Review: Cannibal CorpseChaos Horrific

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I think we all know how this one is going to go.

Returning like a biblically prophesied blight every few years, influential, long running, and iconic death metal legacy act, Cannibal Corpse have prepared their next attack on the public consciousness. Dropping September 22nd via Metal Blade Records, their sixteenth full length project Chaos Horrific sounds just as raw, unfiltered, and unmistakably rotten to the core as their storied and revered back catalog. CC runs like a well oiled death machine on a rampage. The entire affair is relatively on the short side, and is over before anyone can truly comprehend its full scope of destructive capabilities. However, its impact is quite severe as the damage it leaves in its wake will surely linger long after the record’s final notes are echoed. While most could probably tell this would be a solid release and inevitably get showered in praise from tastemakers and fans alike, is it truly deserving of that level of universal love even with it sounding so much like its predecessors? Well yes of course, but we’re still going to tell you anyway.

Cannibal Corpse’s lineup has remained relatively consistent since the end of the ’90s and the cohesion and tightness the band demonstrates on this project is representative of all the time on the road, stage and in the studio they’ve shared. Even the most recent addition of lead guitarist Erik Rutan meshes superbly with the rest of the band. While his proper introduction to fans was on their previous 15th record, Violence Unimaged in 2021, Rutan had been filling in as a touring member since 2019 in place of Pat O’Brien. He and fellow guitarist Rob Barrett attack the listener from the sides while the low end of the project is absolutely decimated by cranked out bass and pummeling percussive rhymes. Alex Webster’s axe grinding bass-work is a perfect unholy union to Paul Mazurkiewicz’s drumming. The pair generate so much overpowering noise it basically equates to the tremendous footsteps of a towering titan the band sonically summons through their technical thrashing. This “gigantic grindcore golem” the band metaphorically brings forth, is apparently a pyromancer. This is due to what perhaps is the most important contribution from the record, the beloved and iconic George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher once again acting as the fire breathing mouthpiece of the group. His serrated and razor sharp vocal runs are as powerful as ever. For as great as each member sounds, the group itself is more than the sum of its collective parts.

“Overlords of Violence” kicks down the metaphorical door, starting this record off as the sonic embodiment of a home invasion. This track cuts right to the chase and immediately throws you into the fire. Out the gate the band demonstrates their continued musical prowess, with the heavy bouncing bass, furious drumming and Corpsegrinder’s unmistakable vocals. Garnished with a blistering guitar solo, the back end of the opening number feels like you haven’t only just been impaled, but your body has been mounted on a horse, which is gallivanting around the charred and burnt remains of your village. In an instant it’s over, but its primal, destructive and aggressive elements are echoed, expanded, and compounded upon in the tracks that follow in its path of destruction. “Frenzied Feeding” ups the speed and incrementally adds more intensity to the project. This cut is what it sounds like to be chased and inevitability mauled by a pack of hungry, feral dogs put to tape. While the guitarwork doesn’t immediately stand out as much as the first track, it’s still Cannibal Corpse doing what they do best. The change up smashes like what else, but a hammer to the face. The last minute of the song is pure chaos and disharmonious guitar sacrilege savagery. Bonus points for the great use of backing vocals and double kicks at the end. 

Getting into the two singles, “Summoned For Sacrifice” is a nearly perfect cut, tailor-made to please all Cannibal Corpse fans. The track itself tells a harrowing story. Corpsegrinder acts like a demented version of Rod Sterling, telling the most vile and primordial version of a Twilight Zone episode (if Twilight Zone was made by Tobe Hooper, Mel Gibson and George Miller). No morals, no build up, just pain and suffering. From its incredible guitar work and chaotic vocalizations, it’s the Mad Max: Fury Road of metal songs. The other single, “Blood Blind” is a more groove-based track. Some of the production elements are strange here as some vocals seem a bit buried in the mix, but their trademark harsh wall of noise is on full display here. If Phil Spector had the wall of sound, Cannibal Corpse has the torture rack of rhythm and riffage. Featuring some of the best drumming on the record, one of the most emotive solos and cranking underlying bass work, this is one of the standouts. 

“Vengeful Invasion” is a cut that puts you on edge right away. From the start-stop guitars, multifaceted drum work and Corpsegrinder’s “corpsiest, grinderiest” delivery yet, this is one of the most well-rounded servings on the record. It’s teetering on the edge of insanity. While it’s lyrically about as textbook as you can get, the greatest miracle of all is how this band can just keep making very similar songs again and again and have it still be a smashing success every time. The track keeps growing and building and evolving into a more horrifying beast, another standout. The hits keep on coming as title track “Chaos Horrific” rears its ugly visage. An instant headbanger, maybe the most intense track of the record yet. Uncompromising, all consuming, decapitator of a number. Each successive song somehow manages to out-do or top its predecessor in some way. This might be the cream of the bloody crop. Whatever the small alien spaceship-sounding guitar interlude bit was, I’d like more of it please.

“Fracture And Refracture” is admittedly one of the weaker cuts on the record, but that’s like saying a steak knife isn’t as strong as a butcher knife. When used properly it can cut just as deep. While it’s not reinventing the wheel, it’s a track that does build and grow in intensity and keeps the album in a perpetual state of momentum containing its warpath on the listener, and contains another one of the coolest solos on the record.  “Pitchfork Impalement” is the second shortest cut on the record, and has one of the most uncompromising and definitive grooves on the record. This band is such a well-oiled machine. Most groups suffer when all the noise blends together but this metal militia is like a swarm of wasps. While distinct and can be pinpointed individually, and can attack indiscriminately, the wasps move with one goal in mind, to destroy, and these absolute monsters do the same.

“Pestilential Rictus” has perhaps Corpsegrinder’s most savage vocal delivery on the whole project. Some of the best change ups and grooves on the album unfurl and unravel here and George continues to prove he is the corpse that keeps on grinding (I guess?). There arguably isn’t a tighter band out there. Ending cut “Drain You Empty” begins slow and methodical as the drums begin to grow and protrude out from underneath the track as Corpsegrinder croons a disgusting string of vile vocal verbiage. The rest of the song erupts abruptly like a Xenomorph chestburster aboard the Nostromo. The last three minutes of the song equate to what it’s like being inside a bronze bull after it’s reached its maximum heat capacity. This song and record as a whole are pain and punishment incarnate. These guys are like the energizer bunny of extreme metal; they have a never ending supply of brutality and blunt force trauma. What a ride, the final minute of the ending begins with a brutal filthy breakdown that brings the track and album itself to its ultimate deletion. As the overlaid guitar rhythm, grinding bass, thumping drums and Corpse’s vocal musings bring the record to an abrupt but satisfying conclusion.

For a band so infamous for not evolving their sound, it’s never really affected them in a negative way. In the same way AC/DC is the standard for hard rock, and Bad Religion is the epitome of skate punk, Cannibal Corpse has their sound palette, aesthetic, and style perfected. They leave just enough room for minor reworkings and innovation, but spend their time grinding away and sharpening the same weapon so it can be even more effective in dealing the killing blow. Can I say this is their greatest record? No, I can’t say that but it’s debatable. To contradict my prior praise for CC’s continued retreading and perfecting of their sound, that same lack of musical innovation makes it hard for me to give this project a similarly perfect score, but I can still give it something close. With them being one of the most iconic and enduring metal acts going, similar to mainstream icons like Metallica and similarly extreme contemporaries like Cattle Decapitation, no matter what they put out will inevitably have eyes on it. Call it anticlimactic but the overall answer here is, if you love Cannibal Corpse, then you’ll love this record. If you like them, chances are you’ll like it. If you’re not a fan, then this release won’t convert you. As mentioned earlier, even though it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, Cannibal Corpse shows their continued improvement as musicians, and display their tightness, ferocity and ability to deliver compelling performances across this record. It’s one release this year that shouldn’t be missed. No shock, it’s a bloody good time.

4.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

 

Top tracks: “Chaos Horrific”, “Vengeful Invasion”, “Pestilential Rictus”, & “Summoned For Sacrifice”

Chaos Horrific will be released September 22nd 2023 via Metal Blade Records.

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