Reviews

Cannibal Corpse’s A Skeletal Domain: Fire Up the Chainsaw!

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If the act of scoring and describing a new Autopsy record is as unnecessary an exercise as we suggested earlier this year, how much more preposterous is it to throw praise or scorn at the 13th release by Cannibal Corpse? Did you really think 2014 would be the year Corpsegrinder and the gang vision-quested through the Australian outback and penned lyrics about cosmic oneness, or finally embraced their inner synthesizer and blended house beats with blast beats? Cannibal Corpse embody heavy music’s utter abandon, the sweaty release of ego to the pit-stomping, neck-injuring id. Their roots predate extreme metal’s slide toward the expression of psychological pain, occult reverence and existential angst. The goals have always been – and continue to be – intimidating aggression, sonic-turned-physical obliteration and gruesome lyrical wish-fulfillment.

A Skeletal Domain delivers all of the above. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

After a queasy introductory whine, “High Velocity Impact Splatter” rends flesh and detonates grave sites in all the expected ways. Here, as on most of the album, the most satisfying parts of the music are traditionally Corpse: the dying art of guitar solos in death metal gets revived about two-thirds of the way through any given song, and Alex Webster’s grumbling cave troll bass lines simply should not be missed.

Of course, all the above allusions to “expected” and “traditional” methods of attack betray A Skeletal Domain’s one real Achilles’ heel, and explain why we can’t, in good conscience, give the album a higher score. Nothing here demands attention or stands out as necessary Cannibal Corpse; everything fits neatly into the band’s sprawling catalog without ever dropping clues that these songs were recorded outside all those sessions that yielded the other albums. The solos are fun to listen to, but really, that two-thirds-mark formula starts to feel a little lame once it’s noticed. We could drag out a dozen adjective-versus-active-verb pairings for some stimulating trackwise analysis, but if you listen to any heavy music whatsoever, that would be a guaranteed waste of everyone’s time.

Cannibal Corpse serve the same purpose in this decade as they have in any other since the late 80s: shock the pitifully repressed and gloatingly naïve while, for the rest of us, exorcising the disgust, frustration and fantastically homicidal urges we feel when faced with the inhumanity visited on people by people every day. Cannibal Corpse offer respite from the world’s dull disappointments and give us a chance to bang our heads. In fact, they’ve given us thirteen of those chances. Let’s not overextend our gratitude and pretend A Skeletal Domain is a masterwork, but let’s also not forget that they fucking rule their fucking roost with talons of fucking steel.

Cannibal Corpse’s A Skeletal Domain comes out September 16 on Metal Blade. You can stream the track “Sadistic Embodiment” and pre-order the album here.

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