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Avid slasher movie fans will no doubt be drawn to the signature homage to a number of death scenes in the "Friday The 13th" series, but circa 1990 the British born Cancer was a newcomer that couldn't quite boast such an impressive following as said horror institution. In typical fashion for the early days of the genre, this band plays in a similar mode to a number of more extreme thrash metal bands, highlighting a crisp, slender punch to their production that isn't quite as dank and muddy as would become commonplace a little further down the line. In fact, one could rightly argue that the very conventional approach taken on "To The Gory End" might be to blame for the band not becoming the longstanding institution that Benediction or Sepultura would, despite sounding no less competent and aggressive at their craft.
The general feel of this album is fast and furious, taking some obvious cues from "Schizophrenia" and "Beneath The Remains", though upping the ante in a few respects. Vocalist John Walker has something more akin to a Carcass-growl quality to his voice, adding an eerie sort of whispered character to a sound that is anything but subtle. Combined with a guitar sound that's brutally heavy enough to stand toe to toe with Cannibal Corpse's "Eaten Back To Life", but cohesive enough to resemble the early works of Death, it straddles that thin line separating the 80s sound from that of the 90s and offers up an interesting mix of technical flair and brevity. The lead guitar work takes on a much more orthodox character in line with the noisy, wild character of Kerry King, in contrast to the riff work which is a bit more restrained and groove oriented than the tremolo-drenched tendencies of "Reign Of Blood".
The songs themselves stand quite strong, though when taken as a whole, this album does tend to sound largely the same and doesn't quite meet the mark of a varied effort. Shorter blazers such as "C.F.C." and "Into The Acid" definitely have their points of interest and do a good job of combining slower, groovier breakdowns along with the merciless slaughter of speed that goes with the Death and Sepultura influences going on here. The most intricate and elongated of these 9 chapters "Imminent Catastrophe" follows the same basic pattern of chaos with a few moments of half-time, though taking on a little bit more of a sorrowful, doom quality. Ultimately the one song that truly shows some real staying power is the title number "To The Gory End", which introduces itself with a creepy synthesizer theme before launching into a mixture of blinding fury and Metallica styled mid-tempo nastiness with some atmospheric clean guitar elements. At times, one can hear elements of what would be incorporated into the early black metal works of Gorgoroth, Darkthrone and Immortal going on in this song, though missing the characteristic frosty feel of the guitars.
With a renewed interest in older thrash and death metal going on of late, it would be nice to see a largely unsung album finally get some much needed love, and this is among the more eligible candidates insofar as the early 90s goes. It's not quite as captivating and gripping as their magnum opus "Death Shall Rise", but it is cut from a similar grain. It should particularly catch the eye of anyone with a love for the production work of Scott Burns, whose brilliant sense of balance brings otherwise average songs such as "Sentenced To The Gallows" that extra combination of fright and brutality by establishing a clear separation between the pounding electric guitars and the smoothness of the occasional non-distorted or acoustic one. The fact that the man depicting on the album art is about to lose his face should not mean that this fine collection of songs should remain without one to the general death metal public.
Cancer was definitely among those 20-30 formative death metal acts around the dawn of the 90s that you thought big things might happen for. Not that they were particularly special or impressive next to their far more crushing UK peers like Bolt Thrower, Benediction or Carcass, but they got in there early enough among the fans of heavier thrash and proto-death that you could see their logo turning up at gigs, their albums out in the local specialty shops. They had also managed to snag one of the more obvious and sought after monikers for the genre, which goes a lot further than you'd think in terms of accessibility when penetrating an audience, even in the underground. Their debut To the Gory End, while not their best album (that honor should go to its followup Death Shall Rises), was a reasonably primal hybrid of the death and thrash genres that always reminds me very heavily of another, more popular act from this period...
And that would be Brazilians Sepultura, circa 1987-1989. A lot of this probably has to do with the mix and production, in particular the guitar tone; both To the Gory End and Beneath the Remains were produced by Scott Burns, after all. There's a nice wash of fuzz on the guitar that gives it that same sepulchral, ripping and downtrodden feel like trudging through a decaying bog full of rotted, half-submerged coffins. However, I also found that the fiber of both the mid-paced thrashing riffs and the faster, tremolo bits were quite similar in how they were composed, perhaps with a few touches of the similar Slowly We Rot by Obituary. This was not a time when many albums were 'fully committed' to either one genre or the other, so Cancer pretty evenly distribute the riffs between the palm muted mosh pit hymnals and the faster paced picking that bands like Slayer and Death brought into the mainstream. The bass is very plunky and difficult to distinguish from the rhythm guitar, but the drums here had begun to incorporate a lot of the double bass and a few of the later crossover-charge beats that would eventually transform into the blast beat. Vocally, I was more reminded of Altars of Madness-era David Vincent than Max Cavalera, if not as ghastly; John Walker has a nice, bloody sneer to his gutturals that keeps them in an admittedly mid ranged pitch.
