2017 has been the year of old school death metal bands dropping painfully mediocre albums. There was Immolation, then Incantation, Morbid Angel decided to disappoint me yet again. Now we have Cannibal Corpse, the patron saints of mediocrity in death metal, releasing another album; their 14th to be exact. Will these grandpa’s go above my low expectations for them this time? Let’s find out.
This opening on “Only One Will Die” isn’t bad by any means, it just feels like I’ve heard it a million times before. I like the riffs in this song well enough, and drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz is playing as aggressively as you’d expect him to. I can say about the same on the much, much groovier “Code of the Slashers.” This might be the slowest song these guys have ever written. As they’ve gotten older, they’ve experimented with groove a lot more, and I think it works out well.
George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher sounds just as mediocre as ever. Props to him for performing this extremely demanding vocal style for 30 years with, to my knowledge, no damage to his vocal cords. His particular style of performance just isn’t very interesting, if that makes sense. He doesn’t sound like he’s about to vomit like Frank Mullen of Suffocation. He doesn’t sound pure fucking evil like Lord Worm of Cryptopsy. He just sounds…like a death metal vocalist. It’s not so much an insult as it is lethargy from me.
And that’s been my issue with this band’s entire career. Outside of 2014’s A Skeletal Domain, nothing they’ve released has really given me cause to give it repeat listens. It’s always just been passable death metal that never strives to be more. Even with Alex Webster, who is arguably the most talented bass player in death metal, they just never try to be more technical. They never explore musical ideas very far; they go just far enough to finish the song in a satisfying way to the average low-IQ death metal fan.
Despite all of that, they’re undoubtedly the most successful death metal band in history. They never took the route of their peers in expanding musically, and it paid off in droves. When the average person thinks death metal, the first band that comes to mind is Cannibal Corpse. You can’t deny or fault them for their success. I may not ever go out of my way to listen to them, but I can’t give them anything but respect for the near 30 years of success they’ve had in their career.
Red Before Black gets a 3/5.