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I count myself among a number of people who were skeptical of this album based off the derivative and pretty flawed single that was marched out about a month or so ago in “Demented Aggression”. Self-plagiarism has been Cannibal Corpse’s stock and trade for several years now, but they’d always carried it fairly well by delivering a largely consistent quality of produce. But what greeted my ears a short while back that also happens to be the lead off song of this 12th album was a haggard, lackluster, almost outright clumsy attempt to turn the clock back a few years. The production was off, Corpsegrinder’s vocals came off tired and hoarse, and staleness was the basic order of the 3 minute duration.
However, the bulk of “Torture” is a bit of a grower, and despite some pretty glaring flaws still manages to deliver in spite of itself. The most difficult thing to get past is the guitar sound, which goes way overboard on the compressed distortion and sludgy bass tone and actually manages to accomplish the exact opposite extreme of what plagued “Butchered At Birth”, namely a sharp collection of metallic tin. A good analogy would be to the villain of the popular “Hatchet” movies Victor Crowley, being all meat and muscles and little else. Granted, this band is not really known for being much more than a one-trick pony, but here the auditory results lack any sense of tact or buildup in terror.
Amid the sea of non-metaphorical references of blood-drenched mayhem out of a slasher-flick minus the character development is actually an impressive collection of riffs and solos which salvages a weak exterior. “Intestinal Crank” and “Encased In Concrete” are early examples in this collection to play the chaotic chromatic game, firing forth a mess of dissonant tones , strung together like a monument of cadaver parts and cauterized with a blast of combusting lead guitar lines that reach all the way back to “Eaten Back To Life”. There’s also a heavy amount of gallop happy riffing on here, as heard on “The Strangulation Chair” and some all out speed thrashing as on “Rabid” that actually lean back musically to the finer moments of Chris Barnes’ tenure with the band.
The final impression left by this album is somewhat confuted, as if they wanted to get back to their roots yet still be overtly modern. If the guitar sound had been a bit less obnoxiously low end and the vocals a bit less throaty and scratchy, this album might have edged out “Kill” and been the best thing put out in about 12 years. The good definitely outweighs the bad and the cadavers are clearly convulsing in their usually grim fashion. But much like the latter sequels in the “Saw” series, it gets a bit too predictable for its own good and comparisons to past work become inescapably linked to the first impression it leaves. Another great album is definitely not outside the realm of possibility for this band, but they’ve come up just a tad bit short of that here.