I have always had a curious fascination with Cannibal Corpse, the veteran metal band originally formed in 1988. Unfortunately for the band, my fascination with them is largely due to reasons totally beyond their control, and interests that likely do not coincide with their ideals. First and foremost, Cannibal Corpse has always been represented in my life by the nerdiest of metal fans; kids with big, tangled mops of unkempt hair, glasses with thick lenses and arms that have never done a push-up voluntarily, and certainly not in the new millennium. This came to a head because of a gentleman I saw on campus during my years as an upperclassman, who wore a Cannibal Corpse T-shirt frequently and looked suspiciously like my ex-girlfriend's mother.
Carrying forward, Cannibal Corpse has long been the subject of my most genius and perhaps simultaneously worst concert promotion idea, where they would be a showcase act in three-band concert entitled "The Best of Buffalo," featuring that city's three most prominent native musicians; Cannibal Corpse, Ani DiFranco and the Goo Goo Dolls. It could be held at the HSBC arena and the master of ceremonies could be newly-signed Mario Williams (it's a shame Tim Russert isn't still alive to fill that role.) I mostly want to put this show on to see not only what fans would show up, but which fans would get into a brawl with which other fans. Hot sauced, blue cheese covered mayhem may well ensue.
Moving on past all that foolishness, Cannibal Corpse has a new album, entitled "Torture." This album represents the latest chapter in the ongoing career of the band and is composed nearly exclusively of tracks that are altogether typical of the idiom for Cannibal Corpse. Yet, this leads to a number of conclusions and ramifications for the band, seeing as how an arsenal of metal sub-genres has been established since the band's formation in 1988. The solidification of those sects, many of which Cannibal Corpse helped form and establish, leaves the band in a crisis of evolution.
The most disturbing revelation about "Torture" is that it may well be an album out of its time. An awful lot of metal evolution has happened since Cannibal Corpse's heyday, and the band, at least for this effort, fails to find a solid niche. The band has long been the rallying cry for fans of gory, tongue-in-cheek, over the top extreme metal, and yet "Torture" sees Cannibal corpse as a jack of all trades and master of none. For those fans looking for the fringe of deprived, visceral imagery, they can turn to Autopsy or Triptykon. Fans looking to sate their need for angry speed and distorted, fuzzy growls have gravitated to Goatwhore. Lastly, those looking for virtuosity amidst the chaos of heavy metal can easily turn their eyes and ears toward Europe and the phalanx of black, death and extreme metal bands who have pioneered advances in that genre. However unintentionally, "Torture" raises the metaphysical question of whether metal as a genre has evolved past what Cannibal Corpse is offering.
Now, let's be clear, there are several things in metal that I have the utmost respect for, prominent among them being the ongoing effort of any veteran artist to stay true to what they know and love. Cannibal Corpse, against all tidal forces of change, remains much the same band as they always have been, and while there are those that no doubt see that as stagnation, predominately it is a measure of dedication.
Whether listening to “Followed Home Then Killed,” or something with an even more wonderfully over the top title like “Intestinal Crank,” Cannibal Corpse is offering up more of their trademark blend of American speed metal and plain, old-fashioned gore. The soloing is careful, precise and dare I say soulful in parts, reminiscent of some of metal’s days gone by. There are moments here (“Scourge of Iron” being an excellent one,) where Cannibal Corpse makes the listener truly pay heed to the band’s talent.
Still, before we start having to wipe away tears of wistful nostalgia, it must be said that the material on “Torture” fails to transcend. The blessing and the curse of this album is that it’s “the same old Cannibal Corpse.” It is a truly honest effort by musicians who love their music, and for that they must be commended. For those who are not dedicated or loyal to the band however, most facets of this album can be found elsewhere, many times in superior quality.