] records I was involved with."
Vile is originally slated to be called Created to Kill when it was being recorded with Barnes; some of this material will show up on 2003's 15 Year Killing Spree box set: "We're very adamant in our view that you can listen back to back and you can tell who's better," says Mazurkiewicz. The new album shows the band back at it with a return to more brutal death metal compared to The Bleeding's groove-focused (relatively, of course) sound. Cannibal Corpse fans now fall into the category of Barnes-era fans, Corpsegrinder fans, or love-it-all fans. "At first I think everybody was a little reluctant," says Mazurkiewicz. "They loved Barnes, but we knew we were bettering the band and were just like, 'Wait until you hear it.' And I think, for the most part, everybody shut up after that. As soon as we put the album out, we went out on the road, and it was 'Barnes who?' at that point. We definitely felt we bettered the band." Vile is the band's first album to reach the Billboard 200 chart, debuting at 151. The album is the band's last to be recorded by death metal producer-in-demand Scott Burns. (They will go on to record with other big-name metal producers like Colin Richardson and Erik Rutan). On tour for the disc, Cannibal Corpse land an opening spot for a tour with Anthrax and the Misfits. The band are attacked by a campaign trying to get record labels to drop what is considered to be the 20 groups with the most offensive lyrics; Cannibal are sandwiched in with a bunch of rappers. Down in Australia, on October 23 it is made official: all Cannibal Corpse recordings are banned for sale. They will be re-released in 2006, finally legal to be sold in Australia again, with one catch: you have to be over 18 to buy them. Despite the efforts to ban their music because of the lyrical content and artwork, the band have always maintained they are a bunch of regular guys who just like horror. "One thing we've tried to make clear is that as much as we enjoy writing about horror and gore we're not into real-life violence at all," Webster will tell Exclaim! in 2008. "Other than boxing and mixed martial arts [laughs]. As far as real violence and crime, we're obviously against it like any normal people would be." Six Feet Under release the Alive and Dead EP.
Guitarist Barrett leaves the band and re-joins Malevolent Creation. Pat O'Brien of Seattle prog-power metallers Nevermore, oddly, replaces him. Deadly Tracks, a Korean-only best-of collection is released, as is Monolith of Death Tour '96-'97, a live video. Six Feet Under release Warpath.
Gallery of Suicide is released and takes heat for being under-produced and not having memorable songs. "No matter what, we're just gonna do what we're gonna do," O'Brien tells Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles in 2009. "Some albums, people are gonna like, and some albums people aren't going to like as much or they're not going to like. I remember when I first joined the band, when we did Gallery of Suicide, there were a lot of people who hated it, but now a lot of people seem to like it; it's kinda weird." Others feel that the album is given a bad rap and is really a grower. "It's a very good album, very underrated album," says Mazurkiewicz. "Pat wrote one song on there, the first that he ever wrote for us, 'Stabbed in the Throat.' We did some different stuff on there, but I think it's a great album." It's the band's first without Scott Burns producing, as Burns has quit the music scene, frustrated with being pigeonholed as a death metal producer. The band don't stray far from the path: the album is recorded with Jim Morris, who often worked side by side with Burns.
The Colin Richardson-produced Bloodthirst finds the band in a groove of solid meat-and-potatoes death metal, but interest is not what it was back in 1992, as the band keep playing a style of music that is many years past its heyday in a music industry that is about to see some major changes. Still, the band members put their heads down and plough forth. "We're just getting better, progressing," says Mazurkiewicz. "Colin did a great job in producing us, arguably one of the best productions we've had. We're doing a bunch of touring, the band's doing very well at this point, we're all over the place. Continuing the mayhem." Six Feet Under release Maximum Violence. Grindcore band Anal Cunt release I Like It When You Die, which features the song "Chris Barnes Is a Pussy." The song comes from an incident that allegedly occurred after Anal Cunt singer/now-dead shit-disturber Seth Putnam heckled Barnes at a Six Feet Under show, which allegedly led to Six Feet Under's roadies teaming up on Putnam as Barnes retreated to his tour bus.
