Released: 2003, Metal Blade
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Cannibal Corpse is one of the most influential death metal bands of all time. Considering their impact on heavy music and nearly 15 years of recording, a box set was inevitable. The appropriately titled 15 YEAR KILLING SPREE wraps up everything a fan could ever want into one package. The set itself contains 3 CDs and 1 DVD housed in a longbox with a comprehensive booklet, a full color poster, a Cannibal Corpse comic and a guitar pick with the band’s logo on it. For around $70, this is a STEAL.
The first two CDs are entitled “Best of Volume 1” and “Best of Volume 2” and are just that. Over 32 tracks, the band’s entire catalogue is given representation with two tracks thrown in from their E.P.s, as well. The song selection here is incredible. I cannot think of a single song that I would have replaced with something different. “A Skull Full Of Maggots,” “Hammer Smashed Face,” “Staring Through The Eyes Of The Dead,” “Devoured By Vermin,” “Gallery Of Suicide,” “Meathook Sodomy”…PERFECTION!! Including their cover of Black Sabbath’s “Zero The Hero” on the “best of” portion is questionable but having it on the set is certainly fitting.
The third CD contains previously unreleased material which is a real treat. First of all, we get to hear Cannibal Corpse’s 5-song demo from 1989. All of these songs appeared on the band’s debut album, 1990’s EATEN BACK TO LIFE, but in more polished form. Chris Barnes’ hadn’t yet developed his trademark growl on the demo but the songs are similar to the final versions. “A Skull Full Of Maggots” is without Glen Benton’s help on vocals and it features a static intro. “Bloody Chunks” also has a humorous intro from what sounds like a Three Stooges movie about how after 2 years, the group has 21% less cavities from eating people! What follows are the infamous “Created To Kill Sessions” featuring Barnes’ vocals on tracks that would later be re-recorded for the VILE album by new vocalist George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher. I have always preferred Fisher’s vocals to those of Barnes and listening to these versions side by side with the final VILE sessions demonstrate the band’s foresight in replacing vocalists. The GALLERY OF SUICIDE demo offers little differences over the final mixes but are still interesting to hear the subtle changes in guitar harmonies and such. The final three tracks are cover songs that were recorded in June 2003 especially for this box set. I’m not familiar with The Accused’s original version of “Bethany Home (A Place To Die),” but Cannibal Corpse’s version sounds like it could have been a punk song. VERY different from anything I’ve heard from the band, that’s for sure. “Endless Pain” is, of course, a cover of the Kreator thrash classic from 1985 and Cannibal Corpse’s version has been downtuned and roughed up a bit, but it’s still a cool cover. Canada’s own thrash legends, Razor, get covered with “Behind Bars” from their 1988 album, VIOLENT RESTITUTION. The thrash elements are still there but Corpsegrinder’s death vocals give the song a cool twist. Of the 3 cover songs here, this one is the best.
The final piece of the set is a 26 track DVD, and in my opinion, the icing on the cake. The three original members (guitarist Jack Owen, drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz and bassist Alex Webster) introduce each segment of the DVD with a short description what is to come. The true gem here is the VERY FIRST show that Cannibal Corpse ever played. It is from Buffalo, New York in 1989 and they are opening for Dark Angel. The set is only 20 minutes long and is filmed with only one camera from the back of the room, so don’t expect stellar quality. Only Barnes and original guitarist Bob Rusay are really visible as the rest of the band is hidden in the darkness but hearing (and SEEING) these songs performed live for the first time is something that I’m sure many bands would like to be able to reproduce for their fans. A short segment showing the drum sessions for “Covered With Sores” and the bass overdubs for “Innards Decay” are nothing special and thankfully end after six minutes. The unreleased show, CANNIBAL CORPSE EATS MOSCOW ALIVE from 1993 is included next. The hour-long show is mixed with behind-the-scenes of the band arriving in Russia and the trials and tribulations that follow them before they once again depart the country. The show is filmed with many cameras and the picture is excellent but the audio is severely lacking, which is why the band didn’t want it released as an official product to begin with. The guitars and vocals are well mixed but the drums and bass are barely present. Still, it’s an excellent chronicle of the band’s first trip to Russia and what they had to endure to get the show on for the fans. The final part of the DVD is a 40 minute set taken from Metal Blade Records 20th Anniversary concert in December 2002. The sound is the best here but the use of a single camera again takes away from the impact of the show. I was a bit surprised that this wasn’t filmed a bit better given the event but it is still a great show. The band rips through 11 songs as “Corpsegrinder”’s propeller headbanging barely lets up. The band has certainly grown as a live act, as well, when put next to a show from 10 years earlier.
The package is completed with a few goodies in the box. As I stated earlier, 15 YEAR KILLING SPREE is presented in the longbox format which I haven’t seen in years. Instead of being released in a CD-sized package that fits nicely in your stand, the longbox is the height of a vinyl record jacket. Given Cannibal Corpse’s always memorable cover art, the expanded size is an excellent choice. The ghastly cover is in full splendor and is once again a notch in belt of the vinyl-purists complaints of bastardizing art for convenience sake. Inside the box, there is a full color, 4-panel fold-out poster of the band, a Cannibal Corpse guitar pick, a comic based on the track “Unleashing The Bloodthirsty” from 1999’s BLOODTHIRST album and a nice booklet. The comic looks very professional at first glance but the actual pages are only in pencil and are not colored. Given its full-color gory potential, it is a bit of a letdown. Still, the concept is excellent and horror fans will not be disappointed by the subject matter. The 28-page booklet contains a detailed tracklisting, comments from the band, a short essay and a ton of pictures. There are a couple of interesting things mentioned here. First, that Cannibal Corpse once opened for The Goo Goo Dolls (?!?!). Secondly, is Webster’s revelation that he thinks the band sometimes went too far with its choice of lyrics and artwork, but the more uncomfortable it made them feel, the more they knew they were doing the right thing for the band. Great stuff!
15 YEAR KILLING SPREE should go down as one of the “must have” metal box sets. The overall package and presentation far outweigh the small shortcomings that are present here. The band has really given its fans something special here.