Album Review – Amon Amarth / Berserker (2019)

Raise the shield wall, hold your hammers high, and unleash the berserker that lives inside you together with the Swedish Vikings of Heavy Metal.

My fellow Vikings, it’s time to grab your swords, axes, spears and shields and head into the battlefield once again to the sound of Berserker, the eleventh studio album by Swedish Melodic Death Metal horde Amon Amarth and a huge step forward in terms of energy and creativity if compared to their previous album Jomsviking, released in 2016. Not only that, Berserker is also the band’s first album to feature Jocke Wallgren on drums, who joined the band in 2016, bringing thunder to the compositions by frontman Johan Hegg and his loyal henchmen Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg on the guitars and Ted Lundström on bass.

Featuring another epic artwork by American artist Brent Elliott White, Berserker brings to our ears pure, straightforward Amon Amarth with no artificial elements, sounding very dense, cohesive and, above all, extremely entertaining from start to finish. Furthermore, while saying that Berserker is not a concept album, Johan Hegg also stated that “it’s also about sticking together in the face of adversity. Then there’s more introverted stuff, as well – songs that relate to my private life, and I got the ideas for those songs from my wife.” In the end, all song work really well, sounding connected albeit each one on its own when you listen to the album in full, therefore providing you a smooth and powerful experience only hardworking bands like Amon Amarth can offer.

The acoustic guitar by guest Javier Reyes (from Animals as Leaders) ignite the heavy and vibrant Fafner’s Gold, with Jocke showing why he became a permanent member of the band. In a nutshell, it’s classic Amon Amarth with an extra kick coming from the flammable riffs by Olavi and Johan Söderberg, while in Crack the Sky it’s time to bang our heads together with the band while Johan Hegg leads the horde with his raspy roars in a mid-tempo extravaganza tailored for enjoying a cold pint of mead. Then slashing guitar sounds kick off another hard-hitting tune named Mjölner, Hammer of Thor, which can’t get any more Viking than what it already is with its pounding beats, crisp guitar solos and Johan’s deep growls, turning it into a must-listen for all fans of the genre; followed by Shield Wall, a true battle hymn spearheaded by the band’s most fearful Viking, Mr. Johan Hegg, vociferating the song’s catchy and inspiring chorus powerfully (“War / Here to conquer, battle ready, no retreat / Vikings / Raise the shield wall / Hold the front line / Fight till death”). Needless to say, this can easily become a fan-favorite during their live concerts.

Let’s keep the fires of Viking Metal burning bright in Valkyria, showcasing a beautiful job done by the band’s guitar duo while Jocke nicely dictates the rhythm with his potent beats, ending with melancholic piano notes, whereas Raven’s Flight contains all elements we love in their music, those being of course heavy and electrifying riffs, nonstop beats and enraged roars. Not only that, it’s at the same time fast and neck-breaking just the way classic Melodic Death Metal demands, while Ted’s bass keeps rumbling in the background majestically. In Ironside we’re treated to accelerated beats intertwined with headbanging moments, exhaling epicness and power in a crushing display of Swedish Melodic Death Metal, setting the tone for The Berserker at Stamford Bridge, bringing forward a pensive and dark aura while the instrumental pieces represent all the obscurity that’s embracing the main character to perfection. Moreover, get ready for battle to the sound of Olavi’s and Johan Söderberg’s guitars, who shred their strings with a lot of passion and feeling.

When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails is another one of those creations by Johan Hegg and his crew overflowing epicness where all instruments are in perfect sync, therefore enhancing the song’s taste and impact (especially Jocke with his rhythmic and groovy beats); and putting the pedal to the metal Amon Amarth smash our heads in Skoll and Hati, a song about the two wolves from Norse mythology (“From the iron moors of Jotunheim / Arose two beasts of wrath innate / Skoll and Hati were their names / Born of Fenris, born of hate”), represented by the speed and fury flowing from drums and guitars, which are all Johan Hegg needs to deliver a beyond powerful vocal performance. There’s no sign of slowing down as Wings of Eagles is just as frantic and vibrant as its predecessor, sounding perfect for heading into the battlefield (also known as the circle pit) to the crushing beats by Jocke and the thunderous bass lines by Ted. And last but not least, Into the Dark is another good song by the band which, albeit sounding as epic as expected, goes on for a little too long (maybe it would have worked better with a few extra variations). Johan Hegg’s deep guttural vocals are amazing, though, as well as the song’s final moments.