The band's first live album, Live Cannibalism, is released as a CD and also as a video. The album is anticipated by fans because it features, as well as newer songs, Corpsegrinder singing older Barnes-era material. It features such classic stage banter as "This next song goes out to all the fucking women out there… 'Fucked with a Knife'," and, "This next song is about shooting blood out of your cock," which, if nothing else, show the band's less-than-serial-killer-ish take on their lyrical subject matter. Cannibal Corpse also release the Sacrifice/Confessions seven-inch, featuring a cover of Canadian thrashers Sacrifice. Six Feet Under release Graveyard Classics, an album of covers.
Cannibal Corpse continue to tour and prepare their next album. Six Feet Under release True Carnage and the Maximum Video video.
Gore Obsessed is released, and not much has changed from Bloodthirst, the band firmly in their comfortable mid-years. Noted metal producer Neil Kernon produces the album. "We got some good ones on that," says Mazurkiewicz. "'Pit of Zombies,' 'Savage Butchery,' we got some classics on that. Just keep the ball rolling. We got another good one." A Death Tribute to Cannibal Corpse is released, featuring Disgorge, Avulsed, and death/grind biggies Dying Fetus.
The band release the Worm Infested EP, which features a re-recording of a song from their first album, with Corpsegrinder on vocals. A four-disc box set, 15 Year Killing Spree, is also released. Still a member of Cannibal, Corpsegrinder joins melodic death metal band Paths of Possession, who release The Crypt of Madness (a split CD with Dark Faith), his first outing with them. Owen and Mazurkiewicz form Path of Man, a side project with Helstar/Seven Witches singer James Rivera. Six Feet Under release Bringer of Blood and the live CD/DVD set Double Dead.
The Wretched Spawn is released, again produced by Kernon. "It seemed like for some reason some of the songs were a little bit different," says Mazurkiewicz, "a song like 'Festering in the Crypt', and Pat's 'Frantic Disembowlment,' which was taking it to another level altogether and became a very popular song on that record. We're starting to diversify a little bit, tweaking our style. It's another underrated record." The album is the last with guitarist and founding member Jack Owen, who leaves the band after its release; he will join Deicide in 2005, and he's also already started a hard rock band called Adrift. The split comes when Adrift have a label showcase show booked in the States the same time Cannibal have shows planned in Mexico. When the band finds out, they talk to Owen and the amicable split goes down. The band and Owen remain friends to this day. The Wretched Spawn features a return to ultra-graphic cover art, but, this being 2004, few feathers are ruffled; nevertheless, a censored cover is also made for the album. Jeremy Turner of Origin does a brief spell as touring guitarist in place of Owen. The band plays an instrumental show in Pittsburgh as Corpsegrinder had to be sent to the hospital for a viral lung infection (they give fans the option at the door to get a refund or go in); Maurizio Iacono from Quebec death metallers Kataklysm sings "Stripped, Raped and Strangled" with the band at the show. Up-and-coming American metal band the Black Dahlia Murder open for Cannibal for some U.S. touring. Six Feet Under release the covers album Graveyard Classics 2 and the triple-DVD live set Live with Full Force.
Barrett, who left the band in 1997, re-joins Cannibal Corpse to replace Owen; temporary guitarist Turner is considered but the band go with Barrett. Paths of Possession release Promises in Blood with Corpsegrinder on vocals. Six Feet Under release 13. Despite Barnes and the rest of the band separating ten years ago under bad terms, he tells metalrules.com that they are on good terms now but a reunion is unlikely. "Every time we see each other, we're all smiles and everything," he says. "Nobody is at each other's throats anymore. It's all water under the bridge but, as for getting together, I don't think anyone should hold their breath." Webster agrees, explaining to Chronicles of Chaos in 2006 that "Chris isn't coming back. At least not as far as I know; we're not interested in doing that at all. Again, it's nothing against him, but we prefer to move forward rather than live in the past, and we feel like we're making better records now than we did then, so why look back at that stuff other than playing some old songs on tour?" Six Feet Under release the A Decade in the Grave box set.
