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A Skeletal Domain
To say “Cannibal Corpse are the biggest death metal band in the world” admittedly, is a lofty declaration; one made by Metal Hammer UK in an article back in 2009. Since then, the band has released “Evisceration Plague” and “Torture” – both included future classic Corpse cuts, reaped praise from press and fans across the globe, and both accumulated sales on a level rarely seen in death metal. In direct contrast with the “decline” of the music industry, Cannibal Corpse appears to be growing in popularity. 2006’s “Kill” debuted on the Billboard Top 200 at #170, followed by “Evisceration Plague” at #66 in 2009, and #38 in 2012 with “Torture.” Whether or not that trend will continue is impossible to predict, but George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher (vocals), Alex Webster (bass), Pat O’Brien (guitar), Rob Barrett (guitar), and Paul Mazurkiewicz (drums) plan to continue to expose legions of metal fans to their hyper-brutal brand of death metal in 2014 and beyond. The campaign beings in the summer of 2014 as Coldcock Herbal Whiskey Stage headliners on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, immediately followed by the release their thirteenth studio album: “A Skeletal Domain.”
Lucky number thirteen? Lucky or not, it’s a quantity of releases (not even counting VHS/DVD releases and EPs) and a wealth of material beyond which most bands could even imagine. Cannibal Corpse approaches each recording session with a honed and precise vision of a band in their third decade of existence. With this new entry to their extensive catalog, they have switched gears, opting to work with producer Mark Lewis at Audio Hammer Studios, after having tracked their previous three (Kill, Evisceration Plague, Torture) with Erik Rutan. Mark Lewis is a name metal fans have surely heard at this point; he has produced recent albums from The Black Dahlia Murder, DevilDriver, and many more. Sonically speaking, the result this time around is a massive, belligerent, and deliberate aural attack.
Preparation for “A Skeletal Domain” did not vary significantly from previous efforts. “At the end of the day, we’re still making a death metal record, no matter where it’s being recorded,” says bassist Alex Webster. Mark Lewis offered a slightly different, modern recording approach, but the band stressed that they could not be more pleased with their previous albums with Rutan, and the door is most definitely open to work with him again in the future. Changing producers is something the band has historically done after every few albums, if only to not get too comfortable. Cannibal Corpse also tried to step outside of their comfort zone when it came to songwriting and their musical performances. “Consistency is often confused with repetition. We are established with what we do as a band, and we could relax and not push ourselves, but we try to push the envelope. That’s what makes this exciting,” adds Webster. He continues, “Anyone who really listens to this album with an open mind will hear that it’s not same-old same-old.” Mark Lewis would concur with Webster’s analysis and even goes a step further by claiming that “there are moments on this record that have never happened in musical history.”
Alex Webster, along with O’Brien, Barrett, and Mazurkiewicz, are all accomplished song writers, that much is no secret. For “A Skeletal Domain,” each member made a significant contribution to the song writing. O’Brien wrote five tracks, Webster wrote four, and Barrett handled two and half (“Asphyxiate to Resuscitate” was co-written with Mazurkiewicz). Alex Webster describes the band’s song writing proficiency as a “football team with a lot of roster depth. Any of us could write an entire album, but when we’re working together and putting forth our best material, we get an even better whole record.”
That strength is on display in spades, and led to a particularly impressive performance from O’Brien. Mark Lewis raved about the guitarist’s playing: “I don’t think he’s written crazier music than what’s on this album. He’s never written something like on the solo for “The Murderer’s Pact.” Simply put, this is legit guitar playing.” Webster reiterated that this is “one of the most important albums for Pat [O’Brien].” His solos draw on his oft-overlooked neo-classical background while remaining dark enough to fit comfortably within the band’s death metal strike zone.
In addition to Pat’s contributions, Paul Mazurkiewicz entered the studio arguably more prepared than ever. Mark Lewis elaborated: “Paul came in so prepared and he hammered the hell out of every song. The drums on this record are not over doctored – they are not edited to the grid, and you can plainly hear the drums are just real and raw. It’s paul at his best and he just HIT HARD.” In addition to his drum performance, Mazurkiewicz’s lyrics continued to weave detail-filled tales of death and disgust. The drummer penned half of the album’s lyrics, with Webster penning four, and Barrett another two to round out the album.
The musical and lyrical team effort here laid the foundation for the vocal performance of iconic front man, George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher. For “A Skeletal Domain,” producer Mark Lewis worked to cull the most potent performance from the vocalist as possible. Lewis explains: “The mindset with George was to capture more high screams. We wanted to revisit the “Bloodthirst” days a bit. There’s a violence that lives in his throat that we really wanted to capture.” Evidence of these efforts exists in the violent howls in “Headlong into Carnage,” the title track, album opener “High Velocity Impact Splatter,” and more. Corpsegrinder’s trademark vocals are the final piece of the death metal puzzle that is “A Skeletal Domain.” Cannibal Corpse have proven time and again that they have more fuel in their tank, more riffs in their minds, and more ways to describe gore than any single group of human beings could ever have hoped. The thirteenth album will prove to be as important a landmark in their career as just about any other. Cannibal Corpse are consistency defined.