Unlike so many aging metal bands, Cannibal Corpse’s last few releases have been amazingly consistent. Already arguably the biggest death metal band in the world at the time, Kill, especially Make Them Suffer, pushed the band into a new world of recognition. The slow death crawl of 2009’s Evisceration Plague’s title track showed this new world that they weren’t just a high speed metal machine, while Torture saw the band embarking on high profile tours to celebrate its release, and the anniversary of 25 years of playing death metal. Any new album therefore has a lot to live up to.
Starting with what can only be described as what a chorus of cats in hell would sound like, High Velocity Impact Splatter opens Cannibal Corpse’s thirteenth studio album, A Skeletal Domain.
From the start it’s obvious that the idea of the number thirteen being bad luck is just ludicrous. Once again the band has returned with a furious gusto. The idea of too many cooks is also ludicrous. With writing duties shared between the members the album shifts and changes throughout rather than just going down one narrow road.
There are no real surprises here; A Skeletal Domain is packed with what the Corpse fans know and love, the crushing riffs, Alex Webster bass lines, Corpsegrinder growling his throat into submission and drums that cause the listeners calf muscles to go into cramp from drumming along.
Yet there are differences. They might not be glaringly obvious but they’re there. To some it might all sound the same, but play a track or two from Evisceration Plague for example and you can hear the subtle shifts. A much more obvious difference is a stronger thrash influence throughout the album. It’s not gentler by any means, but there are certain riffs and solos that wouldn’t be out of place on a detuned thrash record, perhaps as a consequence from Pat’s brief stint with Slayer?
The riffs in general are some of the best in recent years from the band, the groove of Icepick Lobotomy when combined with Paul’s drums is a complete neck snapper and the following solo is just one of many across the album that make me want to stick my guitar on eBay.
After a good 25 years of existence, it would be easy for the band to rest on their various successes and just churn out a generic metal by numbers album. However, with A Skeletal Domain, they make it clear that they’ve all brought their A game.
The promotional materials mention that along with new producer, Mark Lewis, Corpsegrinder was on a mission to revisit such performances as the Bloodthirst era recordings. A feat he’s managed to achieve, it might be due to years of growling or a deliberate effort but his vocal style is more aggressive in delivery than it has been in a long time. The trademark screams make their welcome return, while there’s nothing as disgusting as the scream on Five Nails Through The Neck from Kill, tracks like Bloodstained Cement feature the cries of what sounds like a man who has just stepped on a plug.
A final mention has to go to the engine room of the band and perhaps the two most vital members; Paul Mazurkiewicz and Alex Webster. Mazurkiewicz has once again taken it upon himself to pen some of the goriest lyrics he can (you would think that after two and a half decades he would struggle to lyrically slaughter humanity) at the same time as laying down some of the tightest drum work going. Combining this drumming with Webster’s bass playing and the recipe for one of the most iconic partnerships in death metal is there.
With all of this in mind, A Skeletal Domain easily stands along with its recent predecessors, if not surpassing. Time will tell where it sits with the “classics” once we all have had time to digest and grow familiar with the songs, but I’m comfortable in saying it will go down very well with the fans.