The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s: #8, Cannibal Corpse


The ’90s: they were the bomb! That’s why MetalSucks will spend the month of March giving snaps to the decade that was all that and a bag of chips by counting down The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s. These aren’t bands that necessarily formed in the ’90s, nor are they bands that would turn out to be influential somewhere down the road; these are bands that a) were doing their best work in the ’90s, and b) amassed a devout following during the ’90s. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for extreme music. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for yo mama.

Death created death metal. Morbid Angel refined death metal’s musical form into what it is today. But there’s a reason Cannibal Corpse, of all the death metal bands to make this list so far, are the highest ranked: more than any other band, they have become the very embodiment of death metal itself.

Cannibal Corpse, simply put, are the reason most people who came to love death metal in the ’90s got into it in the first place. Sure, their music was ground-breaking enough, but the band touched a cultural nerve that few bands did before or have since. Senator Bob Dole infamously gave their popularity a boost by calling them “nightmares of depravity,” claiming they were “undermining the character of the nation” in a speech in 1995:

They were featured in Ace Ventura, the surprising breakout film for future comedy superstar Jim Carrey:

And people who aren’t even death metal fans wear their shirts, fer chrissakes. Cannibal Corpse are a statement.

The reason for all that attention, more than anything, was their filthy, gruesome, offensive lyrics. Take the second verse from the 1994 classic “Fucked with a Knife:”

Tied tight to the bed
Legs spread open
Bruised flesh, lacerations
Skin stained with blood
I’m the only one you love
I feel her heart beating
my knife deep inside
Her crotch is bleeding

It’s not difficult to see why Dole questioned the band’s moral fortitude based on Chris Barnes’ eloquent poetry. Lyrics like his would come to define death metal, playing out our most hateful inner desires as fantasy and catharsis (which Dole failed to realize), rather than in real life. Even when Barnes left Cannibal Corpse, the other band members picked up where he left off, leaving an indelible mark on metal’s lyrical themes that still stains deep today.

Sure, other bands may have been more technical, more nuanced, more experimental, more profound. But Cannibal Corpse are death metal itself.

#25: Morbid Angel
#24: Melvins

#23: Meshuggah
#22: Emperor

#21: Cave In
#20: Botch
#19: Cradle of Filth
#18: Sepultura
#17: Napalm Death

#16: Rage Against the Machine
#15: Type O Negative

#14: Dream Theater
#13: Alice in Chains
#12: Nine Inch Nails
#11: Carcass
#10: Death
#9: Deftones

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