When it comes to the world of death metal, there aren’t too many bands to experience the long lasting success and rabid following that Cannibal Corpse has had over the past 20 or so years. Originally hailing from Buffalo in the late 80’s with original lead singer Chris Barnes (Six Feet Under), the band was one of a few bands originally developing the sound that would later become known as death metal. During the 90’s, Cannibal Corpse were unquestionably the leaders of this new movement, and their intentionally grotesque lyrics and album covers caught the attention of religious and family groups and made the band a target.
The band survived the onslaught of the watchdog groups and soldiered on with lead new singer George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher in the mid-90’s and continue to deliver killer blast beats and guttural vocals. But as the years have progressed and the sea of bands that used Cannibal as an influence being a tidal wave now, the band has taken on an elder-statesmen type of status in the death metal world. But not to be outdone, the band has released their thirteen album, “Torture”.
“Torture” continues the horror and gore themed lyrics on songs like “Rabid” and “The Strangulation Chair”, but also makes the return of the band’s gruesome looking album covers, which had been missing the past few albums. With the album just recently released and a tour with Exhumed coming up next month, Cannibal Corpse are gonna be very busy guys for the next several months.
Before the tour started, I had a chance to speak with founding member and bassist Alex Webster about the tone of the new album, and the downside of not getting enough sleep when not on tour. Here’s my interview with Alex:
AM: What do you see as the major differences between the material “Torture” and your last album, “Evisceration Plague”?
AW: To me, “Torture” sounded a bit rawer than the stuff on “Evisceration Plague” and a bit more frenzied than before. Paul (Mazurkeiwicz- drummer) just started trying out a lot of new and different beats for this album and really ran with it. I think the drumming on “Evisceration Plague” was a bit more controlled, where as I think it’s far more loose on “Torture”. I don’t see this being our fastest record in comparison to the earlier albums, but I think the music is coming from a more exciting place now.
AM: Did you feel recording at Sonic Ranch Studios (where the band recorded many albums in the 90’s) brought special fury to the album?
AW: We definitely accomplished what we wanted on this album. Sonic Ranch Studios is this really isolated, desolate residential studio with hacienda sleeping about 40 miles east of El Paso. The studio overlooks the Rio Grande and being that far away from everything allows you to be focused and not worry about the things going on around you at that time. We did basic tracking and start of the recording for a month in September before heading back to Mana Studios in St. Petersburg’s to finish up the album.
AM: Did you feel the band really wanted to bring back the gruesome album cover motif for “Torture”?
AW: With the past couple of records, we wanted to try something different. With the cover for “Kill” (2006), it was very simple and to the point. For “Evisceration Plague”, the cover was getting back into the gore themed stuff- but it was still pretty subtle in comparison to past work. On both those albums, the cover art was subtle, but the liner cover art was very much in line with what we do. Vince Locke, who has done the artwork for “Butchered At Birth” and other albums had an idea and a vision for the cover art right away, ran away with it and came out with a very classic Cannibal Corpse cover.
AM: Looking back at the controversy that the band received back in the 90’s, do you feel that the issues were blown out of proportion?
AW: If anything, it probably helped us and attracted more fans to us during that period. But overall, I think it was blown out of proportion for the most part. But if you look back at the ultra violent movies and graphic novels back then, our music was no more violent than any of those movies- but somehow we attracted the attention. I believe it’s evident that violently themed music seems to be more prone to attract more attention than when it’s in movies.
AM: Do you feel that most of the lyrics and album art have been pushed as about as far as they can at this point?
AW: There’s definitely always room to push it farther for sure. But we aren’t out here trying to be the most offensive band, but in order to meet the requirements to be a Cannibal song. The lyrics have to be horrifying in some fashion and have some element of graphic violence or a dark theme to it. But like with hundreds of movies and hundreds of books like that, I am sure we’ll always find something to write about.
AM: Being around as long as you have, are you surprised by the elder statesmen status the band has taken from the younger bands?
AW: No way, I never expected it. It really just kinda crept up on us and we’re still surprised by it. We really didn’t notice it until about several years ago that we started running into a lot of bands that came up listening to us. I remember a tour with Spawn Of Possession that we met those guys and they picked our brain about our old albums for hours- which we never expected. People who play that sort of metal look at us like we look at a band like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.
AM: There was a scene in the Global Evisceration DVD where you fell asleep on your suitcase after a lot of touring- just how grueling can touring overseas be for the band?
AW: (laughs) That tour on that DVD was a tough traveling experience for us. We were going back and forth between being on a bus and flying to these different shows. A lot of times, with the time changes and heavy scheduling of festivals- you get off a plane and have like an hour or two before the show, which doesn’t really allow much time for sleep. There wasn’t much time to shower or anything because there was always this waiting game for flights. Your body catches up with you when you get four hours or less or sleep a night and sometimes you just drop where you are. But there were a lot of good festivals and I don’t want people to sit here and feel sorry for us- we’re the dumbasses who set it up that way (laughs). But with our tour of Europe coming up, we’ll have a bus and have plenty of time to catch up on sleep.
Cannibal Corpse plays at the Intersection in Grand Rapids on Sunday, April 15th. Tickets are $20 and are available at www.etix.com. The band will also be headlining the annual Summer Slaughter tour with Between the Buried and Me, dates TBA. Additional tour dates and band info can be found at www.cannibalcorpse.com.