Are your spears and swords sharp enough to join the most beloved and dauntless Vikings of Melodic Death Metal in their quest for metal music? Well, I bet after listening to Berserker, available in full on YouTube and on Spotify, and on sale HERE (or HERE if you fancy some exclusive, ass-kicking bundles), you’ll be more than ready to head into the battlefield and give your life and blood together with Amon Amarth. Put differently, simply raise the shield wall, hold your hammers high, and unleash the berserker that lives inside you in the name of Heavy Metal.

Best moments of the album: Mjölner, Hammer of Thor, Shield Wall, Raven’s Flight and Skoll and Hati.

Worst moments of the album: Into the Dark.

Released in 2019 Metal Blade Records

Track listing
1. Fafner’s Gold 5:00
2. Crack the Sky 3:49
3. Mjölner, Hammer of Thor 4:42
4. Shield Wall 3:46
5. Valkyria 4:43
6. Raven’s Flight 5:20
7. Ironside 4:30
8. The Berserker at Stamford Bridge 5:13
9. When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails 4:24
10. Skoll and Hati 4:27
11. Wings of Eagles 4:03
12. Into the Dark 6:48

Band members
Johan Hegg – vocals
Olavi Mikkonen – guitar
Johan Söderberg – guitar
Ted Lundström – bass guitar
Jocke Wallgren – drums

Guest musician
Javier Reyes – acoustic guitars on “Fafner’s Gold”

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Album Review – Cannibal Corpse / Red Before Black (2017)

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.

Red Before Black Collectors Bundle

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

Track listing 
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

Band members
George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher – vocals
Pat O’Brien – guitar
Rob Barrett – guitar
Alex Webster – bass
Paul Mazurkiewicz – drums

Guest musician
Erik Rutan – backing vocals on “Only One Will Die”, lead guitar on “In the Midst of Ruin”

Album Review – Charred Walls Of The Damned / Creatures Watching Over the Dead (2016)

A magnificent lecture in Heavy Metal by four high-skilled electrified beasts who need absolutely no introduction.

Rating2

coverSome people call American Heavy Metal band Charred Walls Of The Damned a “supergroup”, but in my opinion they’re a lot more than that. Formed in 2009 by the immensely talented drummer Richard Christy (Death, Control Denied, Iced Earth) after a five-year absence from the metal scene since leaving Iced Earth and joining The Howard Stern Show in 2004, and having the one and only Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Beyond Fear, Winter’s Bane, Dio Disciples) on vocals, Jason Suecof (special guest musician and producer for Death Angel, Trivium, Kataklysm, Chimaira, DevilDriver and tons of other amazing bands) on guitar, and Steve Digiorgio (Testament, Control Denied, Death, Iced Earth, Sebastian Bach) on bass, Charred Walls Of The Damned go beyond the boundaries of almost all known “supergroups”, being an already established named in the world of heavy music and always delivering first-class material to metalheads all over the world.

If you have never heard their first two releases (their self-titled masterpiece Charred Walls of the Damned, from 2010, and Cold Winds on Timeless Days, from 2011), don’t waste any more time and go after them because those albums are definitely worth a shot, especially for fans of a high level intricacy together with sheer heaviness in music. And now, after almost five years waiting for more of the vigorous music by Charred Walls Of The Damned, Mr. Christy and his henchmen are finally back with another lecture in Heavy Metal entitled Creatures Watching Over the Dead, the third installment (all of them with beautiful names, by the way) by this band that’s a synonym to classy Heavy Metal and, unarguably, one of the best supergroups of all time, if not the best as they are for this guy that writes to you right now.

