Surely a band that needs no introduction – for a lot of people their first experience of hearing Cannibal Corpse for the first time was when they were onstage during the Jim Carrey flick Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, but throughout their 32 year career, they have faced controversy at every corner, mainly from censors throughout the world banning not just their records but even the band themselves from performing songs from those albums. Yet despite this, or maybe because of this, they have gone on to become the best-selling death metal band in the world. As they say, there ain’t no such thing as bad publicity…

Fast forward to 2021, and the Buffalo quintet are set to unleash their 15th opus, the magnificent Violence Unimagined, featuring new guitarist Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal) after the departure of Pat O’Brien due to his ongoing personal issues. Founding bassist Alex Webster talks to HRH’s Neil Not.

First up, congratulations on Violence Unimagined. It can’t be easy after over 30 years and 15 albums to write death metal that is as interesting for the listener as it is for you guys to actually play. Presumably, the bulk of the record was written before Covid, but did you approach any of the writing differently on this record?

Alex Webster (AW): That’s correct, the writing of the music was finished by around March 2020, so pre-pandemic for the most part, but the lyrics were written mainly in April/May 2020, so after the pandemic had begun. I think the lyrics to Erik’s song ‘Condemnation Contagion’, were inspired by the pandemic although it’s not specifically about Covid.

As far as keeping the music interesting goes, we each try to be as creative as we can when we’re writing our songs, and we really focus on having a lot of variety between the songs. You’ll hear various tempos, rhythmic ideas, scales, etc. throughout Violence Unimagined, and hopefully, each song has its own distinct character. We want to keep the listener engaged from start to finish with our albums, and we think variety is key to that.

Having worked with producer Erik Rutan on Red Before Black, how easy was it to work with him again on the new record?

AW: It was quite easy since by this point we have a lot of experience working together. The main difference of course is that he’s now in the band as well, but that didn’t affect his ability to produce the record, and in fact, it may have enhanced it. He has a really good understanding of our music both as a producer and as a musician.

Although having Eric on board seems a no-brainer, there must also be a myriad of logistical problems concerning his work with Hate Eternal. Can we expect tours with Hate Eternal and Cannibal Corpse and how long term do you see this relationship?

AW: Erik is in Cannibal Corpse as a full member and we look forward to making many albums with him. He’ll continue on with Hate Eternal as well- he’s pretty good at multi-tasking so he’ll find time for both I’m sure! I doubt we’d do a Cannibal/H.E. tour though, that would be a lot of work for Erik- he could handle it, but I think it would be a lot more enjoyable to play in one band a night!

Musically this new album spans a whole spectrum of your repertoire with slower, heavier parts interspersed with good old-fashioned blast beats, but there’s an old-school element in there too. How hard is it to maintain that Corpse trademark while still trying out new things?

AW: It’s not so hard I guess. I think we have some musical boundaries that we’re all in agreement about, and we just try to be as creative as we can within those boundaries. For example, we all know that our riffs shouldn’t sound happy or uplifting ha-ha. It needs to be dark, aggressive music at all times, but beyond that, there’s plenty of room to experiment. We don’t feel constrained.

Lyrics for Cannibal Corpse have always been a controversial area as regards censorship groups. After all this time has the lyrical content been toned down any or are there any new songs that lyrically surpass any of your previous works?

AW: I think the lyrics on this album have a similar mixture of different types of horror as our other recent albums have had. We have some songs that are extremely graphically violent, and others that are more psychological. I’d say the most offensive lyrics in our catalog are probably on “Tomb of the Mutilated” or “Butchered at Birth”, but there’s some very extreme gore and violence on this album, as there has been on all of our releases.

Slower songs like Follow The Blood and Surround, Kill, Devour are sure to reduce moshpits to waste the world over. What new tracks are you most looking forward to playing live when this pandemic is over?

AW: We haven’t decided yet, but I’d love to play both of the ones you mentioned, plus Condemnation Contagion, Necrogenic Resurrection, and Inhumane Harvest…but really, I’d like to play any of the songs on Violence Unimagined. We can’t wait to get out there and play this material for everyone.

Speaking from a pure band viewpoint, how has the timing of the pandemic affected Cannibal Corpse? 2020 would’ve been the 30th anniversary of Eaten Back To Life, how frustrating was it to not mark the occasion properly?

AW: We really didn’t have any anniversary plans for “Eaten”, and actually we had no touring planned for 2020 except for a possible tour in November, which of course didn’t happen. So for us, 2020 wasn’t quite as different as it was for other bands who had a full schedule of touring they were forced to cancel.

You must be itching to get out and tour this record, but how frustrating is it that you’re going to have to sit on it a little while longer before you take it on the road properly?

AW: Like thousands of other bands, we are looking forward to being able to get back out there and tour. It’s definitely strange for us to be releasing an album without an accompanying tour. Hopefully, we’ll all be able to get back to it sooner than later, maybe by 2022. We’ll see.

Cannibal Corpse have never been shy of being part of huge, multi-band bills. How much fun are these tours to be part of and do you have any future plans in this sense?

AW: It’s great to be a part of a multi-band bill like the Mayhem festival tour in North America or some of the big fests in Europe and other parts of the world. It’s a great way to introduce your music to new listeners, and of course, it’s cool to see the other bands perform and hang out with them. We’ve toured with so many bands over the years that sometimes the festivals feel like a big reunion. So we definitely look forward to doing more tours like that, but right now we have no plans.

Finally, as a bit of fun, Cannibal Corpse have dabbled in the odd cover version in the past. If each member of CC were to choose their favourite artists to cover for Mortuary Slab Classics (!), what 5 bands could we expect to hear?

AW: Hmmm, well I can only answer for myself with certainty, and I’ll say I think it would be cool to cover a Slayer song. Really we’d all probably choose early thrash/death bands (as we’ve already done: Razor, Kreator, Sacrifice, Possessed, Metallica, The Accused…) so it would be more stuff like that I think.

Violence Unimagined is out now via Metal Blade Records.