With new releases from Nile , Autopsy and Vital Remains in the pipeline and with tongues already wagging over releases by tech death nutters Spawn of Possession and home-grown brutalisers Dyscarnate, 2012 is set to be a landmark year for death metal. Add to that the granddaddies of gore, Cannibal Corpse’s new release Torture and you’ve got yourself a recipe for something truly horrid!
Never a band to fix what ain’t broke, there’s not much deviation from the established blueprint on this release. In fact the similarities between Torture and their previous two releases are fairly obvious after a few listens, with the trademark brutal as hell intro track in the form of ‘Demented Aggression’ and token slower song in ‘Scourge of Iron’ displaying heavy similarities with the title track on 2009’s Evisceration Plague. The first half of the album is littered with lessons in brutality. ‘Demented Aggression’ is an essay in unadulterated, white hot fury and an ideal opener. ‘Encased in Concrete’ continues this trend, and will doubtless prove to be a sterling addition to their live set, whilst ‘Scourge of Iron’ ventures into slower terrain, with an indolent chugger of a riff impacting on the listener like the slow motion replay of a knockout punch.
My personal pick from this release would have to be ‘As Deep as the Knife Will Go’; which displays an expert balance between balls-to-the-wall brutality and a catchy sing along chorus. In a similar way to tracks like ‘Make Them Suffer’ and ‘Rotted Body Landslide’ on previous releases, this begins with the all out ‘everything faster than everything else’ assault, which has come to define Corpse’s sound thus far, but pulls back into more measured territory for the chorus, allowing George Fisher to take centre stage with his distinctive roar. Cannibal Corpse really deserve some credit for this, as it’s too often the case nowadays that death metal vocals are used almost as a third part of the rhythm section, used to articulate an element of the visceral rather than fronting the band.
The second half of the album however, displays a regrettable dearth of these vocal hooks, relying largely on Barrett and O’Brien’s riffing and Webster’s spider-like clankings to deliver the goods. Whilst there are some belters on show, such as the chorus of ‘Rabid’, and the bass fill on ‘The Strangulation Chair’, the second half steers dangerously close to an amorphous homogeny. Moreover, with the only slower paced track expended early into the proceedings, and the first three singles included in the album’s first four tracks this effect is only exacerbated. When relying so heavily upon speed to deliver brutality, naturally everything starts to sound similar, and you need either variations in pace or some landmarks, like a single to counteract this. Instead the listener is left to fend for themselves on the second half of the album to a large degree. Whether this is by design, in order to heighten the unpalatability of Torture is a mystery, but this could be said to be Cannibal Corpse’s fatal flaw.
Make no mistake, this is a damn good album, but whilst it ticks the boxes in terms of offering the aural equivalent being koshed in the temple with a leg of dripping offal, as well as some heartily cathartic sing along moments, accompanied by the standard gore porn lyrics, it seems perhaps that Corpse are resting on their laurels somewhat. Since 1996’s Vile, Corpse have been working towards a sound, which in my opinion was honed most successfully on The Wretched Spawn. Ever since that release, and indeed the departure of axeman Jack Owen, each album has served to contribute a few tracks to their live set, and arguably not a great deal besides. Whilst subtlety has never been a consideration for this band, it seems they’re doing themselves a bit of a disservice by presenting their wares in such a way, and rather than embodying the drawn out agony of Torture, this album is more like being kicked in the bollocks and run away from. I’m sure there’s a song title there…
Cannibal Corpse’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/cannibalcorpse
Metal Blade Records’ Website: http://www.metalblade.com/english/content.php