As soon as the serene intro in the opening track My Eyes explodes into pure Heavy Metal, Ripper’s voice starts penetrating deep inside your mind while the flawless beats by Richard crush your soul, proving how incredible this duo always sounds. We’re treated to the right amount of complexity and progressiveness in this outstanding composition, and don’t forget to check Richard’s drum demonstration for this song as it’s simply awesome. The Soulless, the first single of the album, has everything we love in traditional Heavy Metal. Fast and blazing guitars, a perfect drumming, rumbling bass lines and Ripper’s screams soaring as high as the sun make this demolishing fusion of Death, Thrash and modern Heavy Metal a newborn metallic classic, with its acid lyrics criticizing what’s happening with many of us in our modern but extremely toxic society (“I see you tripping into this electric world / As your brain melts into glass / Thoughts focusing upon a dark screen of deceit / A life that’s paid in full and wallowing in grief / Stepping through the mindless threshold / Now amongst the soulless”). Moreover, I have no words to say how good the guitar solo by Mr. Suecof is, it really gives me goosebumps every single time I listen to it.

It’s time to enjoy the acoustic lines by Jason and the smoother-than-usual vocals by Ripper before their demonic side arises in the dark power ballad Afterlife, presenting a dense musicality where the thunderous bass by Steve perfectly complements the crisp beats by Richard; followed by the best song of the album in my humble opinion, As I Catch My Breath. Gripping, groovy, atmospheric, powerful and inspiring are only a few adjectives we can use to describe it, with all four band members having outstanding performances showcasing all their skills in this classy hymn. Furthermore, it’s quite impossible not to sing the chorus along with Ripper and the guys, unless you’re absolutely not into metal music, of course. Slightly similar to the musicality from “Afterlife”, Lies brings forward a solid and potent sounding with hints of Power Metal, enhancing the epic vibe of the song. It’s another tune tailored for Ripper to shine with his enraged vocals, also presenting a soulful guitar solo by Jason that puts a beautiful end to such an awesome composition.

cwotd-2016Do you like what Ripper did with Judas Priest and Beyond Fear? If your answer is yes, Reach into the Light will put a humongous smile on your face. Its rhythmic drumming and cutting riffs provide Ripper exactly what he needs to fire his old school high-pitched screams, with all breaks and variations adding more flavor to this bestial composition by this incredible quartet. It truly amuses me how they can sound extremely aggressive and very harmonious at the same time, which is the case in another one of my favorites, Tear Me Down, displaying some electrifying vocals and guitar lines while Richard continues to impress on drums. Put differently, they get the best elements from their musical backgrounds and careers, and easily transform that interesting mixture into high-end metal music.

I personally recommend Living in the Shadow of Yesterday for your road trip playlist due to its pleasant rhythm, not to mention how good the crystal clear sound of drums is, as well as the song’s mighty bass lines. In addition, despite minimal, the song’s backing vocals end up working extremely well, and I guess I don’t need to say how tuneful all riffs and solos by Jason sound. Finally, the last sonic strike by Charred Walls Of The Damned, Time Has Passed, is a lesson in bass guitar by Steve. His instrument sounds insanely heavy, slapping the listener in the face pretty hard with each note played, which only gets better when accompanied by Richard’s groovy and furious beats and fills. When the song was over after my first listen to the album, it left me craving more Charred Walls Of The Damned. Well, it’s just a matter of going back to the beginning of the album and savor all songs again and again (something I’ve been doing nonstop since the album’s official launch).

Although there are no live dates scheduled yet for Charred Walls Of The Damned, I’m certain a tour to promote Creatures Watching Over the Dead will happen soon, and I truly hope they add a few Canadian dates to that. When that happens, you might notice Jason and Steve won’t probably join Richard and Ripper due to their other duties, but that’s not a big deal as the live musicians for the band include the also awesome Dennis Hayes (bass) and John Comprix (guitar) from Beyond Fear, as well as Matt Sorg (guitar) from Shed the Skin (check the review for their kick-ass debut album Harrowing Faith by clicking HERE). While we wait for a Creatures Watching Over the Dead tour, you can enjoy the entire album at the Howard Stern’s official website, and obviously purchase your favorite version of it at the Metal Blade Records’ website. More than just a metal album, Creatures Watching Over the Dead is a magnificent lecture in Heavy Metal by four high-skilled electrified musicians who need absolutely no introduction if you live and breathe heavy music.

