2017 has been a vintage year for death metal’s old guard. Immolation, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Incantation and Suffocation have all unveiled their visions of hell. And now Cannibal Corpse have joined the party, bringing their trademark, goresome technicality and relentless brutality with them, and again proving why, after nearly three decades, they remain essential listening.
Since 2006’s Kill, they have been in a rich vein of form – and that has continued into their 14th full length – but it would be a mistake to think that this is just standard Cannibal Corpse. For one thing, it’s as catchy as a zombie virus – surprisingly so – with the likes of Only One Will Die and Heads Shoveled Off rivalling some of their early 90s work for their infection rate. And there’s a dexterity, a dynamism, to the rhythmic onslaught that while never missing from the quintet’s songwriting, seems to make more impact this time round: Shedding My Human Skin, with its multiple contortions, is a case in point, as it offers both lethal grooves and a slew of jarring twists and turns.
What’s also striking is how much space Pat O’Brien and Rob Barrett’s incendiary riffs have to do their unholy work – and there’s a welcome thrashy vibe to segments of Scavenger Consuming Death and Code Of The Slashers. In the Midst Of Ruin, meanwhile, deviates most strongly from the traditional brain splattering blueprint – especially in its lightning riffery – but it’s unmistakably Cannibalistic.
The quality dips ever so slightly on Corpus Deliciti, which could have been an off-cut from any of the US masters’ post-noughties efforts. But that does nothing to reduce Red Before Black‘s position as one of Cannibal Corpse’s finest – and most absorbing – albums.