One of my favorite tracks here has always been the title cut, which opens with a menacing, symphonic synth and barrels through a number of potent riffing sequences, especially the frenetic speed/thrash played out below the vocals in the verse, but there are a number of other cool bits like "Body Count", "Into the Acid" or the spectral "Sentenced to the Gallows" with its threads of cleaner, eerie guitars that glide above the rhythm chords. To be honest, though, even these better pieces don't exactly resonate for very long in the memory, even though they still sound fresh whenever I return for another listen. The leads, where they appear, are fairly wild and zippy, but I always felt like there was simply a layer of atmosphere missing that would have made the lion's share of tracks more ominous and aggressive. As it stands, To the Gory End feels rather stripped in its delivery, and it doesn't have that riff for riff quality you'd recognize from, say, Schizophrenia, Consuming Impulse, Leprosy or Beneath the Remains. Half the tracks were pretty average even for a time in which the very notion of death metal was still a novelty, while the other half were decent enough to hint at a glimpse of future potential.
Lyrics involve, as you might expect from looking at the cover (which was censored in some markets), serial killers, murder, butchery, and hell, even hanging ("Sentenced to the Gallows"); the title track is even a tribute to the Hellraiser film series, so the horror influence is overt. All told, a fairly humble debut which was simply and understandably outdistanced, outclass and out-brutalized by other albums of its age, but probably worth a listen if you're into transitional death/thrash hybrids like Sepultura, Assorted Heap, Sadus, Protector and so forth.
I'm quite surprised that "To the gory end" isn't the well established album I thought it was going to be at the time of its release. Being from the U.K myself (along with the band) I was probably one of a handful to have actually have heard of this band, the rest of the world didn't catch on until much later mainly because of later releases, or simply because nowadays people are falling back into love with the oldschool death sound. "To the gory end" sure isn't no masterpiece but it is extremely catchy and the deliverence actually sounds evil! (Bands today take notes.) You can probably fire off a whole list of classic death metal albums from the 90/91 period and there are moments when this album shines, or in other cases more deservingly takes a backseat to whatever else was going on. I like this album but would I reach for it other "Testimony of the ancients" or "Spiritual healing"? Probably not but then again at the same time I would say it was just as listenable as "Human" which spawned a profound impact with in death metal, but I'm the one of a handul who does not think that album is one of the best of all time.
The album is quite simplistic...well when you compare it to the proggy jazz-infused death of the day, but for all intents and purposes this is a good portion of vicious metal. Vicious meaning to describe those vocals which surprisingly aren't to everybody's tastes, but I will claim the contrary they sound fucking evil, and if death metal does not want to strive to sound evil, then yes I have lost touch with the genre and I'm probably going to be perceived as a grumpy know-it-all. The guitars aren't extraordinary when it comes to the genre, but they have that robotic, detached feel to them but there are some more expressive riffs about the place, and this album is not bland nor faceless like some of the more exposed groups, where death metal had moved from the seedy back alleys to the college common room. Some tracks are more in place with thrash roots "CFC" springing to mind particularly. Some of the vocal lines remind me of something from "Morbid Visions" and although I am again one of a handful who doesn't dig that album, I always did appreciate the vocals and still do. "Into the acid" is still brutal but is what I like to call one of the mood setters. From the opening riff to the delayed drum beats, you know this is building up into something worthy of a headbang, and it reminds me of Critical Mass. "Sentenced to the gallows" carries on somewhat with the suspense with a mild acoustic passage playing as the opening electric power chords ring out, and when I hear this song I can imagine an awry execution scene from the dark ages. There are some other catchy songs, but that is all they are such as "Body count" good to bob the head along to but perhaps forgotten until you return back to the album.
I'm not really sure who to recommend this to, because I'm quite diverse in my tastes as well. But this is a breath of fresh air from some of the more intelligent death metal at the time, not to say this is a dumb and clumsy record. But I don't know if I would point a fan of Atheist or Pestilence post "Consuming Impulse" this way, but I like all that stuff man so who cares. This album is for a rainy evening with the boys, a few oldschool thrash records, and a few crates of headache inducing cider. Do enjoy...
It was the cover that got me interested at first, but hey, the classic zombie movie 'Dawn of the Dead' by George A. Romero was, and still is, my top-5 films ever. Then I read the name Cancer and the title of the album... Plus, if you got song titles such as 'Into the Acid', 'Witch Hunt' and 'Die Die', it must be good, right?! Damn right! The heaviest shit I listened to back then was ***censored to keep reviewer's credibility somehow intact***, so this was definitely something new.
Anyways, together with their countrymen Benediction, Cancer was my first touch with English death metal. Both of the bands had similar work ethics: Simple in-yer-face yet catchy song writing, and ominous/sick/eerie feel to the music. "Simple" does not mean boring, it means massive danger of infection. The riffs can be dangerous, sick and haunting. The guitar solos are pure reverbed insanity. The rhythms are straight and tempos can escalate from mid-paced to quite fast drumming for a death metal album recorded in late 80's. I still would not say Cancer had any punk influences, regardless of their simplistic methods to make music. It's never that simplistic, no! There are more than two chords and parts on the songs, you see... The vocals of John Walker (also guitar) are certainly very similar to Carcass' Jeff Walker (I think they aren't related), sounding like infected, mucous throat. So no low growling here, and definitely no clean vocals. Musicians' performances are very good and powerful. Small extra spices bringing in more atmoshere, such as acoustic guitar and keyboards, can be heard on a few occasions.
