Cannibal Corpse - A Skeletal Domain 01As has been revealed since I jumped on board AMG’s ship of steel, I’m a bit out of touch. I was once an avid underground hound, sniffing out demo tapes, vinyl, VHS bootlegs, t-shirts and floppy 7 inches (no, not that kind). I ran a print ‘zine back in 1988 and resurrected it as a web zine a decade or so later and ran with that for another ten years or so. Our fearless and often fear-inducing leader, THE Angry Metal Guy, was one of my contributors. Life, as it tends to, got in the way… work, marriage, divorce, kids, remarriage, the joys and miseries of homeownership. I lost touch with the underground, as anyone who read the comments on my review of The Haunted‘s excellent Exit Wounds now knows. As Angry Metal Guy has pointed out a few times, the underground is still in me. I’ve noticed you touting it, AMG, and I appreciate it. I never stopped listening to metal, or loving it. Now I make a living as a full time musician (not metal) and one of my singers remarked this past week, “After a show I am wiped and tired and just want to get back to the hotel in peace and quiet, but [Al] gets in the car and immediately puts on death metal, full blast.” Yep, it’s in there and it’s never going away.

Why this long rambler? There’s another tidbit that escaped me as I drifted from the pulse of the underground: among a large faction of metalheads, Cannibal Corpse has passed out of vogue. I’m fully aware of the phenomena of a band achieving a level of commercial success and no longer being considered the REAL DEAL. That everyone here wasn’t scrambling to review the new Cannibal Corpse album came as a surprise to me. I remember reading about them in the pages of old metal rags when Eaten Back to Life first came out and they were being slagged left and right. People just didn’t get death metal yet. Fast forward 24 years and bands like Clit Mutilation and Guttural Secrete have taken Corpse‘s basic formula, unimaginable back in 1990, to even more vile depths. Through lineup changes and an ever shifting extreme metal climate, Cannibal Corpse themselves maintained a standard of brutality while pushing their style to new technical heights, sometimes at the expense of the songwriting, but always with an unwavering dedication to never selling out or getting less extreme.

Me, I’ve been a Cannibal fan for a long time. I even went on the Cannibal Corpse cruise around NYC two summers ago [Known locally as the ‘Corpse in the Water Cruise’ — Steel Druhm]. The Bleeding is, in my opinion, the Reign in Blood of death metal (though, of course many would argue that Reign in Blood isn’t the Reign in Blood of thrash metal, but it is). By the time of The Bleeding they had reached an amazing peak, so when Chris Barnes was out of the band soon after, I was sorely disappointed. Vile became Cannibal Corpse‘s Sound of White Noise to me. The first album without a beloved vocalist that, to this day, I can’t get over the bias and appreciate it. This is strange, since I’ve come to realize that George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher is twice the vocalist Barnes ever was. That folks STILL take part in the Barnes vs. Corpsegrinder debate just shows what an impact those formative Cannibal albums had, even though the subsequent discography has nary a stinker among it.

Cannibal Corpse - A Skeletal Domain 02

So, my rambling finally brings us to A Skeletal Domain, the new Cannibal Corpse splatter platter that I, in my cocoon of life, didn’t even know was due to drop until I saw it on our promo list. How is it? It’s pure Cannibal Corpse throughout. “High Impact Velocity Spatter” opens in standard fashion, coming out of the corner and bouncing a few times before letting loose a volley of punches in the form of blast beats, frantic riffing and the frenzied vocal delivery that Corpsegrinder brought back to the fold so many years ago. I’ve found latter-day  Cannibal Corpse to be at their most brutal when they slow things down a bit, like the title track to Evisceration Plague, and “Scourge of Iron” off 2012’s Torture. In that vein, the standout on A Skeletal Domain, for me, is “Kill or Become,” which alternates between a slow crushing groove and some nasty blasts and while sporting the most joyously sing-along moment of the album, “Fire up the chainsaw! Hack all their heads off! Fire up the chainsaw! Hack their fucking heads off!” Subtle? No, but then subtley has never been the Corpse‘s forte.

“The Murderer’s Pact” is a workout of articulation and finesse, especially showcasing Alex Webster’s ever impressive bass work. If there was a ‘bass hero’ in the genre, he’d certainly be it. There is some filler on this album. “Asphyxiate to Resuscitate” is an unmemorable affair that, despite having the feel of some the classic material off Butchered at Birth. Likewise, “Headlong into Carnage” is another by-the-numbers ditty that has all the trademarks of Cannibal Corpse but lacks the meat hooks to make it stick.  A Skeletal Domain showcases the sound they perfected over recent years but after so much consistency, I find myself craving something that pushes the envelope they helped to shape.

