Whether it’s through onstage appearances, personalities or anything in between, bands such as Kiss and Slipknot find fame not just for their music. For Cannibal Corpse, this means grossing people out as much
As one of the pioneering bands in the brutal death metal scene, Cannibal Corpse has capitalized on violence and gore in every aspect of their albums and defined their subgenre. Whether through their gruesome album cover art or disgustingly detailed lyrics, their work drew much controversy upon its release in the early ’90s, scaring concerned mothers across the world. Twenty years later, Cannibal Corpse is still at it, releasing their 14th studio album Red Before Black to the joy of dedicated fans and metal heads, but drawing shrugs from everyone else.
The main issue plaguing Cannibal Corpse and the subgenre they helped create is a lack of diversity. Since the genre was perfected in the mid-1990s with albums such as Death’s Symbolic and Cryptopsy’s None So Vile, very little has changed in the world of death metal, and many fans consider brutal death metal to be cliché and boring. Going into Red Before Black, it was exciting to see if Cannibal Corpse would carpe diem and rebuild the genre into something formidable. Unsurprisingly, the LP disappointed.
The one-track minds of Cannibal Corpse are obvious from the get-go with Red Before Black’s opener “Only One Will Die.” While it’s comforting to hear a familiar sound from the band, it’s certainly not a good sign of what’s to come. “Code of the Slashers” is the epitome of familiar songwriting — with its simple song structure, it feels like something the band could have released in 1993.
Not every moment on this record comes across as run-of-the-mill. The wailing guitars on “Shedding My Human Skin” bring energy to otherwise typically heavy riffs and thumping drums, and the addition of some truly horrific lyrics makes this song stand out for all the right reasons. “Heads Shoveled Off” and “Destroyed Without a Trace” use identical tactics to stand out in the sea of similar songs.
Aside from these glimpses of Cannibal Corpse’s potential, most of Red Before Black sounds like an iteration of something the group did in their prime. Cannibal Corpse’s previous few studio efforts were indisputably in debt to brutal death metal clichés but had an element or two keeping the listener engaged. Red Before Black has none of that. There’s a general lack of changes in pace, it’s simply produced and the instrumentation is as straightforward as death metal can be. Red Before Black runs at the speed of sound simply because it can, never pausing to answer exactly why.
After one listen, this album gets old and repetitive, and nothing draws the listener back for another go-around. For that reason, Red Before Black is a decent introduction to Cannibal Corpse and the death metal scene, but only dedicated fans will give this album a chance to stick.