11 albums, 21 years and still just as vicious
Cannibal Corpse played a massive part in my formative death metal years. If I remember correctly, Tomb of the Mutilated was one of the first death metal CDs I ever owned and, along with the follow-up album The Bleeding, still enjoys relatively regular spins in my rotation. I worshipped them with unwavering devotion and still regard their show at the long since closed Phoenician Club in the mid nineties as one of the best shows I've ever seen.
The replacement of original vocalist Chris Barnes with George Fisher for their 1996 release, Vile, wasn't enough to shake my resolve - I still consider Vile to be some of the strongest material they have ever written - but after Gallery of Suicide was released towards the end of the 90's my interest in the band plummeted with nostalgia being the only thing keeping me slightly in tune with what the band were up to. This was until Kill was released in 2006 and I caught wind of the huge amounts of positive press the album was receiving. On the back of these positive vibes I picked up Kill and, whilst I enjoyed the rejuvenated sound, I found the album to be hugely overrated. It was good but it was hardly a masterpiece.
With that being said, my hopes were high for Evisceration Plague and it was with some trepidation that I set about consuming it to complete this review.
Immediately apparent when album opener Priests Of Sodom kicks off is the awesome production. It's hard and punchy with the backline combo of Alex Webster and Paul Mazurkiewicz taking a large chunk of the listening focus. Webster's bass work has always been one of the best things about Cannibal Corpse so having him closer to the front of the mix was a big plus this time around. The production on Evisceration Plague is a massive improvement on that of its predecessor and features none of the grating, overly trebly sound that I felt detracted from that album.
The rejoining of guitarist Rob Barrett for Kill was one of the best things to happen to Cannibal Corpse in a long time and his presence is felt throughout Evisceration Plague due to his interplay with Pat O'Brien. These two guitarists fit together perfectly and play off each other extremely well without ever feeling the need to resort to unnecessary guitar wankery. These guys ooze professionalism and demonstrate their chops through their tightness, competence and some great lead work scattered throughout the album.
As for George Fisher, well, he's still George Fisher. Certainly not the best vocalist out there but he's good at what he does. His mid range growls and screams are put to good use and sound so fitting against the musical backdrop that you wonder how the band ever existed without him (though in fairness I still love the band's work pre Vile with Chris Barnes, regardless of the ire that statement may attract).
Musically Evisceration Plague can be seen as a continuation of the band's efforts on Kill and while, when taken at face value, the music bears all the hallmarks of typical Cannibal Corpse fare, it belies a technicality that may not be immediately evident. The band is clearly trying to stay true to their roots while also pushing their sound forward and you get the feeling that the band has a new sense of momentum that is leading them towards something amazing. If for nothing else, they should be congratulated for having this kind of drive so far into their careers.
Despite all the intensity, technicality and the air that the band has found a new lease on life, at its heart this is still a Cannibal Corpse album with all the positive and negative attributes that are associated with such. The cynic in me can't help but feel that Evisceration Plague is simply Cannibal Corpse repackaged yet another time, albeit in a much more enjoyable package than in previous outings. Conversely, I suppose this can be seen as the charm of Cannibal Corpse - you always have a pretty good idea of what you're going to get when you crack open a new album.
So, as to the question of whether or not this is a good album, the answer would have to be an unequivocal yes, though there are caveats. I would say that those who loved Kill will more than likely find Evisceration Plague to be a worthy and fitting follow-up release, but those who make up the other side of the equation will probably be more like me - by no means displeased but maybe not quite ready to rekindle a steady relationship with Cannibal Corpse just yet, regardless of how thoughtful a gesture Evisceration Plague is.
(Metal Blade Records/Riot! Entertainment)