Best moments of the album: The Soulless, As I Catch My Breath, Reach into the Light and Tear Me Down.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Metal Blade Records

Track listing
1. My Eyes 4:30
2. The Soulless 4:03
3. Afterlife 2:53
4. As I Catch My Breath 5:03
5. Lies 3:31
6. Reach into the Light 2:39
7. Tear Me Down 3:50
8. Living in the Shadow of Yesterday 3:36
9. Time Has Passed 3:16

Band members
Tim “Ripper” Owens – vocals
Jason Suecof – guitar
Steve Digiorgio – bass
Richard Christy – drums

Album Review – Ensiferum / One Man Army (2015)

Another good heavy music album by one of the most influential Folk Metal armies from Finland.

Rating5

ensiferum_one man armyWhen Folk Metal came into prominence in the early 2000’s, more specifically due to several promising bands from Finland such as Finntroll, Korpiklaani and Turisas, we all knew that was a subgenre of heavy music that was definitely here to stay. However, despite each band having their own characteristics, the nature and limitations of Folk Metal made it clear it was going to be really tough for all bands to reinvent themselves over the years and to avoid becoming stale or ostracized, a terrible curse upon any type of artist in the world. Even with this dark shadow over every band who decided to follow the path of folk and heavy music, Finnish Epic Folk Metal band Ensiferum have managed somehow to remain relevant and kept delivering decent albums like One Man Army, the sixth full-length album in their career.

Fans of the band will agree with me when I say that Ensiferum (the Latin word for “Sword Bearer” in case you don’t know it) have as their main attribute their ability to always craft melodic and epic songs, it doesn’t matter the album nor the speed or length of the song. One Man Army, featuring a great album art by renowned illustrator Gyula Havancsák, is no exception to that and will surely please most admirers of epic metal music. Far from being a masterpiece, perhaps the biggest problem with One Man Army is that some of its songs sound too repetitive and in some cases too epic (even knowing this feature is deeply rooted in their music), but that doesn’t mean you cannot grab you sword and shield or maybe enjoy a huge pint of barley wine while listening to it.

Although the intro March Of War sounds more like “Western Folk” than pure folk music, that doesn’t make it less fun nor harms the next track, the faster and more violent than usual Axe Of Judgment. Can it be called Blackened Epic Folk Metal? Anyway, the harsh screams by Petri Lindroos are quite effective, with the keyboards by Emmi Silvennoinen and its backing vocals adding more “epicness” to this battle tune. Then we have a truly awesome Epic Metal song entitled Heaten Horde, where the 100% Manowar chorus sung by Ensiferum’s “horde” is its highlight for sure and will thrill all fans during their live concerts (“All heathen hearts, / Answer the call, / God of thunder bless our swords, / Our heathen horde, / Will never fall, / We are hungry for blood, steel and war”), not to mention they even used an Old Norse poem in the lyrics as an amazing “bonus”.

One Man Army, the first single of the album, showcases riffs and double bass that couldn’t sound more Scandinavian metal, and again they abuse of the backing vocals in a good way. In addition, it’s kind of impressive how bands like Ensiferum can sing about battles and war in each and every song they record and still sound fresh in many cases. But getting back to the album, after the nice folk intro Burden Of The Fallen, perfect for enjoying around the fire pit while roasting a leg of goose and having a cold beer, Ensiferum offer us Warrior Without A War, which despite its epic start and all the band’s efforts to make it even more epic, especially the “Oh-oh-oh!” in the background, is just an average song with not much to offer to the listener.

ensiferumAnd the boring Cry For The Earth Bounds follows a similar formula: another epic battle intro done by some kind of choir, lyrics talking about war, keyboards giving it an extra touch of magic and so on, but nothing that makes the song outstanding. Quite the contrary, it gets really tiring and falls totally flat after a while. In the excellent Two Of Spades, they finally sing about something that’s not a medieval battle, but a more contemporary type of war: gambling! Its truly exciting riffs and vocals are good indicators they should invest more on this type of raw and direct metal, with its disco beats and Finnish lines being interesting elements added to the song.

The following two tracks, My Ancestor’s Blood and Descendants, Defiance, Domination , form one song name “Heathen Throne Part III”. The first song is pretty boring, with its riffs sounding too generic and its rhythm being as monotone as possible, while the second part is even worse: there was no doubt an 11-minute tune would sound epic, sorrowful and imposing, but the overall result is extremely disappointing due to the lack of energy and entrenchment. In other words, the song just goes on and on forever, with its instrumental parts being very basic, and you even forget to follow the storyline at a given point. Fortunately, Neito Pohjolan closes the regular version of the album beautifully with its awesome lyrics (“Eessä myrskytuulien / Eessä elon taistojen / Aina sydämessäin oon / Neito pohjolan”, or in English “In front of storm clouds / In front of battles of life / In my heart I’ll always be / Lady of the North”). It is as folk as it can be, with Emmi leading the singing and more important than that, in Finnish, making it a very enjoyable tune.

