Cannibal Corpse – Gore Obsessed

If you stop viewing Cannibal Corpse as a sort of dynasty and just look at each individual album as its own entity, it’s pretty easy to see why they’re so successful. Consistency is a part of it: in all honesty, do you dislike certain Cannibal Corpse albums because they genuinely suck, or simply because they’re not as good as others? Probably the latter, because it’s not like Cannibal Corpse ever changes its style or delivery very dramatically: the notes just get arranged and rearranged in different configurations, plus or minus a bit of technicality or whatever minor element they’re playing with this time. ‘Gore Obsessed’ is one of the lesser spoken of Cannibal Corpse albums, but that doesn’t mean much since Cannibal Corpse isn’t discussed much at all. They’re just omnipresent and so huge that there’s no real point in even discussing them. It’s like talking about the nature of your lawn: it just doesn’t change much, and you’re probably happy with it because of that. On that note, I won’t sit here and bore you with yet another description of ‘brutal riffs’ and ‘sick vocals’, but rather take a look at some of the elements of Cannibal Corpse that I don’t really hear spoken of:

1. Cannibal Corpse still sounds EXACTLY like all the early 90s death metal. The production has gotten better and the riffing has gotten somewhat more complex, but it still sounds right out of 1991. The production, though clearer, is pretty much a perfect representation of that style of early 90s death metal: big, thick bass presence, cool, brutal guitar tone, lucid yet somewhat raw drum sound, and vocals right in the thick of it all. The instrumentation is still pure early ’90s DM, despite the increased complexity of the compositions in general. Cannibal Corpse really is one of the last bastions of the original style of death metal; most of the other bands have modernized and lost the style that defined pure death metal, but Cannibal Corpse is still, and probably always will be, plugging away with the original form of the genre.

2. Even at this late stage of their career, Cannibal Corpse still has a lot of thrash influence in their music. The most clear and obvious example on ‘Gore Obsessed’ is ‘Pit Of Zombies’, which is, minus the blasting and most overtly death metal elements, a very brutal thrash metal song. The original incarnation of Cannibal Corpse, particularly in the demo era, was highly thrash influenced, and that heritage hasn’t been forgotten, though it has grown more subtle with time. Just listen to the riffs in ‘Pit Of Zombies’; each one is a thrash riff, though some are faster and more distorted than normal. It’s weird that so few people notice this really substantial part of Cannibal Corpse’s music, and it’s an influence that everyone should pay more attention to.

3. Conversely, there’s a lot of brutal death influence, or perhaps Cannibal Corpse influenced a lot of brutal death. Listen to the first few riffs in ‘Compelled To Lacerate’ and tell me they don’t sound like ‘Pierced From Within’-era Suffocation. Perhaps they’re a bit bouncier and the notes aren’t quite as tightly constricted, but it’s clearly a Suffocation-inspired riff set. Hell, the drumming alone is hugely similar to Mike Smith, particularly in the completely precise and machinelike blasting. Even a lot of the atonal soloing on this disc is pretty similar to Suffocation. In general, I think that the variety of influences on Cannibal Corpse’s music, and indeed, their influence on other bands, is very unappreciated, and I feel that the band is a rather ignored part of the death metal scene today.

It’s probably weird to describe the best selling death metal band in the history of the style as being incredibly underrated, but that’s exactly what Cannibal Corpse is. Not only do Cannibal Corpse consistently put out great, traditional death metal albums, they’ve stood by the genre and contributed to it massively over the many years of their existence. It’s not even so much that the band is underrated as a whole; they’re probably the most popular death metal band in the world today. But among the underground metal scene, the band seems shunted aside in favor of other, somewhat more erudite artists. I think that’s bullshit. Metalheads deeply involved in the underground like to pretend that bands like Morbid Angel or Suffocation form the status quo for what death metal is or should be, but in reality, the average death metal fan listens to Cannibal Corpse, slam death, and other ‘low’ styles of the music. It’s most certainly elitist, and it’s elitism where it really isn’t warranted at all, and many of the people that denigrate a band like Cannibal Corpse are those that want to exclude people from their philosophical club for the purpose of exclusion alone.

The band musically is one of the most accomplished in death metal. The music that Cannibal Corpse plays is not extremely technical, but it is fast, it does have many rhythm and tempo changes, and is pretty precisely written. The band, while obviously not ever going to outdo Necrophagist in pure technicality, has other, more important features: tightness and cohesion. I can’t name many more death metal albums than ‘Gore Obsessed’ which are so precisely played and perfectly composed. Above and beyond their skill in playing, the band are some of the best SONGWRITERS in death metal. Cannibal Corpse doesn’t write filler riffs or filler songs; obviously some are lightyears beyond others in quality, but how many Cannibal Corpse songs have you thought of as being genuinely shitty because they feature poor songwriting? There’s none. All Cannibal Corpse songs are at the very least listenable and feature some cool riffs or vocal lines, and ‘Gore Obsessed’ is no different.

Okay, so you have your usual sub-two minute opener in ‘Savage Butchery’, which is really cool, as always. ‘Hatchet To The Head’ is a bit awkward, but the tremolo riffs are excellent. Mid-paced thrasher ‘Pit Of Zombies’ is excellent as well, and features one of the best thrash breaks the band has ever written. But there’s other, much more underrated and unknown tracks as well that are just as great: ‘Hung And Bled’ is a personal favorite of mine (George Fisher is one of the fastest death metal vocalists on the planet), ‘Drowning In Viscera’ has great, brutal riffing, and ‘Grotesque’ is a fantastic closer to the album. There are really no weak tracks: Cannibal Corpse demonstrates their remarkable consistency throughout ‘Gore Obsessed’, and consistently writes strong compositions. It’s all obviously direct music, but the less obvious point is that, for all their consistency, Cannibal Corpse HAS progressed as a musical entity; they just don’t feel the need to do it in an overly clear fashion. They haven’t added weird time signatures, sweep arpeggios, or any other clear ‘progressive’ leaning, but the music has gotten progressively more developed and complex with time.

The fact is that Cannibal Corpse is a great band, and it seems that the metal scene has forgotten that in its frantic clamor towards more ‘intellectual’ music. Cannibal Corpse is intellectual, but again, feels no need to advertise this fact to the entire world in the way Dream Theater does. Cannibal Corpse reflects the intelligence of early death metal: a band keeping to themselves, quietly plugging away with their music, and feeling no impulse to appear scholarly to anyone but themselves. This is not ‘stupid people’s music’; it’s just unpretentious and suggests a sort of light-hiding bushel for the metal scene. I’d still rather listen to Cannibal Corpse than Arsis or Portal or whatever trendy new death metal band is taking the scene by storm simply by virtue of them not having to storm at all. I respect these guys a lot more than most bands, and I think more people should: while other bands have faltered, Cannibal Corpse has stayed true to their roots and clearly always will.

Additionally, the hidden cover of Metallica’s ‘No Remorse’ is a thousand fucking times better than any other band could ever do.

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~ by noktorn on October 4, 2007.

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