Incredibly strong, even after all these years
24 years and twelve albums in and death metal veterans Cannibal Corpse are showing no signs of slowing down. While many bands of their vintage (or even a quarter of their age for that matter) falter, break up, turn to shit or whatever, Cannibal Corpse just keep on keeping on, turning out albums regularly and with an unwavering (and slightly eerie) consistency. It’s an impressive feat, to be sure, however there is also another edge to the proverbial sword which is, essentially, that surprises are pretty hard come by when it comes to the band these days and, really, it’s been this way for a while now, which brings us to Torture, the band’s 12th full length release and its strict adherence to the aforementioned formula.
Much like Evisceration Plague before it (and Kill before that, and so on), Torture showcases a band that is at the top of its game from a compositional perspective as well as one of sheer technical proficiency. The playing is tight, the production is thick and the compositions are downright heavy while also being conscious of the need to include some much needed groove to help break things up once in a while. All in all what we have here ladies and gentlemen is a modern Cannibal Corpse album which, depending on whether you have a favourite era of Cannibal Corpse, could mean very different things.
For me personally, I have always preferred early Cannibal Corpse and feel that the plodding rhythms and sheer catchiness of The Bleeding was the highpoint to the band’s song-writing. Once Vile (and a new vocalist) came around and the band’s sound further expanded from its origins I was still able to dig what the band was doing but it just wasn’t the same kind of experience as Tomb of the Mutilated or The Bleeding were to my ears. I am squarely in the early Chris Barnes era camp, for better or worse. That being said, however, the band has still released some monstrous albums since The Bleeding and has effectively reached a level of consistency and dependability that one could argue defines them just as much as their sound does.
With that in mind, with Torture we see the band doing what they do best which is to bludgeon the hell out of your ears with heavy and technical material while keeping mostly in line with people’s expectations of how they should present it. This isn’t to suggest that Torture is some kind of cheap offering intended to satisfy some pre-conceived notion of what a Cannibal Corpse album should be but rather that Cannibal Corpse deliver pretty much what you expect them to – the aforementioned tight and heavy material that is played flawlessly and wrapped in comfortingly familiar packaging.
Where Torture really shines for me is when the band slows the pace down, winds back the technicality, and allows the songs to crawl and get under your skin with their practically trademarked sense of groove and feel. Songs like Scourge of Iron, The Strangulation Chair, or Crucifier Avenged, for example, encapsulate the kind of material that still gets me excited to hear new a Cannibal Corpse album much more than the blistering pace set by many of the other tracks on offer. But, irrespective of personal preference in this regard, it’s hard not to sit back in awe at just how god damn smooth and flawless the performances truly are.
As much as I enjoy Torture and as much as I know that it is an excellent album in so many ways, I am still stuck in the past when it comes to Cannibal Corpse so I know that when I feel the urge to hear the band I’ll likely be reaching for something much longer in the tooth in the first instance. If, however, I do happen to find my finger wandering over Torture instead, then what I would be setting myself up for is 45 minutes of masterfully played death metal. It’s pretty much a win-win situation really.
(Metal Blade Records/Riot! Entertainment)