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  • JammT


Updated: Apr 27, 2021


Realistically, everyone will already know how Violence Imagined sounds for the simple reason that it is Cannibal Corpse. Essentially the AC/DC of death metal they have been going as long as the genre and their core – indeed only – sound has barely deviated even fractionally over 30 years. And all bets are off that there will be any drastic change before they retire. Yes, there have been creative peaks and troughs over their long career, but you should know what to expect musically but especially thematically. In this case, you cannot really separate imagery from music. Cannibal Corpse’s track record has been an unambiguous vile compendium dedicated to slaughterhouse torture and lurid horror themes. The explicit artwork, sick lyrics and grisly imagery are the band’s raison d'etre. Commercial printing companies producing stickers must have done well from the ‘Explicit’ warnings plastered all over Cannibal Corpse’ releases over the years. Inevitable shock and offense caused during death metal’s early '90s heyday eventually gave way to mirth and mockery at what was seen as jaded cartoonish tropes during the anti-metal late '90s and early '00s. Still the band ploughed on darkly with morbid purpose undeterred by fads and are now, arguably, more popular than at any point to the extent that even post-hipster musos with manicured beards review them. It's almost like a Dead Kennedys or Ramones t-shirt.

Fair play, too: they helped mould the entire genre and have been the inspiration behind the genesis of literally thousands of death metal imitators. While Violence Unimagined predictably serves up no stylistic departure from their tried and tested lobotomy kit, it is arguably one of Cannibal Corpse’s finest modern-era records. There is little in the way of going through the motions as the band sound super-charged and pumped. The album starts with a bilious double whammy of future set-list certainties. Murderous Rampage won’t breach the Trades Description Act. Put simply it is basically fast, brutal, succinct and executed with gusto. The high-velocity continues into the brilliant Necrogenic Resurrection, a high-tempo piece of rough surgery. Both songs are short sharp bursts of essentially violent death metal and Cannibal Corpse don’t get much better. Yet the band are more inclined towards bludgeon than high-speed thrashier elements and the incendiary Condemnation Contagion and Inhumane Harvest shows just how riotously good they are in this gear. The latter song pulverizes with mid-paced riffs that are devastatingly uncomplicated but punishingly serrated.

Although not immediately obvious there is, however, some technical prowess and nuance at play behind the assault. More sophisticated flourishes and triggering time changes are subtly threaded through the heaviness. The transition of Erik Rutan from producer to full-time guitarist (replacing Pat O’Brien who was arrested in 2017 for resisting arrest, possession of fire-arms, and a collection of human skulls…) has introduced turns and tacks that prevents music like this from becoming boring. The overall sound, too, is slightly rawer than much of their previous muffled density but it is still unfeasibly heavy. As for the vocals, if death metal looked like a human being it would be in the form of that great man-mountain George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher. George truly has the imposing stature of a sasquatch, a neck like a cement bollard and an indefatigable blow-torch bellow that could be coming from the flu system of some nightmarish industrial incinerator. Occasionally you can hear what he is roaring about and it is never savoury but it is an unholy centrepiece performance throughout.

With Violence Unimagined, Cannibal Corpse sound resurrected and energized. The lust for gratuitous gore has not abated with the usual tales of senseless, hedonistic torture and live vivisection. It is a ceaseless, commendable din and probably just as incomprehensible to normal civilians as it was in 1990. Entirely expected, but immensely good and it is indeed a hammer smash to the face.

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