Released: 2014, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
A new Cannibal Corpse album is a lot like a new AC/DC, Slayer or Motorhead album. You pretty much know what you're going to get and it's just a matter of whether there is something especially awesome this time out, or if they are gnawing at the bones of an already picked clean carcass.
As the songwriting over the last two Cannibal albums grew more spread out among the members, especially on 2012’s Torture, there have been some definite moments of additional awesomeness, be they from guitarist Pat O'Brien's neck-snap technicality (“Demented Aggression”), guitarist Rob Barrett's thrash-tinged meatiness (“Encased In Concrete”) or bassist and long-time main songwriter Alex Webster's death march experiments (“Scourge of Iron”). And with Hate Eternal's Erik Rutan producing, the band's last three albums were especially punishing.
A Skeletal Domain – incredibly Cannibal’s 13th studio album! - continues the trend of dispersed songwriting, with O’Brien scripting the greatest number this time, but marks a change in producers, with Audiohammer Studios’ Mark Lewis taking the reins. The results yield noticeably more ebb and flow, yet – in typical Cannibal fashion - still bash your brains out in wet, sticky gobs.
True to its title, “High Velocity Impact Spatter” opens the proceedings in a murderous fury, led by the monstrous roar and maniacal cadence of frontman George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, O’Brien and Barrett’s frantic guitar salvos and Paul Mazurkiewicz’s rivet-gun drums. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s a viciously effective start that also highlights some of subtle sonic touches of Lewis’ production. The sound is a bit looser, less condensed, with the mix allowing the instruments to be a bit more spread out and distinct. It is richer and more enveloping, not quite so blunt force – though it is still brutal as hell.
The lead track “Sadistic Embodiment” comes next and offers more of the same, though with a riffy undercurrent and caterwauling leadwork. Ditto “Bloodstained Cement.” “Headlong Into Carnage” certainly lives up to its title with its deep, menacing guitar grind and “Icepick Lobotomy” delivers everything it promises – though it does sound a lot like “Shatter Their Bones” from Evisceration Plague. “Hollowed Bodies” concludes the album in a tech-death shit fit and is certainly the most complex track here.
“Kill Or Become” whipsaws back and forth between the lurching groove of the verses and the lurid, stampeding “hack their fucking heads off” chorus, and highlights some of the variety of texture and tempo on display here. The title track even moreso, with its dirgey opening giving way to a pronounced chug before blasting off, and then repeating the cycle, something “Funeral Cremation” does as well to a certain extent. “The Murderer’s Pact” is one of the hookiest - dare I say catchiest – songs the band's ever done, but again everything goes to hell when the choruses come around, so don't expect to hear this one on the radio.
As evidenced by the song titles, Cannibal are still very much their sick and twisted selves when it comes to the lyrics and themes – though when you can watch some poor bastard being decapitated on YouTube it doesn't seem as horrific or over the top as it did back in the “Fucked With A Knife” days of old. But a track like “Asphyxiate To Resuscitate” - where “a love so dark” compels the subject to repeatedly “kill” and revive a hapless soul time after time so they “die every day” to the point where they've been “dying for years” - still can shock. Talk about cold-blooded. Damn.
And it’s Cannibal Corpse's remarkable consistency that has allowed them to make a rather nice career out of Grand Guignol death metal for 25-plus years. They've stuck to their guns with only minor tweaks as they've gone along to keep the music relatively fresh without doing anything to tarnish “the brand.” And it's been a winning formula that certainly continues with A Skeletal Domain, which gives you everything you'd expect from Cannibal Corpse, and just a little bit more.