Just a few months in, 2012 is turning out to be a banner year for fans of death metal, with two major landmarks already in our path: last month brought an epic 22-track retrospective from Bay Area horror death-metal pioneers Autopsy (check out our review here), and tomorrow we're about to be blessed with another unholy offering from their New York counterparts Cannibal Corpse, who carved a bloody swath back in 2009 with the chart-topping release Evisceration Plague, and now follow up with another violent, gory, horrifically heavy record in the style they've perfected over the past quarter century. Read on for the full review, and listen to the opening track...
It became apparent last year with the much-maligned release of Morbid Angel's "comeback" record Illud Divinum Insanus that serious death metal devotees aren't exactly willing to give the genre's most iconic artists much room to explore outside their repertoire... but we don't really have to belabor that issue here, because Cannibal Corpse has always played to their strengths, and even their lesser material remains consistent with their trademark style.
Much like Evisceration Plague, the new record benefits from the production skills of Eric Rutan, who in both cases has helped infuse the new tracks with malevolent energy and sonic purity. I'd even consider this and the previous record to be an ideal double album, because Torture continues the same themes, styles and technical wizardry as if no time had passed between the two. While this isn't a concept record about the history of torture, many of the lyrics explore the theme of horrifying devices designed solely for the agonizing destruction of the human body – as if titles like "Intestinal Crank," "Strangulation Chair" and "Scourge of Iron" hadn't put those images in your skull already – so you can be assured that the band's appetite for blood is still ravenous as ever.
Their energy level, as usual, is set to eleven, as you can hear immediately in the maniacal opening track "Demented Aggression" – which is broken up into quick and dirty riff blocks, with only the briefest of lead guitar flourishes from Rob Barrett and Patrick O'Brien, seriously aggressive bass from Alex Webster (some of his best work ever can be heard on this record), and Brian "Corpsegrinder" Fisher's trademark demon roar. Listen for yourself!
After that opening blast of chaos, "Sarcophagic Frenzy" and the mega-beefy "Scourge of Iron" feel more straightforward, with a measured tempo and a thick, sludgy riff powering the latter. The breathtaking track "Encased in Concrete" gives both guitar and bass some room to crawl around, with a sneering lead solo at the open and incredibly tight, intricate bass work throughout – definitely one of the strongest repeaters on the album. "As Deep As the Knife Will Go" is more methodical, but makes good use of vocal overdubs and features some of Paul Mazurkiewicz's punchiest percussion.
"Intestinal Crank" opens with some spidery lead guitar and buzzes with deep bends and high-pitch tremolos, with some of the heftiest rhythms at the midpoint. Fisher's voice is less guttural and more raspy here, but cuts nicely through the booming mix. The epic "Followed Home Then Killed" is one of their doomiest, most atmospheric pieces, calling to mind the shuffling footsteps of an shadowy menace, with the double-kick creating the feel of an accelerating heartbeat. The pulse-pounder "The Strangulation Chair" is another standout, featuring an astounding bass solo and faster-than-light footwork from Mazurkiewicz. "Caged... Contorted" is a more straightforward platform, allowing each band member a moment or two in the spotlight. A frantic and relentless riff drives most of "Crucifier Avenged," with Fisher's vocals fused tight to the rhythms, while "Rabid" shoots out of the gate like black lightning, maintaining an inhumanly high tempo, punctuated by dirty bass rolls and the multi-tracked screams of the title; in fact, it sounds like the whole song is about to burst apart at the seams. The riffs dive deep for the closing cut "Torn Through," which returns to the frantic, chaotic mood of "Demented Aggression," bringing the cycle of violence to a dramatic conclusion.
Summing this one up is pretty damn simple, really: everything you love about Cannibal Corpse is here, and if you thought Evisceration Plague represented the band at the top of their game – including Rutan's production quality – then you can consider Torture as continuing the carnage exactly where that one left off. There's something comforting in the knowledge that a band will always basically sound the same, as long as they bring the same level of energy to bear with each new song. Thankfully, no worries about that here... but if you want more proof, check out the clip below for an inside look at the Torture recording sessions.