Soundwise the album is quite live. The loud drums are lifted to the front of the mix. My only nag is the plastic bucket sound of the tom drums. The guitar is shredding and ripping. The bass is a tad lost in the mix, especially during double kick drums beats. But the bass farts in there somewhere... The vocals fit well with the music, sticking out like that machete on a head on the cover. The cover painting is actually bloody awful. Or more like distressing. I wouldn't pin a poster of this cover on my wall. The band's logo is pretty satanic with its Lucifer's tail kind of hooks on the letters. The lyrics are also simplistic, but pretty varied thematically: 'Hellraiser' movies, witch hunts, and dying in different ways.
Even though I'm trying to write something about a truly classic release, I find it quite hard to do. But just like with the compositions and performances here, maybe less is more. This is a great death metal album, and everyone who loves the style must own, or be sentenced to the gallows...
The point is that most bands playing death or thrash metal would find it extremely easy to play a cover version of any song from the Cancer debut “To The Gory End”. Death metal can hardly be simpler. Yet the songs are finished and perfect the way they are. Sometimes catchy, sometimes fast but mostly very brutal and all memorable.This is just maximum efficiency.
The production is suiting. Everything is hearable yet the whole concept is vile, dirty and characteristic. On vinyl the album comes to life even more than on CD. Also the vocals are eerie. A light weight grunt is combined with raspy creepiness, resulting in a great voice fitting the music extremely well.
The album as a whole is a nice trip and specific highlights would be the best two songs “Cancer Fucking Cancer” and “Into The Acid” with opener “Bloodbath” and “To The Gory End” following closely.
Everything falls into place here. The production, the songwriting, the vocals. The whole concept makes sense and still is enjoyable and brutal after all these years. Too bad this band never broke through or released anything this good again. A forgotten early death metal classic.
This is just a very memorable and catchy album, and should of be more recognized by the metal community. Cancer's sound on their debut is really crushing, and highly distinct. Like others have stated the vocals are low, but for the better, its a key element of their sound. Even if you aren't liking them at first, I am pretty sure they'll grow on you. John's voice is extremely viscous, evil, and nice and out of the ordinary. The drums are perfect, almost sounds like gunshots, with some impressive double-bass moments. Riffing is very strong indeed, sorta reminds me of Death's first two albums. You can hear the thrash influence as well. The lyrics as you probably can tell by the album name, are pretty cheesy, but are very suiting for the music and are somewhat original. It was recorded in 89', and only a few others were including such graphic and violent lyrics in death metal. The solos are pretty raw and ruff around the edges, maybe could have been a little better. I was very impressed by how heavy this was, guitar tone is top of the line, and reminds me not only of Scott's mixing on "Harmony Corruption", but Master's s/t especially.
Withstands the test of time, in my opinion, without a doubt a classic. Old school death metal is the best of the best, and this is an excellent example of why. Highly recommend you track this down. Best tracks "Into The Acid", maybe the catchiest riff,"To The Gory End","Cancer Fucking Cancer",best chorus, as with "Die Die".
Death metal doesn't get much heavier (or better) than this!!! Sadly, this album seems to be almost unknown, as the one that followed ("Death Shall Rise") is their only release that got much noteriety (probably only because of James Murphy). This cd is excellent from start to finish, reeking of old-school death metal throughout. Vocally, it literally sounds like someone puking, though I personally think there's some "enhancement" (aka harmonizer) on the vocals. But, they sound so disgusting and fit PERFECTLY with the music. Most of the songs meander along a mid-pace level, with a few occasional fast breaks, and the riffs are purtely old school and non-technical. Alot of thrash influences can be heard as well. The guitar sound is SOOOOOOOO heavy, it's actually the same guitar sound (and probably same type of equipment) as "HC" by NAPALM DEATH (with the difference that you can actually HEAR the guitars!!). Well, I don't know what else to really say, but if you haven't heard this piece of death metal history yet, you've missed out big-time!!! Ignore all their other albums, this is their best by light years!!!
This release here is the debut cd from this death metal trio. Its actually performed quite well...I'm not as learned on death metal as some people, and BUT I'll make an exception for this album. There are enough good riffs here to keep me interested. Another good thing is that I'm not bombarded with non-stop blast beats or insane thrashing, mostly what we have here is mid-paced death metal. At any rate, not too much of it is blindingly fast. The sound is close to that of Obituary, soundwise. The songs are memorable though,..I don't know..I just remember them and I dont listen to this often!. My only problems are that the vocals aren't quite brutal enough for the music, it almost sounds like he's whispering some of the time, and the production could be more in your face, but I suppose this is good production for the time it was released. All in all, its still a pretty solid debut. Standouts include the title track, Witch Hunt, Cancer Fucking Cancer, and Immenent Catastrophe.