Reviews

CANNIBAL CORPSE AND NAPALM DEATH TAKE THE YOUNGSTERS TO SCHOOL

Rating
70

Here’s Cannibal Corpse bassist Alex Webster talking about his band in the January 2009 issue of Decibel:

“We’ve gotten a little more musical though the years and I think it’s a gradual and natural progression. We’ve always been trying to improve ourselves as players and songwriters. If you compare out first record and this one, the difference is enormous; but fromalbum one to album to 11, it’s been a slow progression.”

I wouldn’t blame you if you thought that maybe Mr. Webster was talking some bullshit hype, as musicians are prone to do when promoting a new release. But not only does Webster speak the truth – he could just as easily be talking about his peers in Napalm Death.

These are not the same bands that recorded Scum and Eaten Back to Life (Literally: Cannibal Corpse only counts two original remaining members amongst it ranks, and Naplam Death has none.). But what they’ve lost in basic charm (The whole DIY “We don’t know exactly what we’re doing but we’re being really fucking genuine about it”-ness of their classic releases) they make up for with the newfound ability to add a little structure to their glorious racket.

The results take to task every young band half-assing it. Some of the best songs on Corpses’ latest, Evisceration Plague, are powered by riffs that most of the so-called “core” bands – even the ones that are legitimately talented – would eat their hearts out for (Album opener “Priests of Sodom”, “A Cauldron of Hate,” and the title track, especially the section that starts around the 2:24 mark, all come to mind.). And the weird-ass time slip-slides of songs like “Scalding Hail” and album closer “Skewered from Ear to Eye” (which is kind of a minor masterpiece) may not exactly be Origin, but they’re still pretty proggy sweet, and definitely a step forward, musicianship-wise, from “I Cum Blood” (Not that “I Cum Blood” isn’t awesome, ’cause it is – I mean, the first time I heard that song, I thought it was written about me, man.).

Of course, it all gets a nice boost from Erik Rutan’s production. It’s not quite as raw as the Tomb of Mutilated years was – Rutan has turned up the buzz-saw guitars and turned down Webster’s booming, sloppy spaghetti strings bass playing – but it’s cold, steely, and univiting, the aural equivalent of the desaturated colors of modern torture porn flicks.

(One thing that hasn’t changed: in case the song titles didn’t tip you off, the lyrics are really nothing new. It’s hard to tell what Corspegrinder is saying without the benefit of a lyric sheet, but I think I heard the phrases “scoop it out,” “from the abdomen,” and “fear of disease causing outbreaks of violence.” That’s some George Romero-style poetry right there.)

And then there’s Napalm Death. Somewhere along the way, they seem to evolved into the last decent punk band on the planet, the sonic equivalent of hocking a loogie in someone’s face. They still somehow seem kinda snotty and still can – and still will – tear you to shreds with a nail gun loaded only with the rustiest, most tetanus-ridden nails available. Mick Harris might not be in the band anymore, but blast beats and tornadoes of impentrable noise are still these fellas bread n’ butter.

But, as with Cannibal Corpse, there are those extra-special songs… tracks like “Life and Limb” and “Downbeat Clique” and the title track and “On the Brink of Extinction,” tracks that have anthemic choruses or killer breakdowns or a riff I can’t believe every thirteen year old deliquent in the world isn’t play badly right now. Longtime producer Russ Russell helps the band continue to at least have the appearance of being totally unhinged; this is music for a psychotic burn victim to extract revenge by, and, coming after The Code is Red… Long Live the Code and Smear Campaign, completes a hat trick of late-career greatness for these glorious British bastards.

As Webster said, the sonic shifts of these two outfits has been a gradual one that is unlikely to alienate longtime fans. But Cannibal Corpse and Napalm Death are proof positive that all it takes to remain relevant is some decent material and a willingness to grow, however minimally.

Both albums:

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(four out of five horns)

-AR

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