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A Skeletal Domain

Metal Blade (2014)
Rating: 8/10

Believe it or not, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Cannibal Corpse. I’ll happily go on record to state that I preferred their first batch of albums, and then the trail went cold for me. That wasn’t because I fell out of love with them, but simply because there were too many other deathly distractions. It’s almost as if the albums have flown by over the years, almost blurring into one technically-minded jolt of gore and perversion but an art form that I’ve never truly taken seriously.

And so we come to the 13th bloody instalment from this formidable and persistent plague, which consists of vocal ghoul George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, flesh-shredding axemen Rob Barrett and Pat O’Brien, and not forgetting the skin-flaying pummeller known as Paul Mazurkiewicz plus bass maniac Alex Webster. The quintet of atrocity rides again, battering us senseless with another gruesome exhibition featuring the usual gutturally hoarse vocal snipes, those wild demented solos of sickness, and riffs dark, deep and hurtful enough to skin a thousand corpses.

Without being overly complex, Cannibal Corpse still manages to jar in its quest for skull punishment; raking the features and skinning the cadaver with such nihilistic gems as ‘Sadistic Embodiment’, which just about sums up the whole grisly natures itself with the simple yet effective growls of “Anger, Released, Torture, Returning” as Mr. Corpsegrinder coughs up another bloody cyst to the furious capabilities of Webster’s devouring bass.

You know it’s always going to be fast and rotten, but when the band does slow down it becomes so much more menacing. It’s just a shame these low levels of hate are few and far between, but at times the pensive structures set us up nicely for those despicable phlegm hurries, the prime example being the crucifying ‘Kill Or Become’ with its variation of annihilating weight and speedier butchery where the percussion slams akin to bodies dropping from the heavens onto cold, hard slabs of icy stone.

There’s even a hint of maniacal Deicide as Fisher bellows “If you want to live you have to kill or become, There´s no other way you have to kill or become”, and yet he saves the finest lyrical mangling for the final hours as he chews “Fire up the chainsaw, Hack their fucking heads off” with such a demanding froth that you’ll be scurrying for the shed in search of a blade to carry out his putrid orders.

Cannibal Corpse is very much an instant lethal injection to the spine, carrying itself on waves of stinking carrion in the form of three-or-so minute gut-busters which are grizzled mutations of Mazurkiewicz’s confrontational drum smashes, Webster’s lethal bass punches and above all that the twin guitar repulsion that results in meaty chunks punctured by rusty hooks of blazing leads.

The tracks come in thick, scabby waves, rarely reliant on gloomier passages to create morbid atmospherics but instead bolstered by unrelenting flits of ferocious fury. However, when grim concoctions of gore-soaked lower tempo and speed balls of blood are constructed, the band comes up trumps with such feverish displays as the title track and the album’s longest track, ‘The Murderer’s Pact’, with both exhibiting that expected technical haste but in the case of the title track some devilishly catchy rhythms which worm their way in parasitical fashion amongst the fleshy folds of technicality. Like most of their albums, A Skeletal Domain exudes that sickly air of arrogance and skin-tight production which enables the each and every foul beat to shine through the dense smog of infection.

As far as the thrashier projections go, A Skeletal Domain rarely fails to deliver; okay, so some may argue that Cannibal Corpse has never been the most innovative bunch and maybe that’s why I’ve always had an on / off love affair. Although I don’t expect perplexing segments or jazzed-up weirdness, I’ve always seen Cannibal Corpse as a rather comfortable death metal act, yet this time around I feel as I am able to actually wade in the meat; lapping up the catchy barking ferocity of ‘Vector Of Cruelty’ and gnawing on the splintered bones of ‘High Velocity Impact Splatter’ with its creeping intro and eventual hyper jerks of spasmodic brutality. It’s still very much classic death metal that keeps to a straight if blood-crusted line, and in this case there’s not a lot wrong with Cannibal Corpse’s latest plague. If there’s one main quality of the band then it’s their ability to approach slower tempos or faster acts of depravity with the same malevolence, and ‘Hollowed Bodies’ is a perfect example of that as it shifts like some chugging monstrosity before transforming into a blast-beat mutant.

I’m unsure as to how people will reflect on this opus in years to come, but as it stands now A Skeletal Domain is one of the band’s best efforts of torturous cacophony to have emerged in the last decade.

Neil Arnold

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