Cannibal Corpse are one of the most influential death metal bands of all time—full stop. Metal has evolved dramatically since the 1990 release of their debut album, Eaten Back to Life, and though it might once have been true, they are no longer the most extreme band cranking it out. Yet they more than make up for that with chainsaw-sharp production value and decades of experience writing songs. This is the key to the success of their sixteenth album, Chaos Horrific. Though some younger bands might be preoccupied achieving the sound of Cannibal Corpse, George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher and company are focused on more than simply dialing in the same old same old approach with each new album. After 35 years, we might know what to expect on some level, but that doesn’t mean Cannibal Corpse are recycling their riffs.
One element helping to keep things fresh is the addition of Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal) as a permanent member of the band, returning for his second album with them after 2021’s Violence Unimagined. It’s also the sixth album Rutan has produced for the band. He continues to further sharpen Cannibal Corpse’s buzzsaw sound, while dialing every instrument perfectly into the density of the songs’ blunt force trauma. You can also hear, among the chaotic horror that unfolds, how the more melodic elements of Rutan’s playing fuse tighter with guitarist Rob Barrett’s riff-minded attack. By the time this more refined heaviness has been hammered into you on “Blood Blind,” it’s clear the band is operating at peak performance. The purposeful riffing is engaging, thanks to Rutan and Barrett balancing out Fisher’s guttural utterances, allowing for a little more melody, as the vocals serve as more of a percussive instrument.
Cannibal Corpse’s original vocalist, Chris Barnes, was more interested in plunging deeper into depraved tales of repugnant gore during his tenure with the band. But here, a closer listen to songs like “Vengeful Invasion,” though still violent, tell a story, such as that of a child sold into human trafficking returning to mutilate their former captors. How seriously can you take this brand of death metal? About as seriously as one might take the rapid-fire blitz of blood-soaked riffs accompanying “Fracture and Refracture,” whose tale involves a psychopathic surgeon who makes art from his malpractice. Unlike Morbid Angel or Deicide, Cannibal Corpse worship at the altar of horror movie gore rather than invoking Ancient Ones or branding upside down crosses into their heads in honor of Satan.
They also don’t throw dozens of winding riffs at you in the course of the single song, instead reaching a balance in their brutality. The more deliberate moments like those captured in “Drain You Empty” prove they’ve evolved beyond monochrome hyper-aggression. The songs are splattered in a similar shade of blood red, but in a manner that allows them to stand on their own merit. Though this has been an impressive year for death metal—Frozen Soul, Horrendous, Outer Heaven, Creeping Death, Liquid Flesh and Sansuisugabogg all having released killer albums in the past nine months. But the influence of Cannibal Corpse can be heard in varying degrees with each of those bands. With Chaos Horrific, they have fine-tuned their classic sound to prove that there is still some life left in their path of death.
Label: Metal Blade
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