And if you’re in doubt about purchasing One Man Army or not, or which version of the album is the most suitable for your collection, I suggest you go for the limited edition with its four witty bonus tracks. I would say the best ones are the fun Rawhide and the violent Warmetal, which by the way are better than 90% of the songs from the regular version of the album. In summary, Ensiferum might not exactly be a “one man army” as the name of the album says nor the most creative band in the world, but they’re indeed a solid and interesting Folk Metal army that will keep you entertained and ready for battle with their epic and melodic heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Heaten Horde, One Man Army and Two Of Spades.

Worst moments of the album: Cry For The Earth Bounds, My Ancestor’s Blood and Descendants, Defiance, Domination.

Released in 2015 Metal Blade Records

Track listing
1. March Of War 1:32
2. Axe Of Judgment 4:33
3. Heathen Horde 4:12
4. One Man Army 4:25
5. Burden Of The Fallen 1:49
6. Warrior Without A War 5:24
7. Cry For The Earth Bounds 7:31
8. Two Of Spades 3:39
9. My Ancestors’ Blood (Heathen Throne Рart III) 4:30
10. Descendants, Defiance, Domination (Heathen Throne Рart III) 11:20
11. Neito Pohjolan 4:10

Limited Edition bonus tracks
12. Candour And Lies 4:11
13. Rawhide 2:35
14. Warmetal 2:54
15. Bonus Song 4:29

Band members
Petri Lindroos – harsh vocals, guitars
Markus Toivonen – guitars, backing vocals, clean vocals
Sami Hinkka – bass, clean vocals
Emmi Silvennoinen – keyboards, backing vocals
Janne Parviainen – drums

Album Review – Cannibal Corpse / A Skeletal Domain (2014)

Long live the Corpse and their wicked domain of Death Metal.

Rating4

Cannibal Corpse_A Skeketal DomainIn my humble opinion, the most important legacy the city of Buffalo, New York (also known as “The Queen City”) will ever leave to humanity is the unrivalled twisted music by American Death Metal heavyweights Cannibal Corpse. Not only that, I personally consider George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, Alex Webster & Co. the best, most cohesive and most amusing Death Metal band of all time, and now once again they prove us all why they’re so awesome with the excellent A Skeletal Domain, the thirteenth studio album in their path of ruthless devastation.

One might ask how they keep being relevant in heavy music after all those years, maintaining their musicality almost intact but without sounding repetitive at the same time. Well, although every Cannibal Corpse album has the band’s hallmarks such as their gruesome lyrics and intrinsic brutal instrumental and vocals, those guys somehow manage to reinvent themselves and offer something distinct in each of their releases. For instance, A Skeletal Domain provides us a darker and more freakish sounding than their previous albums, as mentioned by bassist Alex Webster in some recent interviews. Just take a look at the Stygian album art and you’ll have an idea of how eerie this album is.

In order to kick off the album the best way possible, the band invites us to join them in this dark domain of music with the aggressive High Velocity Impact Spatter, which right after a quick Horror movie-ish intro becomes a Death Metal feast full of excellent riffs, solos and creativity led by bassist Alex Webster and guitarists Pat O’Brien and Rob Barrett. Moreover, the initial roar by Mr. Corpsegrinder and the desperate way he screams the chorus prove once again why he’s and will always be the true voice of Cannibal Corpse. Following that sonic massacre we have Sadistic Embodiment, a song that couldn’t be more Cannibal Corpse than that, with Alex Webster kicking ass one more time and Paul Mazurkiewicz always killing on drums; and Kill or Become, a song about a zombie outbreak with a beautiful message in the lyrics (“Fire up the chainsaw / Hack all their heads off / Fire up the chainsaw / Hack their fucking heads off”), with the instrumental parts reminding me of another Cannibal Corpse track, “As Deep as the Knife Will Go”, intensified by a sick guitar solo by Rob Barrett. Do I need to mention it is more than perfect to be part of any truly disgusting zombie movie soundtrack?

