Released: 2008, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
It will forever be written in the heavy metal history books that Cannibal Corpse may be the most important band of the genre. There have been faster, more brutal and more extreme bands but none have made such a lasting impact nor survived as long as the Florida-by-way-of-Buffalo, New York veterans. From the genre-defining EATEN BACK TO LIFE and THE BLEEDING to the transitional VILE album and even their latest effort, simply titled KILL, Cannibal Corpse have yet to take a misstep or dishearten it’s rabidly dedicated fanbase. As a thank you to those people, Cannibal Corpse presents CENTURIES OF TORMENT – THE FIRST 20 YEARS, a sprawling video biography of the band that helped bring death metal to the masses. Clocking in at over seven hours and spread over three DVDs, the package offers all of their music videos, live performances spanning over twenty years and at the heart of the collection, an extensive documentary chronicling the entire history of Cannibal Corpse as told by the band, friends, family and musical peers. As a compendium to the 15-YEAR KILLING SPREE box set that came out in 2003, this ties up all the loose ends with very little repetition and provides a wealth of information for bloodthirsty fans.
The first DVD contains the three-hour documentary and is very nearly worth the price of the set itself. Split into two parts—1987 to 1995 and 1995 to the present—the documentary is not just a laundry list of facts or a collection of sycophantic accolades directed at the band. There are interviews with former members of the bands Tirant Sin, Beyond Death and Dark Deception that would come together to form Cannibal Corpse. They give warts-and-all accounts of the early days and struggling to get noticed in the burgeoning metal scene. There is live footage of bassist Alex Webster and guitarist Rob Barrett on vocals with their respective bands and of original vocalist Chris Barnes in his thrash metal days right up to the very first Cannibal Corpse live show (opening for Dark Angel). Webster shows the house that was shared by the band during the demo days and there are photos of a VERY young-looking George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher. Of course, testimonials from everyone from Immolation to Gene Hoglan to Ice-T are spread throughout but some of the most interesting words are spoken by Barnes and producer Scott Burns. Barnes’ highly-influential vocal style is explored as is the death metal in general. Even the appearance of the band in the ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE movie is given a sizeable amount of screen time. The firing of Barnes is handled very diplomatically and finally puts and end to the rumors once and for all, which is a treat in itself even having him make contributions to this program.
The second disc features just over two hours of live performances spanning from 1989 right up to last summer’s With Full Force festival. What really impressed me was the fact that there is no duplicate songs here whatsoever, a problem that plagues many of these types of collections. The footage runs the gamut from pro-shot quality to single, hand-held cameras but is a great overview of the band’s various lineups and eras. All of the band’s officially-released music videos are included here, as well.
On to disc three, there are ten featurettes which run from two minutes to approximately a half hour that are cleverly titled as mock-ups of songs from the Cannibal Corpse catalogue. “Compelled To Illustrate,” which focuses on artist Vincent Locke, shows his pencil sketches and treatments for the band’s album covers. Amazingly, no one in the band has ever met Locke face to face in over twenty years! “Relentless Touring” documents life on the road and the trials and tribulations associated with it. “Staring Through The Eyes of The Band” is a snapshot of life outside the band. Drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz has a farm and is a vegetarian; Fisher is an avid fisherman and WARCRAFT addict; Barrett’s is a music history savant. Interesting stuff.
CENTURIES OF TORMENT – THE FIRST 20 YEARS is a stunning collection that will certainly raise the bar for other bands to strive to reach. Keeping the viewer interested for seven-and-a-half hours is no easy task but truthfully, there are no dull moments here. Even if you think you know everything there is to know about this band, you are wrong as the first-person accounts and had-to-be-there stories will not be found anywhere else. Historically rich and accurate, compellingly presented and headbangingly metal, CENTURIES OF TORMENT – THE FIRST 20 YEARS should be mandatory viewing for any and all fans of death metal.