Kill is the second Cannibal album to reach the Billboard 200, showing up at #170 the week following its release. The album is the first with returning guitarist Barrett; he last played on Vile. Maybe it's due to the member change or Erik Rutan producing, but the album finds the band attacking with a vengeance they haven't had for a while. Critics and fans agree: reception for the album is excellent. "For some reason everything just really seemed to gel at the right moment," Mazurkiewicz says about Kill. "The songs just seemed to flow and really came together. I can't explain it other than this is what was ready to come out of us at this time. We wrote some very aggressive stuff. The album was well received, the fans really liked it." Deicide release The Stench of Redemption, with Owen on guitar. Finnish death metal band Torture Killer release Swarm!, their only album featuring Barnes on vocals. Cannabis Corpse forms; the band is the side project of Philip "Land Phil" Hart of Municipal Waste and plays Cannibal Corpse-style death metal with lyrics focusing entirely around pot. The band's debut, Blunted at Birth, is released; in 2008 they will release Tube of the Resinated (some choice Cannibal Corpse parody song titles include "Staring through My Eyes that Are Red," "Reefer Stashed Place," "Force Fed Shitty Grass" [a play on "Force Fed Broken Glass"] and "I Cum Bud"). Cannibal Corpse plays on the Sounds of the Underground tour, a festival with metal and hardcore bands; they are far and away the heaviest band on the bill. Corpsegrinder appears as the voice of Metal Masked Assassin in Metalocalypse, where there is also a character, Nathan Explosion, modelled after Corpsegrinder.
Paths of Possession release The End of the Hour, again with Corpsegrinder on vocals. Six Feet Under release Commandment. Barnes tells Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles that he would do a reunion tour with Cannibal Corpse. "I would do it but I don't think it's a mutual feeling and I think ego is involved on that end," he says. "On my end, I've already put it out there. I'll do a tour for free. I've said it to the record label. Even though if it would happen it would be the biggest money maker in death metal history. But it's been something that's been squashed every time I've put it out there. It's not an ego thing on my end of things. I wish them well in the future."
Centuries of Torment: The First 20 Years, a massive three-DVD documentary/concert film, is released. It will go platinum in Canada. Deicide release Till Death Do Us Part, with Owen on guitar. Six Feet Under release Death Rituals. Webster plays bass on Hate Eternal's Fury & Flames; Hate Eternal is the band of ex-Morbid Angel guitarist Erik Rutan, who produced Cannibal Corpse's Kill.
Evisceration Plague drops, and debuts at #66 on the Billboard 200. In Canada, it enters the top 40. It continues with Kill's successful sound and vibe, also being produced by Rutan, also filled with huge death metal songs. "Evisceration basically continued what we did on Kill," says Mazurkiewicz. "The only thing different is now we're refining a bit more so by incorporating a click track for the first time, writing and recording with that. We've never worked that way before. Now we're taking Kill, which I believe was a very savage and a very tight record, and now we're writing and recording to the click track, which is going to make it even more precise. And that's noticeable on Evisceration. Man, some great songs on there, great production… it was a good follow-up to Kill." The band finds themselves comfortable in their position as death metal legends of sorts and don't even try to compete with many of the death metallers of 2009, who are trying to outdo each other in a blaze of technicality. "There are a bunch of up-and-coming new bands that sound great and you definitely have to keep up," O'Brien tells Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles. "There are certain areas where we're not going to be able to go where other bands have gone. But we don't want to; we're Cannibal Corpse and we're just gonna do what we do." The band, now over 20 years old, shows no signs of slowing down. "It keeps going on and on," O'Brien tells Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles. "I've thought that, too: when does it end? I guess whenever we decide it ends. Hopefully. Look at bands that have long careers. Motörhead, for example, they've been doing for it years. No one cares. Lemmy's old, they don't care. He's just old biker-looking dude or whatever, but it works for him. I don't know if that will work for us, but I guess we'll grow into whatever we're going to grow into."
The band continue to tour, returning to, among other places, South America. Six Feet Under release Graveyard Classics 3, the third in their series of cover albums.
