Cannibal Corpse marks 25 years of death
by Amber Goodwyn
“Horror is like a serpent; always shedding its skin, always changing. And it will always come back.” Thus spake Italian horror director Dario Argento on the film genre he helped to define over the course of his long career. One could take the thread of his meaning, the enduring nature of our collective fascination with the terrible, and apply it to the success of Cannibal Corpse’s longevity. Pioneers of the death metal genre, Cannibal Corpse have, to date, released 12 albums and have toured internationally for decades, solidly padding their support among metal fans the world over.
For several years the narrative around the band focused on the shock value of the bloody content of their gore-splattered lyrics and album art, which prompted the banning of their records in countries like Germany and Australia — no doubt cementing their fan base with the stuff of notoriety. The band kicked against the moral and censorial pricks by maintaining that the violent content of their music is simply extreme entertainment, in the same way horror movies titillate and occupy our nasty little minds.
Beyond the bloody images, Cannibal Corpse (and death metal in general) delivers an intense and thrilling musical style replete with double bass drumming, death growls (think cookie monster as an angry, vocal zombie) and speedy, virtuosic playing. This musical aggression breeds extreme reactions, drilling itself in the hearts of fans forever while keeping the genre safely on the margins of pop culture, away from mainstream success.
That seems to be fine with Cannibal Corpse, who are celebrating their 25th year with a brand new album called Torture — a record the band describes as focusing on songwriting refinement, which is an interesting focus for any band closely associated with a particular genre.
“We want all the songs to be brutal death metal but we also want them to be instantly identifiable from one another, and that’s something that is definitely true of the songs on Torture,” said bassist Alex Weber.
Singer George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher notes that while the band lives and breathes death metal, they still leave room for kinds of music, admitting his guilty pleasures as including Journey and Waylon Jennings.
All kinds of music influences the band one way or the other, adds Fisher.
On this North American tour, Cannibal Corpse will be playing fan favourites from their extensive catalogue but also tunes from their early records that haven’t seen stage lights in a long time, as they were written with former members from early band line-ups.
Despite being a touchstone band in metal, the guys in Cannibal maintain an excellent rapport with fans, making a point of getting out of their hotel rooms and hanging out in the cities they tour to. Fisher describes the Cannibal Corpse’s fans as “having a really strong connection to the band” and the band in turn, feeds off the energy of the audiences while on the road.
When I asked him about his tour tricks to keep his octave-jumping death growl healthy and hale on the road, he swore by not talking too much after the gig and keeping away from cigarette smoke, both of which can be hard on a voice box already brutalized by the performance.
“I have two things to protect to do my job,” says Fisher. “My voice and my neck to keep on (head) banging”.
There’s a band calendar in Cannibal Corpse’s anniversary box set Dead Human Collection: 25 Years of Death Metal. Thrilled by the possibility of an easy-going, open-minded death metal band like Cannibal Corpse baring their naked, gore-splattered flesh Chippendales style for the their fans, I asked Fisher about the item.
“Nah, it’s just, like, we have 12 albums for the 12 months, so…”
I guess I’m the one with the twisted mind, then.