Always loyal to their foundations and sounding rawer and more aggressive than ever, here comes the most hardworking act in Death Metal with another first-class onslaught of sheer brutality.
If there’s a band in extreme music that not only remains loyal to their foundations, but that also keeps delivering excellence with each and every album release, that band are American death metallers Cannibal Corpse. This Buffalo-based Death Metal institution never disappoints, always providing us fans everything we crave in extreme music, playing their music almost to perfection while maintaining a high level of rawness and aggressiveness in their sonority at all times, which is exactly the case in Red Before Black, the fourteenth studio album in their vile, ruthless and gory career. Having said that, do you have what it takes to face another brutal installment by the Corpse?
Released three years after the good A Skeletal Domain and featuring a slashing artwork by American comic book artist Vince Locke, Red Before Black not only proves why Cannibal Corpse are still alive and kicking after almost 40 years on the road, fighting against all odds and always going against anything that can be considered mainstream, but it also shows that there’s no sign of the band slowing down or venturing through less violent fields. Quite the contrary, it seems that the Corpse is thirstier for guts, entrails and blood than ever. “We always try to make our music aggressive, but where an album like ‘A Skeletal Domain’ was definitely aggressive, it has a targeted refinement that the new album doesn’t. ‘Red Before Black’ is as well executed as anything we’ve done, but it has a rawness to it that we haven’t had in a long time,” asserted bassist Alex Webster.
Raw and putrid sounds impregnate our ears from the very first second in Only One Will Die, with the guitars by Pat O’Brien and Rob Barrett sounding pulverizing while George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher barks manically as usual, showing why he’s one of the most respected and consistent growlers still in action. Furthermore, its lyrics reek of traditional Cannibal Corpse (“Both of us will throttle / Strangling with rage / Both consumed by madness, revenge has us enslaved / Both are badly wounded / And struggle to survive / Both are fighting to the death but only one will die”). Brutality keeps flowing from all instruments in the fantastic title-track Red Before Black, where the competent old school drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz maintains the pace at a frantic level while Corpsegrinder vociferates the song’s lancinating name ferociously. And those guys never get tired of blasting sheer Death Metal to our metallic ears, delivering violence and bloodshed from start to finish in this ominous circle pit-generator Code of the Slashers, with their always demonic guitar solos enhancing the song’s electricity to the limit; whereas Shedding My Human Skin is mid-tempo slashing tune where guitars penetrate deep inside our mind while Alex and Paul keep punching us in the head ruthlessly. The song loses its taste a bit after a while, though, but it’s still a decent creation by our beloved Corpse.
Get ready to be massacred by Corpsegrinder and his henchmen in Remaimed (let’s see if you can survive this hurricane of Death Metal), with all instruments played with extreme violence, in special the bass by Alex who once again proves why he’s in my humble opinion the best Extreme Metal bassist of all time; followed by Firestorm Vengeance, a heavy-as-hell metal tempest ignited by putrid, raw riffs that grow in intensity until all hell breaks loose, led by the unstoppable Paul on drums. Put differently, if you’re getting to know Cannibal Corpse at this point in your life, this is a very good sample of their more contemporary sound. Heads Shoveled Off is perfect for banging your head like Corpsegrinder himself, while Paul keeps demolishing his drums and the guitar duo Pat and Rob shows no mercy by cutting our ears with their sharp-edged strings, not to mention the song’s slashing words (“Back in Nam he killed a man / A shovel was used to cut his head off / Now forever changed lust to decapitate / Chop at the neck to keep the skull intact / Going insane / Come back deranged”), and displaying hints of progressiveness but still maintaining the band’s crude sonority, Corpus Delicti is another great job done by Rob and Pat with their axes, delivering amazing riffs and solos nonstop.
In Scavenger Consuming Death we have the pleasure to witness Mr. Webster doing what he does best, shaking the foundations of the earth with his devilish bass lines, also presenting a fantastic chorus to follow along with Corpsegrinder, as well as visceral guitar solos and a thrilling pace. In other words, it can’t get any more Cannibal Corpse than this. The crude, primeval sonority found in In the Midst of Ruin, a beyond perfect tune for some carnage inside the circle pit, takes us back to the band’s early days, with Alex Webster firing bestial, rumbling tunes from his bass; while Destroyed Without a Trace, the second to last tune in Red Before Black, is filled with the band’s trademark harmony and aggressiveness (and a Corpsegrinder sounding more enraged than you can imagine), with all breaks and changes from slower, heavier moments to sheer devastation making it a great choice for their live concerts. Lastly, closing this crushing record we have more of the band’s old school Death Metal in Hideous Ichor, which despite being slightly below the rest of the album in terms of quality, it’s still very enjoyable if you’re a longtime fan of the band.
Metal Blade Records kind of surprised us all by uploading the full album on their YouTube channel, but of course in case you’re also a “Corpse addict” like myself you’re certainly going to buy your favorite version of the album at their webstore, like the Red Before Black Collectors Bundle, including among a ton of pretty cool stuff a bonus CD named “Blood Covered”, featuring Cannibal Corpse turning some metal classic by Accept, Metallica, Kreator, Possessed and other bands into their own infernal sound. Red Before Black exhales pure Cannibal Corpse, and it will surely maintain this fantastic Death Metal horde relevant in the minds of old school metal fans, it will show newcomers to the world of heavy music how Death Metal should always be played, and last but not least, it will keep haunting the souls of those who are not brave enough to face the most hardworking band in the history of extreme music.
Best moments of the album: Only One Will Die, Red Before Black, Heads Shoveled Off and Scavenger Consuming Death.
Worst moments of the album: Shedding My Human Skin and Hideous Ichor.
Released in 2017 Metal Blade Records
1. Only One Will Die 3:24
2. Red Before Black 3:12
3. Code of the Slashers 4:45
4. Shedding My Human Skin 3:28
5. Remaimed 4:13
6. Firestorm Vengeance 3:43
7. Heads Shoveled Off 3:37
8. Corpus Delicti 3:29
9. Scavenger Consuming Death 4:33
10. In the Midst of Ruin 3:25
11. Destroyed Without a Trace 4:01
12. Hideous Ichor 4:33
Limited edition bonus disc “Blood Covered”
13. Sacrifice (Sacrifice cover) 3:04
14. Confessions (Possessed cover) 2:58
15. No Remorse (Metallica cover) 6:16
16. Demon’s Night (Accept cover) 4:17
17. Bethany Home (A Place to Die) (The Accused cover) 3:20
18. Endless Pain (Kreator cover) 3:11
19. Behind Bars (Razor cover) 2:20
George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher – vocals
Pat O’Brien – guitar
Rob Barrett – guitar
Alex Webster – bass
Paul Mazurkiewicz – drums
Erik Rutan – backing vocals on “Only One Will Die”, lead guitar on “In the Midst of Ruin”