A Skeletal Domain isn’t going to win over any of  the band’s naysayers. All in all, it’s just another brick in the crematory wall that is Cannibal Corpse‘s legacy of gore and brutality. They’re a band that once set a new standard of depravity and pushed the envelope of death metal with catchy songwriting that made them stand out from their contemporaries and for that, we thank them. Yet, A Skeletal Domain is the first album by these veterans that feels overlong and in need of trimming. As much as their formula still works, it may be time for Cannibal Corpse to shake things up a bit. Then again, if they prefer to stick to the murder and pugilism, many will probably still embrace them with open arms as they punch us in the crotch again and again.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 4 |  Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: metalblade.com/cannibalcorpse  |  facebook.com/cannibalcorpse
Release Dates: EU: 2014.09.15  |  NA: 09.16.2014

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  • Lasse Momme

    lots of lukewarm reviews of this one so far, though I can’t help but be itching to get my hands on it personally. CC has been on a rolle pretty much since The Wretched Spawn and I just hope they’ll be able to keep up the momentum.

    • It’s not a bad album by any stretch. If you are a hardcore fan I think you will dig it.

      • Jack Tors

        Hardcore Fisher era fan that is will dig it. As an old school Barnes era fan I am not too fond of this new one.

  • T.J. Barber

    Ad it to the list of lukewarm releases from high profile bands this year.

    • Here’s Johnny

      You are so wrong, this is the best CC album in many a year!

  • Kronos

    This review pretty much sums up why we weren’t excited about this release; Cannibal Corpse is the AC/DC of death metal. Sure they’ve put out extremely important music in the past, and sure they haven’t changed their style or sold out, but they’ve been doing basically the same thing for 20 years, and, despite the fact that they’re fantastic at it, there are so many other things happening in death metal that I just don’t think a new CC album is worth my time, because I know it’s going to be a 3.0.

    • I thought Six Feet Under was the AC/DC of death metal!

      • HippieOfDeath

        Six Feet Under are the Mötley Crüe of Death Metal

      • Kronos

        Six feet under are the nickelback of death metal.

        Yeah they’re that bad.

        • Wow. You dropped the Nickelbomb.

        • GWW

          That is harsh. Check out Undead!~

  • replica

    I thought 2012’s Torture was a lot of fun. “As deep as the knife will go”, or whatever, was a great song. When they toured, however, Immolation outclassed them quite badly. Sure, it was loud. It was death metal. But in Cannibal Corpse fashion, all the songs sort of ran together. I ended up leaving early; the idea of a hotdog from the street vendor outside was more appealing. It sounds like this album, too, may lose out to street food.

    • I liked Torture too. And Immolation destroyed Napalm (as much fun as they were) and Cannibal on that tour. The new Immolation album is amazing. A+++++++++++++++++++, to quote Miss Shields from A Christmas Story.

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        Wow….. A stellar review and A Christmas Story quote?!? The humanity!!!!

        • Stuck, stuck, stuck STUCK!

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            There’s nothing more to say than, “gold!”

    • GWW

      That doesn’t sound that surprising.

  • Worldeater

    I can´t help myself, but CC always manages to put a smile on my face. I had to laugh real loud when listening to severed head stoning for the first time because i found the idea so delightfuly absurd. As long as the write songs like festering in the crypt or scourge of iron i will check out their new stuff.

    • There are some great tunes on the album. “Scourge of Iron” is one of my favorite later-day CC tunes!

  • Jack Tors

    Meh. I don’t care what anyone says. After Barnes was canned this band started to get way too technical and boring. This band used to be sick and twisted, like watching a horror movie in music form. They had a certain unknown about them. Now it’s just tough guy death metal with a dude spinning his head around and around for 60 minutes. The vocal patterns are very predictable and musically it’s just way too produced and overly technical. In a perfect world this band would get Jack Owen back, Chris Barnes back and go play the first 4 albums from front to back.

    For those dissing Six Feet Under you must have not heard the last 2 albums which are sick

    • I reviewed them and I concede they were better than most of the SFU stuff.

    • Jack Tors. T.O.R…. S.

      • Jack Tors

        =)

        • GWW

          The Saul Rosenberg of Death Metal.

      • jageorge72

        Ha! Jerky Boys > Cannibal Corpse!

