When it comes to Death Metal, the blood-splattered monolith that is Cannibal Corpse is usually the first thing that people associate with the genre, regardless of whether they are fans or not. The band embody all of the major facets one would expect and rarely shy away from the clichés; the blistering pace, the savage riffs, the gore-obsessed lyrics. If you don’t own a Cannibal Corpse record, you probably saw them in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
That the band has continued in the same vein for 25 years with barely any change in their core sound as well as surviving the loss of their original singer and lyrical gorehound Chris Barnes is testament to their morbid vision and sheer professionalism. Album number thirteen “A Skeletal Domain” doesn’t cover much new ground but is as brutal as they come and shows that this pack of killers have not mellowed with age, but remain as deadly as ever.
The rich vein of form that the band has enjoyed since 2006’s “Kill” is continued throughout the twelve tracks on offer here with the pace rarely dropping below the frantic and the riffs of Barrett and O’Brien still capable of flaying the skin from your face with methodical and sadistic intent. Paul Mazurkiewicz’s drums are as savage as ever; a relentless beating that wears you down into the dirt while Alex Webster re-establishes himself as one of metal’s most talented bassists in the game; his quick-fire finger-picked assault combined with a fantastic gnarly tone ensures that the sound acts as a crushing wall of noise. Of course, man mountain George Fisher is as powerful as ever up front; his guttural bellow giving the songs a menacing and commanding presence. He even gets a vocal hook with the vehement “Fire up the chainsaw!” on the murderous workout of ‘Kill or Become.’
There is little variation between tracks with the band sticking to what they know. But the knowledge and experience they have gained from a generation in the killing fields means that few Death Metal fans will be disappointed, with the likes of the frantic opening track ‘High Velocity Impact Splatter’ causing mayhem before the lurching gut-punch of ‘Sadistic Embodiment’ batters your eardrums into submission with pitiless ease. Elsewhere, the Slayer-influenced chugging attack of ‘Headlong into Carnage’ will snap necks faster than a medieval torture device while the deranged technicality and variety of riffs employed in ‘Icepick Lobotomy’ will delight fans of the old-school. The intensity is maintained throughout, with the methodical onslaught of closing track ‘Hollowed Bodies’ sealing the body bag in emphatic style.
While other bands in the genre have had to branch out to remain relevant by increasing their speed to pointlessly fast levels or overdosing on gore in an attempt to out-sicken each other, Cannibal Corpse have established themselves atop their mountain of skulls simply by virtue of being damn good at what they do. Granted, they will never win any points for variety, but after years of delivering the goods and never sacrificing their intensity and heaviness, it’s inevitable that their murderous spree will continue and more headstones will be notched up, for “A Skeletal Domain” shows a band at the peak of their powers.