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If there is a single word that would describe the whole scope of Cannibal Corpse's 5th LP and Corpsegrinder's debut with the band, it would be "gratuitous". This should naturally come into play when seeing the original, uncensored version of the album art, which not only succeeds at completely defying the realms of believability, but actually crosses over into the realm of blatant self-parody. It is fairly reminiscent of the comical element of lower budget horror movies like "Piranha" where the intent is a parody of an existing horror movie institution (aka Steven Spielberg and the "Jaws" movies), but the problem is that the handiwork found on here is not attributable to any other outfit except for the culprits themselves, both visually and sound wise. Speaking of the famed carnivorous fish flick, the whole of this album could be likened to that singular incident where poor, hapless party guy played by Jerry O'Connell literally gets his member chewed up, goofy gore for the sheer sake of it with little accounting for order or dramatic effect.
Not a band to be hampered by an elaborate introduction, this chaotic fit of spastic mania kicks off with a simple 1-2-3-4 count on the drums and proceeds to throw every possible trick in the trade at the listener in the first 30 seconds. "Devoured By Vermin" proves to make itself distinct from the bunch simply by being the first song, and walks a familiar road of speedy, thrash-infused Slayer worship meets heavier than an anvil brutality in the guitar tone with a groove based, almost Pantera inspired breakdown in the middle. But whereas later albums starring Corpsegrinder's nasty barks would keep some semblance of coherence in play, this just doubles down on everything, including some ill-timed beat shifts. Sure, this hits the listener like a ton of bricks and definitely reassures all concerned parties that Chris Barnes wasn't the only thing driving this band, but there is literally nothing to grab onto aside from a few scattered riffs amid the mush and a lot of impressive shred solos that generally come with every album put out with the CC moniker.
Interestingly enough, one of the chief weaknesses of the Barnes era actually ended up being corrected on this album, though it came with most of the band's former strengths leaving. The guitar sound on here is a far more meaty and not possessed of that tinny, almost "...And Justice For All" character that made "Butchered At Birth" grating, and the drum sound has also gotten a good bit more thunderous, though this would improve even further on subsequent releases. If this production job had been done on "The Bleeding", it may well have been the best album that this band ever put out, while still being reminiscent of the band's latent thrash metal influences which were much more of a factor in the earlier 90s death metal sound. Corpsegrinder's vocals come off as a bit predictable and rhythmic within the context of the jarring mess of riffs and beats surrounding him, which actually tends to help keep things from becoming outright indigestible.
There are really only 2 songs on here that don't disappear up the band's ghoulish rectum with too many ideas and overly comical lyrical content. The first of them is "Disfigured", which comes off as being more of an extreme groove number than a violent thrasher. Largely this album tends to avoid the groove-infused tendencies of their infamous rival Six Feet Under, but this one sounds like it could have found a place on said band's debut "Haunted". The other, "Monolith", actually makes itself distinct by going the opposite road and throws an epic array of technical riff work and crazed blast beats, compressed into a sub-5 minute time length, and paints a pretty intricate picture of a zombie-apocalypse brought about by the appearance of the same object that caused human evolution in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey".
At the end of the day, this thing spends way too much time trying to be repulsive and actually ends up being overly comical and annoying as a result. Much like poorly conceived b-horror movies that degenerate into slapstick territory, this album may come across as insidious and masterful at first listen, but turns stale as soon as a repeated listen ensues. It doesn't have the subtle charm that would otherwise give it a cult-like status in the same vein as the comparable 70s horror flick mentioned earlier ("Piranha"), which has been remade way too many times as it is. In fact, in that particular respect, this album suffers from a similar dilemma, since one can't help but notice a lot of the glaring problems with modern brutal death metal being present on here once you tune out the guitar solos.