Artist: Cannibal Corpse
Album Title: Violence Unimagined
Label: Metal Blade Records
Date of Release: 16 April 2021
Over the following paragraph, I expect my metal credentials to take a bit of a battering. You see, I’m not what you would call a fan of Cannibal Corpse. I have a couple of their albums in my collection, but I hardly ever play them. I am more familiar with their graphic artwork and song-titles than I am with their music. In fact, play a song to me blind and I’d be hard-pressed to identify it. I’d probably struggle to pick a track out of a line-up if truth be told. I’ve also never reviewed a Cannibal Corpse album; I’ve always left that to others who have a better knowledge and a greater love for the death metal legends.
However, this is 2021 and I’m consuming as much music as I possibly can, broadening my horizons, challenging my own preconceptions and, in the process, I’m testing my reviewing skills. So it felt right to finally tackle the behemoth that is Cannibal Corpse.
The album in question is entitled ‘Violence Unimagined’, it’s the fifteenth release of their career, and as always, it is adorned with a pretty graphic cover. Apparently, this is the safer, censored version as the original was felt to be too extreme. To be honest, having heard hints via interviews, I’m a little relieved to be honest. I’m not squeamish, but there are certain images that I would rather not see all the same.
With virtually no frame of reference, I would say that ‘Violence Unimagined’ is exactly what you expect to hear from the Floridian death metal band. It is brutal, savage, uncompromising, and very intense. What does surprise me a little is that the band have been in existence now for over three decades, but you’d never know it. I’m only a few years older than Cannibal Corpse and I am certainly slowing down, but that’s not the case here, judging by these eleven new tracks. Be it blistering speed and ferocity, or slower and almightily heavy, you can feel the hunger and the desire within the ranks to pummel listeners into submission once again.
I would suggest that some of this hunger comes from a change in the personnel, with heavyweight Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal, ex-Morbid Angel) joining the band in place of guitarist Pat O’Brien. Rutan brings with him a wealth of experience, his own unique playing style and songwriting attributes, so it would be impossible for this to mot have an effect of Cannibal Corpse’s new output.
The big question is, though: do I like ‘Violence Unimagined’. And, having listened to the forty-two minutes of aural aggression a number of times through, I have to say that it’s not bad at all. It’s a solid death metal album, with more than a hint of grindcore at points, one that tends to display a certain appeal that grows with time. For the hardened fan, I suspect that this album might be a home run and will get devoured eagerly and regularly. For me though, my praise is a little more tempered.
Where we can all agree wholeheartedly, is that there is no denying the talent on display; you simply can’t create this kind of music without talent. Take the opening salvo as proof of this. ‘Murderous Rampage’ lives up to its name in every respect, as it is a fast, riff-hungry affair, where the riffs want to stick a knife into you soon as look at you. The drumming from Paul Mazurkiewicz is brutality incarnate combined with flair, whilst George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher is his malevolent self, spitting forth his putrid diatribes with deep, guttural venom. The lead solos are seriously fast too, wailing and gnashing in frenzied attack.
Maintaining the full-throttle attack is ‘Necrogenic Resurrection’ which is equally as fast as it’s predecessor, if not a little brisker. But the speed is suddenly reined in, in favour of a dirty, chugging that gets the head nodding in slow, demonic appreciation. The lead solo sees Rutan doing his best to break the whammy bar on his guitar as the pace increases to the close.
One of the best tracks on the album arrives in the form of ‘Inhumane Harvest’ that blends clinical speed with a surprising amount of catchiness. The opening riff stands out from the crowd, whilst the slower chugging is about as groovy as death metal is ever going to get. Alex Webster’s bass rumble steps out of the mix with authority at this point too, filthy and menacing in equal measure. ‘Condemnation Contagion’ feels like it is one of the heaviest tracks and features some great guitar work as well as inhuman drumming once more, whilst ‘Surround, Kill, Devour’ is destined to be a live favourite thanks to the catchy (in death metal context) chorus.
I could go on and mention the excellent ‘Slowly Sawn’ that slows the pace to instead steamroller the listener rather than batter them, which is more the modus operandi of the likes of the succinct grind-infused ‘Overtorture’. However, what I hope comes across is the level of consistency on offer within ‘Violence Unimagined’ which has to be a rather large feather in the band’s collective cap.
If I had any kind of criticism, it would be that there is a slight lack of ‘wow’ moments to be heard. The consistency is both a positive and a negative in my view because, despite the incredible musicianship on display throughout, it is difficult to fully remember many of the songs once the disc has finished playing. When you listen again, you are reminded of the quality, but the songs don’t live long in my memory as I have discovered.
That criticism aside, Cannibal Corpse have done enough to convince me to part with my hard-earned cash and I can actually envisage wanting to return to ‘Violence Unimagined’ by choice even after this review has been published. For my personal tastes, I have heard death metal that I prefer, but after 33 years, I can finally begin to understand why Cannibal Corpse have become so well-loved in extreme metal circles. ‘Violence Unimagined’ is a fine slab of brutality.
The Score of Much Metal: 83%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: