The opening track doesn’t mess around. No sound effects, no concept album style storyline exposition, just a 10 second long intro, followed by the anguished barks of George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fischer. For a man just 2 years from his 50th birthday, the indescribably guttural death growls are seriously impressive. While forcing his throat to make the sounds of someone being torn apart with a chainsaw on an almost daily basis for 30 years can’t be good for him, it’s certainly good for us. He leads us through the explosive opener in a way that could come straight from ‘Gallery Of Suicide’, complete with guitar solo and even some double tracked vocals that sound like they’ve come straight from hell.
It’s great, but it’s just oh so familiar. The title track comes next, and it’s much the same. A nostalgic trip for fans, filled with brilliant brutality, perfect to open up a dangerous mosh pit, but for anyone else… just more of the same. Obviously, we all know that people who don’t like extreme metal default to the ‘it all sounds the same argument’, but those people don’t know their ‘Lawnmower Death’ from their ‘Dethklok’. However, here they sort of have a point. The first two tracks are virtually indistinguishable from each other and the rest of the CC back catalogue. But wait…
‘Code Of The Slashers’ immediately takes us down a new path, opening with a slow, groove oriented riff, it proves death metal doesn’t have to have pounding bass drums at 1000mph for 4 minutes. There is something resembling enunciation on Fischer’s voice, something CC fans may not be used to, and… what’s this? Contrasting sections in a Cannibal Corpse song? Just a minute in we are furiously thrown back into the madness, what we heard before was a ballad in comparison. For fans used to ‘Tomb Of The Mutilated’ level song titles (the classics- ‘Hammer Smashed Face’, ‘Addicted To Vaginal Skin’ etc. etc.) will be sorely disappointed that the most deranged title this album gets is ‘Shedding My Human Skin’. Or maybe ‘Heads Shovelled Off’, but the impeccably subtlety of this one makes it hard to understand.
After ‘Code Of The Slashers’ proved this album wasn’t all a 90’s rehash, it’s easy to see the hidden gems within it. The torturously slow intro of ‘Remained’ contrasts the blasts beats of the rest of the song, ‘Corpus Delecti’ proves that CC are capable of keeping up with the ever-shifting rhythms of today’s technical metal bands and ‘Scavenger Consuming Death’ shows that Alex Webster’s dense bass work is still as poignant today as it was 25 years ago on ‘Hammer Smashed Face’. The final few tracks prove just how musically gifted the band are. While they may choose to devote their lives to aggressive music, I’d guarantee that Pat O’Brien (who’s best riffing of the album comes out on ‘In The Midst Of Ruin’) could easily smash out a Santana jam. The album is rounded off with ‘Hideous Ichor’, not the best track on the album by a long shot, and maybe, like the openers, is another that harks back to an outdated time in death metal, but those double tracked vocals and progressive elements show that Cannibal Corpse want to keep up with the scene.
On the surface, it sounds like an album for fans. The opening tracks are brutal, of course, but there isn’t really anything new there to bring in younger fans, those who grew up with ‘Suicide Silence’, not ‘Morbid Angel’. But soon enough the subtle hints at modernisation come through, and CC prove that not all death metal sounds the same, through genuinely quite brilliant tracks such as ‘Code Of The Slashers’ and ‘Corpus Delecti’.
Red Before Black is out now via Metal Blade.