The band release the live Global Evisceration DVD. O'Brien gets to play guitar for Slayer on a European tour in April after Exodus guitarist Gary Holt, who had been filling in for Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, leaves the tour to play shows with Exodus. Cannibal Corpse tours with young metal hotshots Job for a Cowboy. Controversy meets up with the band once again, but this time in the strangest of places: Blizzcon 2011. World of Warcraft developers Blizzard show a video of Corpsegrinder on an ill-advised and profanity-laced game-related rant, which they later had to apologize for due to his usage of what could be seen as homophobic slurs. Corpsegrinder, who has a Warcraft character, Gorge the Corpsegrinder, named after him, is a big fan of the game. Deicide release To Hell with God, with Owen on guitar. Corpsegrinder provides guest vocals for an entire show with legendary under-the-radar Canadian thrashers Infernal Majesty, where they perform their classic None Shall Defy in its entirety on August 20 at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver, BC.
Torture is released; it's the third album in the band's late-career rejuvenation phase, again firing on all cylinders, again produced by Rutan, again filled with great riffs and killer songs. "I really think it's a good mix between Kill and Evisceration," says Mazurkiewicz. "We've got the same method going now with writing and recording to the click, but I definitely feel a lot more comfortable working with it than I did, say, on Evisceration. I think looking back, Evisceration is a great album, but it was a lot more simplistic in what I was doing, more so than ever, with the lack of drum fills and things going on in the drum department, which I contribute mostly to getting used to that click track. This time around, everything seemed to fall into place a lot easier because of us using it in the past. I felt I really stepped up and was able to work around and play around the click more comfortably. There are some great songs, having Rob step up and write three songs, Pat writing four songs, Alex got the other five songs, it's a very diverse Cannibal Corpse record. And I think all three of them are writing the best songs they've ever written for us. So it took it to even another level, if that's possible. There's a little bit of an old school vibe to it as well, some of the riffs sound a little bit like a younger Cannibal. It's a good mix of newer and old."
Twelve full-lengths, almost two million albums sold, and 24 years later, the band is no longer shocking parents like they once did, but they've never sounded better. "It's still very weird to us," says Mazurkiewicz, "because we never would have expected we'd be here, still talking about it and doing it where it's meaning something, with our best material, and we're on top of our game. We would have never dreamed this would ever happen. It's weird to sit back and think, 'Wow. Look what we've done. We've done a lot. We've been around a long time.' Sometimes you've gotta sit back and think of that because it's a little bizarre, a little surreal." Corpsegrinder says that looking ahead, he doesn't see the band straying too far from their path. "I see the band touring and recording in the future," he says. "Pretty much the same thing we have been doing [laughs]. We won't sell out, that's for sure. We always strive to be better live and in the studio so as long as we remain true to those things, hopefully we see the band becoming bigger." The band are still on Metal Blade and that union is still going strong. "It has really been a pleasure and honour to work with these guys over all these years," says Metal Blade's Slagel. "They are truly a special band and I am really excited about the new record. One of their best, I think." Six Feet Under prepare their next album, to be released this year. Cannibal Corpse take their extreme death metal to the high seas, playing on the 7000 Tons of Metal cruise ship, which goes from Miami, Florida to the Cayman Islands.
The Essential Cannibal Corpse
Tomb of the Mutilated (Metal Blade, 1992)
The highlight of the extreme Chris Barnes era, Tomb is the band at the height of their offensive death metal power, just learning how to write catchy songs while also affording a bigger production sound and the attitude of a bunch of young guns wanting to offend everyone. The Bleeding has more memorable songs, but this has a higher brutality quotient.
Vile (Metal Blade, 1996)
Their first with Corpsegrinder on vocals, this is the antithesis of what came before it, The Bleeding. Vile practically mocks that album's groove and open space with an oppressive onslaught of full-on, no-nonsense, blinders-on extreme metal. It's death metal all the time, just kill, kill, kill, show everyone that a new singer does not a death metal band kill. Kill. Kill.
Kill (Metal Blade, 2006)
Everything about this album was right: maybe it was the timing, maybe it was that a lot of people who got into Cannibal Corpse as 15-year-olds were just ready for a perfect, solid death metal album from Cannibal at this point. Whatever it was, the band were firing on all cylinders, crafting a perfect example of few-frills Floridian death metal with just enough technicality to shut up anyone who considers complaining.