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Nightmare Fuel, Vol. 12 - 88%

GiantRex, April 16th, 2012

I find it astonishing that Cannibal Corpse can continue to release records of new material after all this time. Really, one would think that they had done it all, and in some ways I suppose they have. Their saving grace, however, comes in the form of a seemingly endless supply of ideas of how to torture and murder people, and the ability to expand upon their already well-established sound. Oddly, coming with their longevity is the ability to derive influences from their previous work. Musically, the content of Torture is something like a fusion of the likes of Kill and Evisceration Plague with their releases from Gallery of Suicide through Gore Obsessed.

I have no doubt that the above description sounds downright strange to many. Honestly, I think it sounds strange, too. Although the sound you get out of this record is signature Cannibal Corpse, the blend of styles is like nothing they've done before. Whereas Kill and Evisceration Plague seemed to be more focused on aggression and technicality, the band's releases at the end of the last millennium showcased their ability to sound creepy and sickening while remaining firmly in their death metal roots. Torture seems to be the result of combining the sounds of those two eras. The instrumental passages vary between blistering and crawling in pace, and between violent and foreboding in tone. Lyrically and aesthetically, this is the most disgusting album the band has released since The Wretched Spawn, but features a tactfully restrained vocal performance so as to put more emphasis on the instrumentation.

The production quality is also unlike anything the band has done before, featuring an extraordinarily heavy dose of bass and a bizarre, distant buzz for the guitars. The production is not as clean and sterile as, say, Kill, but it works in the band's benefit by making them sound less like a threshing machine and more like an actual band. The change in production style is evident from the very beginning. Demented Aggression leads off the album by getting directly to the the point in demonstrating the changes in style and tone, yet still maintaining death metal brutality throughout.

Interestingly, the band opted against having the usual crusher as the second track on the album, and instead the opener is followed by two slower, mid-paced tracks, both heavy on groove. Sarcophagic Frenzy is the faster of the two, featuring classic lyrics about eating people and steady, churning riffs. Scourge of Iron, the latter and slower of the two, is the song that most fully demonstrates the tonal focus of the album. The slow, chugging main riff of the song is highly atypical of the band, reminiscent of the odd title track from the previous album and the excellent instrumental From Skin to Liquid, released more than a decade prior. The similarities between this album and Gallery of Suicide can really be heard here, with Scourge of Iron producing the same sickening and unsettling overtones as did many of the tracks on Gallery. I, for one, really like it.

The mandatory crushing track on this album is Encased in Concrete, and to be blunt, it's outstanding. The lead that opens the song is phenomenal. The pace is unrelenting, the riffs make you want to bang your head until it falls off, but most importantly, the song doesn't drown in its own technicality like many Cannibal Corpse songs in recent years. The chorus is memorable, and riff underlying it is effective but simple enough that one can easily recall it, in many ways the antithesis of songs such as Frantic Disembowelment. Of what remains on the album, the track which stands out to me the most is Intestinal Crank, which in my opinion wins the title for the most sickening song Cannibal Corpse has produced in nearly ten years. Again, this song features the same sickly overtones characteristic of Gallery of Suicide, but mixed with outright brutality. The result is simply glorious.

The album has few downsides, the only one immediately coming to mind being the inanity of some of the lyrics. Torn Through is the biggest offender, which unfortunately concludes the album on a bad note with the ridiculous kill countdown lyrics. If what we received here was the best that the band could do, I would much rather have simply had the remainder of the song be instrumental and maybe feature a solo or two. The other notable offender is As Deep As the Knife Will Go, which has a less-than-compelling chorus tracked over a rather dull tremolo riff.

Ultimately, Torture is a good album. I might even go as far to say that it's a very good album, but I think that might be slightly overkill. It's not an all-time great, but it is completely solid and respectable. Most notably, it features a minor shift in sound for the band, one that was much-needed and executed exceptionally well. I certainly hope that these guys have another record or two left in them, and until then, I'll enjoy my nightmares about having my intestines ripped out with a winch.