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Album Reviews : Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain

By on October 19, 2014

CoverIt’s hard to pin point exactly what makes something “good.” While you can personally say “I like this or that aspect,” you’re usually explaining what you like, not why you like it. Or why you like why you like what you like. And so on. You can go back endlessly and not really find an answer. Philosophers and arseholes with internet have argued over it for years without finding a conclusive answer, which surprisingly still hasn’t stopped the mainstream media from packaging and marketing this, shall we say “X” Factor, and ironically producing hours of music that is by no measure “good” at all.

I think the solution is harder to explain than just saying “music is subjective.” When bands like Slayer, Hatebreed, or Cannibal Corpse release an album, they usually sound exactly like the last one (give or take some modern production tricks). And yet, somehow, fans of those bands seem to know when they’ve released a dud album, or when they’ve produced something worth getting very excited about. With A Skeletal Domain, I think Cannibal Corpse have just released the new standard in death metal music. Which is definitely something to get excited about.

Never having been their biggest fan, I was expecting this to be a very solid, very brutal, very Cannibal Corpse-y album; 50 or so minutes of heavy music you can set your watch to. But fuck my nose with an icepick if this isn’t one of the best death metal releases I’ve heard. I haven’t been this childishly giddy about a Cannibal Corpse CD since I first found The Wretched Spawn in my early teens and spent weeks fretting about why I shouldn’t enjoy its cover art.

I don’t know why this album is so damn “good”. Maybe it is as simple as every little good bit adding up to one good whole. Each song sounds like it’s the one stand out track on the otherwise terrible album, the one you listen to over and over to justify why you bought the CD in the first place (weren’t those the days?). They’ve all got their own little quirk or point of difference, their own ripping riff or heavy breakdown or vocal hook, which makes each track memorable without being obnoxious or “commercially viable” (it’s still fucking Cannibal Corpse, relax).

The production is first class. It’s so incredibly thick without losing any of the clarity – it sounds like how death metal should have sounded for decades. The start of Funeral Cremation, for example, is thick as marshmellows in hot chocolate, and twice as delicious. I also think this is the best mix a bass player could hope for; Webb’s (literally) blistering runs are still clear even in my damn laptop speakers on tracks like Sadistic Embodiment, and yet it doesn’t have that weak, “we’re trying to show off the bass but we don’t know how to do it without sucking the punch out of the guitar and fucking up every album”, Mudvayne sound. It’s great.

They’ve also written more “tech” parts, so for someone like me (a fan of the wanky Meshuggah style of song writing), I loved it. All the sections are still pummeling, but occasionally they through you off ever so slightly with a 5/4 or a 7/8 bar. It’s like listening to people play jazz with monster trucks. I’m still grinning about the end of The Murders Pact.

The main thing though, is that this album is violent. That’s the best way I can think to describe it. Between the production, the lyrics (bless ‘em), the riffs, the speed, the off-kilter sections; it starts to sound like you’re losing a boxing match. It’s just unrelenting from start to finish. A Skeletal Domain doesn’t have any sections that seem like album filler or slow-for-the-sake-of-slow. Every song is as important as every other, and they’ve all been thoughtfully put together. After touring and writing for decades without pause, the guys in Cannibal Corpse are genius musicians and an impressive musical group, worthy of universal recognition. It just so happens they choose to put their energy into a grotesque and violent art form. And we’re all the better for it.

We won’t have any more genre-defining death metal albums. The genre is established. We know what it is and what we like about it. An album like this simply shows what can be done within those restrictions. This is distilled Death Metal, pure Death Metal. It’s exactly what it can and should be; “good.”

Band: Cannibal Corpse
Album: A Skeletal Domain
Year: 2014
Genre: Death Metal
Label: Metal Blade Records
Origin: USA

Tracklist:

  1. High Velocity Impact Spatter
  2. Sadistic Embodiment
  3. Kill or Become
  4. A Skeletal Domain
  5. Headlong into Carnage
  6. The Murderer’s Pact
  7. Funeral Cremation
  8. Icepick Lobotomy
  9. Vector of Cruelty
  10. Bloodstained Cement
  11. Asphyxiate to Resuscitate
  12. Hollowed Bodies

About

Mitch is a 26 year old vegan, socialist, atheist, utilitarian, reductionist metalhead, stand up comedian and philosophy major that hates labels. When he isn't being politely ignored at dinner parties he's being politely ignored on comedy nights around the country.