Released: 2014, Metal Blade
I must admit I was a little disappointed when the new Cannibal Corpse book, BIBLE OF BUTCHERY arrived. I don’t know why but in my mind I thought it was going to be a full biography of the band, however I was mistaken. Author Joel McIver has taken a different angle. In his introduction he says he did not want to merely duplicate the work done on the relatively recent Cannibal Corpse documentary DVD’s GLOBAL EVISCERATION and CENTURIES OF TORMENT. Fair enough. Once I wrapped my head around that fact, I truly appreciated the book for what it is.
BIBLE OF BUTCHERY is a very sick looking book all black and red. The oversize coffee-table/paperback format with large font makes it easy to read and the layout and design of blood-splatter everywhere add to the visual impact. Running at about 160 pages long the book is anchored by two main sections; interviews (‘Meet The Accused’) with each of the five current members and a biography (‘A Brief History of Murder, Mayhem and Misanthropy’) which is essentially an oral history of the band. There are tons of extras, loads of full-colour photos, most of which I have not seen before, and lots of Vincent Locke’s iconic artwork.
There is an affectionate foreword by Gene Hoglan with some fond memories and an extended introduction by McIver who pens a long love letter to the band, who are completely deserving of such accolades because everything that McIver mentions is true. I enjoyed his keen and insightful work and his commentary about how the band has always had an industrial edge in terms of song lyrics and titles. Think about it, virtually every Cannibal Corpse album has what I have referred to among friends over the years as the ‘tool’ song. It is like the band walks through the hardware store looking for inspiration; Barbed wire, a blowtorch, some concrete, (and cement!), a hacksaw, a hammer, a hatchet, an icepick, a meathook, a pickaxe and a belt-sander have all graced Cannibal Corpse song-titles!
I do have one minor quibble with McIver’s intro where he says the band lyrics based on (potential) real life situations, “…as opposed to those staple heavy Metal inspirations, zombies and Satan.” (p. 20) Everyone knows Cannibal Corpse is all about the zombies, practically every single album has a ‘zombie’ song and I would argue, even as evidenced in the interviews, that the songs are based on violent fantasy. Regardless, the lyrics are always scary, if they are about zombies, belt-sanders or belt-sanding zombies.
Another very neat part is that there are the reprinted lyrics of a couple dozen Cannibal Corpse songs and the various members do a little recollection or write up on each one. There are a lot of insights into the minds of the authors and writers, both musically and lyrically. I appreciated the fact that the whole tone of the book was not apologetic or defensive for a long and controversial career with lyrics and album art that some deem offensive. The topic was adressed and explained without being glossed over as just ‘juvenille humour’. This is important because the sex and the violence and the sexual violence has been an integral part of Death Metal for decades now and to ignore this topic in a book about the most successful Death Metal band of all time would do not only the band but the entire genre a disservice. It was well handled.
The book is not without it’s minor problems, but there are little things I would have done differently. I would have added a comprehensive appendix of Tour Dates. I also would have included the song titles in the Discography and the discography was missing a couple of things. I would have liked to see the censored and uncensored covers side by side to compare. I would have added a list of videos as well.
The participation of ex-members is non-existent, it would have been nice to have interviews with Barnes, Owen and Rusay. Perhaps McIver did ask and they just didn’t want to. As mentioned there are some of the lyrics to some Cannibal Corpse songs, 24 in total (out of about 150) but why not have them all? There does not seem to be any organization or logic to which song lyrics were chosen. Overall, the book seemed, well, a little thin on content. If you strip away the lyrics and photos the book is only about 50 pages long, five (admittedly extensive) interviews and some quotes. However all the window dressing around the anchor interviews make this a really attractive book. McIver finishes off with his usual flair and says, “To my kids: Please don’t read this until you’re 18.” Sage advice.
BIBLE OF BUTCHERY is the first authorized biography of Cannibal Corpse and it is as much a visual as an intellectual approach. This was a very wise move and this book had to look as good as the bands albums. It succeeds because so much attention (for better or worse) has been paid attention to the bands image, lyrics, album covers and T-shirts and perhaps the incredible musicianship (unfortunately) taking back-seat when the mainstream media comments on the band. BIBLE OF BUTCHERY was written by a fan, for fans with full participation of the band and it ties in perfectly with the bands 25th year anniversary, balancing art, music and lyrics into one beautifully grim tome. Buy or die (at the hands of a madman with a power-tool of your choice).