    • Agree on all counts. I expect there’d be huge interest in that sort of reunion tour, though the main obstacle is likely the guys behind the decision to can Barnes initially (this means you, Paul).

      • Jack Tors

        I am not sure how big the demand would actually be for that. I know there are a lot of old school Corpse fans out there. But they have a much younger following now that wasn’t even around during the Barnes days. Fisher is basically a hired gun so I am sure the pay check they would need to fork out to get Barnes to tour with them as well as Jack Ownen etc wouldn’t be worth it to them.

        But I’d fuckin kill to see a reunion tour!

        • It’s hard to say, but given the recent reunions of Carcass and At the Gates, there are certainly a sufficient number of nostalgic older metal fans out there – I don’t imagine either of those acts would have come back together without overwhelming fan support. I recognize it’s a fundamentally different situation, as those bands have been inactive for a long time, but one more data point is the enthusiasm I’ve seen for Barnes covering Cannibal songs with SFU at shows. I wonder how much cash on the table it would take … like if someone tried Kickstarter for a Bleeding reunion show

  • I’m really looking forward to hearing this album but Is it really DR4?? That’s not something to look forward to. I wish this hyper-compression would just stop. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve been listening to very little modern music lately.

  • Anton Szandor LaVey

    If cannibal corpse were to change their formula, people would accuse them of selling out. If they stick with what they’ve always done, people will just whine “oh its the same thing all the time, they are out of ideas”. They can’t win.

    This comment is not about your very good review, I’m just pointing out one of the things that annoy me.

    • Jack Tors

      I hear what you are saying. But look back to the first 4 albums. They were all totally different in style and sound but yet they all worked and you knew it was Cannibal Corpse. I think from Wretched Spawn on just about every album they do now sounds pretty much the same. Same sound, production, vocal approach etc. It’s not that they are bad it’s just very predictable. Before I even heard this new one I already knew exactly what the production and the songs would be like… and yes it is exactly what I figured.

      • Good point, Jack, about the four albums. I quoted it above in my response to JL, who made a similar point to Anton.

      • Anton Szandor LaVey

        Good point. Especially with the vocal approach. CG has been sounding exactly the same since KILL. Which is great vocals, but I think he should go maybe a little deeper or something.

  • JL

    CC is good quality death metal. And I agree on a few points made by other posters: 1, the fact that they can’t win. If they change style they sell out. If they continue down the same path they’re boring. I’d take ‘more of the same’ ANY DAY personally speaking than a drastic change in style. Most bands that change drastically, or should I say, ‘reroute to remain’ end up losing their legacy and fans. Number 2, Immolation indeed outshines CC in almost every way possible. Immolation is an amazing death metal band that gets better with age.

    Now a question for the reviewer. You say that you now ‘make a living playing music (not metal).’ I’m curious as to why this is. Most often the music people play is the music that they listen to, so I am curious what you play and why you don’t play metal.

    • I was okay with Cannibal sticking to their guns and style, but A Skeletal Domain is the first time I found myself bored on a Cannibal platter because the songwriting isn’t as strong on many of the songs. The well may be beginning to run dry so my hope is they might draw a little from a different source on the next one. I am not looking for a radical change in style, but as Jack pointed out below, “…look back to the first 4 albums. They were all totally different in
      style and sound but yet they all worked and you knew it was Cannibal
      Corpse.” Not that the subsequent albums were so radically different from one another, but just relying on the formula when the ingredients aren’t as good is starting to not work for me as a fan.

    • As for the music question, I have played in metal and death metal bands. My current band started off as a hobby band, playing heavy originals and some goofy covers but I had an idea one day while mowing the lawn and having drank around 8 cups of coffee for a new direction for the band that took off and we’ve been lucky enough to be able to make a living at it for over six years now.

      • Name’s Dalton

        What is the name of this band?

  • JL

    i listened to the album and have to give it a 4/5. it sounds fresh, the guitar work and vocals are awesome, bass is pulsating and writing is diverse. this is a very solid album.

  • euthanatos

    I am enjoying these “I’m the old man that was around forever, went away, and I’m back here now to spread my wisdom to the masses and see what these youngsters are up to” reviews.

  • Here’s Johnny

    People are unfair about CC, they don’t drift far off their formula but they always improve. Production, song writing etc always better than the last. I wouldn’t have them any other way. They are the AC/DC of death metal and i love them. Plus they fucking kill live. I remember seeing them a couple years back with Children of Bodom and they made them sound like a kid’s band.

  • GWW

    Scourge of Iron is so awesome…i like that you mentioned it!