Cannibal CorpseAnd their rampant Death Metal extravaganza goes on with the amazing title-track, A Skeletal Domain, another lesson in bestiality with highlights to its insane double bass and superb riffs. I simply love the chorus and how Corpsegrinder “recites” the lyrics, especially when he says people are turning into some kind of creatures that are “not a zombie not a human”. Can you imagine how grotesque those creatures are? Anyway, Headlong into Carnage is a straightforward song made for breaking your neck due to the intensity which you’ll bang your head, where the instrumental parts sound like old school Thrash Metal in many moments, followed by The Murderer’s Pact, which is more melodic than all previous tracks and where Corpsegrinder’s voice and the guitar riffs end up making a very interesting duo.

Funeral Cremation, with its Black Metal elements and very macabre lyrics, and the “smooth” Ice-Pick Lobotomy, with its complex musicality (especially the bass lines and all the guitar shredding), keep the overall quality of the album really high, while Vector of Cruelty, despite not being as powerful as the other tracks, offers us pure traditional Death Metal with some interesting rhythmic breaks. And what can I say about the fast and furious Bloodstained Cement? The violence in its lyrics is outstanding (“Smash his skull onto the pavement / Make the bastard pay / Don’t stop until it cracks / And spills out his brain”), and I cannot wait for the absurd circle pits this song will generate if played live.

Lastly, there’s still time for more extreme music with Asphyxiate to Resuscitate, with another awesome performance by Mr. Corpsegrinder and some excellent drumming blended really well with some sick guitar lines and solos, and the fast and heavy neck-breaking tune Hollowed Bodies, with its evil guttural vocals and Paul Mazurkiewicz stealing the show again, to finish exterminating whoever is still alive. However, regardless of all that savagery, the guys from Cannibal Corpse are far from being heartless individuals, as A Skeletal Domain is dedicated to the memory of Michael Trengert, who was the managing director of Silverdust Records and former promoter at Nuclear Blast and manager of Metal Blade Records Europe. He passed away on September 23, 2013, leaving many friends all over the world.

In addition, as I’ve already mentioned a billion times before, there would be no Cannibal corpse without bassist Alex Webster. As a matter of fact, that guy is not just a regular Death Metal bassist like those ones you can barely listen to and who usually don’t make any difference to their bands’ musicality. The architect and mastermind behind the realm of the Corpse is a fuckin’ wild beast responsible for the darkest, sickest, most innovative, most fiendish and most intricate bass lines one can ever imagine in the world of extreme music, elevating the quality of their records so much even some people who loathe traditional Death Metal have to acknowledge how good Cannibal Corpse are. Pay attention to all the bass lines in each and every song from A Skeletal Domain, they’re beyond impressive!

In summary, A Skeletal Domain might not be as magnificent as Vile (1996), Kill (2006) or Torture (2012), which I consider the best Cannibal Corpse albums of all time, but it is indeed an amazing record that will surely keep the Corpse alive after almost 30 years of wildness, expanding their perverse domain of Death Metal and, of course, it’s also an excellent choice to invest your hard-earned money (go for the “A Skeletal Domain Deluxe Bundle”, it’s just plain awesome) if you’re a real fan of traditional Death Metal.

Best moments of the album: High Velocity Impact Spatter, A Skeletal Domain and Bloodstained Cement.

Worst moments of the album: The Murderer’s Pact and Vector of Cruelty.

Released in 2014 Metal Blade Records

Track listing
1. High Velocity Impact Spatter 4:06
2. Sadistic Embodiment 3:17
3. Kill or Become 3:50
4. A Skeletal Domain 3:38
5. Headlong into Carnage 3:01
6. The Murderer’s Pact 5:05
7. Funeral Cremation 3:41
8. Ice-Pick Lobotomy 3:16
9. Vector of Cruelty 3:25
10. Bloodstained Cement 3:41
11. Asphyxiate to Resuscitate 3:47
12. Hollowed Bodies 3:05

Band members
George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher – vocals
Pat O’Brien – guitar
Rob Barrett – guitar
Alex Webster – bass
Paul Mazurkiewicz – drums