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I’ve never been as confused by the vague criticisms of the metal nerd masses as the inevitable shit-spray surrounding each new release by venerated death metal veterans Cannibal Corpse. They have never relented from the path of brutality that they themselves helped create, with energy, drive, and consistency that puts to shame bands less than half their age. The loud, prevalent condemnations of dullness and repetition are downright laughable, as if the band have stagnated in their consistent quest of refinement. Lest we forget, this band you refer to as generic actually helped form this scene. Indeed, there is admittedly an overwhelming familiarity to the proceedings here on Torture, but only in that it continues to pound your face into the dust with trademark semi-technical precision and strong, evil riffing patterns. It’s a Cannibal Corpse album. Did you misread the label?
Another fun, and popular, opinion, which I see every time a new Corpse album is birthed, is that “They’re finally back!” That’s great, except, they never left. You obviously haven’t been listening. Every album the band has put out since Gallery of Suicide has been a clinic in how to write solid death metal. In fact, Torture is verily no different than Evisceration Plague or Kill in overall sound and effect, in that it’s a well-produced onslaught of pestilent, powerful songs, grinding and slamming along with practiced and professional force. Yes, Cannibal Corpse continues to write Cannibal Corpse songs, how about that? If you’re somehow expecting something different, then that’s your fault, and hardly that of the band. I can see how the continued similarities can fuel the above argument concerning stagnation, but I come to Cannibal Corpse to get my ass handed to me by fun, brutal songs that act like short stories in the career of a serial murderer, and in that respect, Torture more than delivers. All of the songs here are unerringly good. I also enjoy the ‘they haven’t been good since Barnes’ argument. Have you heard the first few Cannibal Corpse albums? Yes, indeed, they are quite brutal, but the songwriting and riffing are nowhere near as strong as anything the band has done post-Vile, and Corpsegrinder continues to add a nice rhythmic punch with his trademark grunts.
As you’d expect, Torture is a mid to fast paced clinic of roiling, savage, lightly technical death metal, never showing off, but always impressing. The songs are always built around a veritable army of excellent riffs, courtesy of Rob Barrett and Pat O’Brien, from choppy mutes to fibrous, spindly fret-work to sheering waves of tremolo carnage. Alex Webster is his typically mind-blowing self, reprising his role as one of the best (read: only) lead bass players in death metal, spiraling off away from the riffs on his own spidery, virtuosic tangents, always adding another delicious layer to the songs. He’s particularly out there on The Strangulation Chair, with a short tapping solo that had my jaw resting on the keyboard. Paul Mazurkiewicz is just as solid as ever, an unyielding backbone that stays straight and true no matter how twisted the riffing metamorphosis becomes. Lyrics are as fun as usual, tales of, well, torture, rage and psychosis, simple and animalistic, a perfect companion to the songs.
As previously stated, this is as strong a collection of tracks as we could have asked for, especially wowing considering how deep into the Corpse career we currently are, this being album number 12. The fiery, desecrating grooves of As Deep As The Knife Will Go, the lumbering zombie rhythms that dominate the mid-paced Scourge of Iron, the cyclical, pounding carnage of Crucifier Avenged, the cold mechanical boring of Intestinal Crank, the measured, threatening gallop of Torn Through… there isn’t a single chink the armor here, and even though the overall impact is not quite as strong as a number of their past records, there is nothing to all to scoff at, and indeed, you could easily dislocate your neck headbanging to these ferocious summonings.
There isn’t a whole lot else to say concerning how Torture sounds, because you know how it sounds, a smattering of decrepit evil across a variety of tempos and riffing backdrops. Overall, I think it’s just a hair less compelling than it’s direct predecessor, Evisceration Plague, and it’s certainly not a reinvention for the band, so stop pretending it is. Or, if the fact that Corpse are still unerringly Corpse frustrates you, if you require the band to meaningfully evolve, I must humbly suggest you get the fuck away from me, because you’re an asshole, and your head likely smells similar to those boxers you’ve been wearing for 4 days. This is indeed business as usual, but that roughly translates to another dose of balls-out, belligerent, measured, fantastically talented death metal, and that’s all it strives to be. That’s all that it has ever strived to be, and there’s a very good reason Corpse are one of the most appreciated death metal bands on the planet, with legions of ravenous fans. Where you see complacency, exists only consistency, and anyone seeking straight-forward, throat-ripping death metal need look no further. Cannibal Corpse are at the point where they have nothing to prove to anyone, but that isn’t stopping them from releasing some of their strongest material to date, an album that stands shoulder to shoulder with anyone else in the genre. So go on, relax that sphincter, pull the broom out, and let your no doubt pre-conceived opinion wash away in a satisfying flood of classic brutality.
-Left Hand of Dog