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Wow, their twelfth full length album. If you haven’t given it up for Cannibal Corpse by this point you’re probably being a stuck up prick. They’ve been doing their thing for over twenty years now and Torture is more proof that they’re, whether you like it or not, here to stay. Yup, this album offers nothing but the tried and true Cannibal Corpse promise, and in a very focused way at that.
Basically everything about Torture is a little bit better than the past few albums, and that’s not to discredit them. It seems the goal here was to give each song its own identity; instead of having ‘that fast song’ and then ‘that slow song’, most tracks on the album vary in pace and the foundation of their brutality is in their contrasts. There are no very short songs like usual (all of them over three minutes) and perhaps this has something to do with the overall developed sound of the album. Demented Aggression seems like the most logical starting point when talking about the music, since it’s the opener and does well to exemplify the general approach of the album. Starting at characteristic breakneck speed, we’re soon treated to some of Corpsegrinder’s fastest verses (which is obviously saying a lot), but it isn’t until the “I don’t think you’ll live” breakdown until we realize the jarring heaviness at hand. By now you’ve also probably noted the prominent bass sound. This is something I especially rejoiced in, since I was somewhat dismayed that it was all but lost in the mix of Evisceration Plague, and Alex Webster is definitely one of my favourite extreme metal bassists. Rarely does it take the spotlight (the huge bass fill in The Strangulation Chair being a noted exception. Seriously, this sounds as if Geddy Lee just snorted a fat line of coke), but just listen to how much more of an edge it gives to ultra-heavy moments like the recurring break in Sarcophagic Frenzy, or the monolithically heavy Scourge of Iron.
This is the first Cannibal Corpse album since probably The Wretched Spawn in which I love every single song. It’s got to be one of their most consistent albums, but that isn’t to say it doesn’t have standout moments. If I had to pick a favourite, I’d probably go with Encased in Concrete, a Rob Barrett song, because everything about it is purely classic Cannibal Corpse. Ripping into a sick riff, we’re immediately flung into a frenzy of Slayer guitar leads. Equipped with fast verses, the best chorus on the album, and a repeated bass-heavy breakdown, I’m sure this one will be a live staple for years to come. It’s also such a pleasure to still hear Corpsegrinder repeatedly shrieking the song title after all these years.
Of course it’s ludicrous to suggest that pace is the only thing that distinguishes this album amongst others, but frankly I don’t find it very important to distinguish Cannibal Corpse albums. Everyone knows what to expect and Torture is certainly no exception to this rule. That said, I can’t see this album selling you to the band if you’ve already dismissed them years ago. Conversely, I don’t see how this could possibly disappoint ardent and passive fans alike. I don’t think it could be justly argued that the musicianship has taken any dip whatsoever in quality. O’Brien’s technicality and precision is still scary good (best showcased on his songs Demented Aggression and Torn Through), Alex Webster has long been my favourite songwriter of the band, and he’s produced some really great ones here like Scourge of Iron and Intestinal Crank, the latter somehow reminds me of Butchered at Birth. There’s no sign of Corpsegrinder’s vocals declining at all, and while there’s strangely no prolonged high shrieks on the album, his performance is completely solid throughout.
It’s reassuring to see Cannibal Corpse in such top notch shape. While 2011 regrettably saw the fall of Morbid Angel, I’m glad that we can still rely on some of the forefathers. There’s really no sign of them letting up, in fact Scourge of Iron has to be among the heaviest songs they’ve ever mustered. People talk about Cannibal’s unchanging approach to death metal as if it’s detrimental to their enjoyment. When the result is an album like this, I wouldn’t have it any other way.