Monday, August 3, 2009

Cannibal Corpse - The Bleeding (1994)

My best friend and I were in junior high when this was released, in April 1994. A short time later, we got our hands on a Metal blade catalog and proceeded to order the fourth full-length album from Cannibal Corpse, The Bleeding. It is most unfortunate that this has the distinction of being the first Death Metal album that we ever heard. I'd grown up with traditional Metal and Thrash, so the only thing that was really new about this was the vocal style. I've encountered a lot of people that have had difficulty in getting into Death and Black Metal, due to the vocals, but I took to it quite easily. Despite the fact that I moved far beyond this album, in the years that followed, I must give credit where it is due. This acted as the gateway that would lead me into the realm of Death Metal, where I'd soon discover much more relevant albums, such as Altars of Madness, Scream Bloody Gore, Consuming Impulse and many more. This opened up a world beyond NWOBHM and Thrash Metal. Whatever my current opinion is, I cannot deny the importance of this album, on a personal level.

It begins with "Staring Through the Eyes of the Dead", opening with rather odd sounding riffs. The song speeds up a bit, about halfway through, though this does not last long. As it slows down again, there's a nice morbid effect with the vocals and the bass. A couple of Slayer-esque solos follow this, being kind of worthless, in the long run.

"Fucked With A Knife" was the one that got me into a lot of trouble, at home. When this album was discovered in my possession, this created some annoyance for me. Unfortunately for me, I didn't have the censored version. No, I had the uncensored version, complete with lyrics. It's funny to look back on, these days. Musically, the song wasn't too far off from the Thrash Metal that I was already quite familiar with. Only the vocals were new, really. The high-pitched scream, at the end, was always one of my favorite parts. Chris Barnes utilized more variation in his style, on this album, and it probably helped prepare me for the Second Wave Black Metal bands that I would later discover, as well. I always thought the band would have benefited had he chosen to use these raspier screams on earlier albums.

The next song has always sounded like the one that was intended to become a staple of the live shows. "Stripped, Raped and Strangled" has that radio-single quality to it, though there was no way in Hell that this was seeing any airplay, with the exception of college radio. However, it seems really catchy and this always got on my nerves a bit. However, the faster riffs make up for this. Of course, this was my first exposure to such lyrics, and I enjoyed them in a sick way. This was before I was completely desensitized to this stuff, by hearing it a million times.

"Pulverized" starts with a decent tremolo riff and a lot of speed and intensity, compared to the previous song. Lyrically, the approach isn't simply that of random violence; there is a dark and twisted element present. The main character of the song, literally, asks to be stopped. It adds an interesting dimension to the story. While being fairly straight-forward, there are still variations in the tempo and a few riff changes. Again, Barnes employs a raspy, high-pitched vocal style, near the end.

"You tried to stop me
Dead before you started
Put me away
Before I put another in the grave"

"Return to Flesh" begins with a mid-paced riff, accompanied by a razor sharp tremolo riff that nicely accentuates the main theme. This is one of the best of the whole album, though it comes and goes. As the song gets going, it alternates between a mid-paced thrash riff and the aforementioned tremolo melody. This comes together well, creating a morbid feeling. The solo is much more thought-out, adding something to the song rather than being pointless. With this song, Side A really ends on a strong note, as this is one of the best songs on the record.

Side B starts out with "The Pick Axe Murders", which sounds like the name of a novel. Whereas the previous song ended with a slow pace, this one is much faster. Even at this point, the band's thrash roots are still quite evident. Another Slayer-esque solo precedes the vicious vocals, again alternating between high and low. While many Cannibal Corpse fans probably prefer earlier albums, The Bleeding succeeds where the others failed; i.e. each song stands out from the rest, being easily identifiable. The album never gets boring, even by Death Metal standards.

"She Was Asking For It" begins with explosive riffs and tremolo melodies. It has such a fast pace, that the drums almost seem as if they're having difficulty keeping up with the rest. But this is only an introductory section, as the song slows down as the first verse comes in. As before, the lyrics are interesting and are easy to follow along with. This one features more of a complex structure than some of the others, giving it sort of an epic feeling. following another fast part, the song gets even slower and utilizes some whispered vocals to add to the eerie effect.

"Dead to the world, I see only black
There's blood on my hands
Dead to the world, I see only black
The blood of the dead"

The title track opens with a very good riff, building a decent atmosphere of horror. This, easily, solidifies this record as being the most interesting of this band's career. It seems that this is around the time that the band, finally, gave in to creativity and put more effort into making something interesting, as opposed to trying to be the most brutal band out there. "The Bleeding" is filled with awesome riffs, a lot of thrash actually, and good variation in the vocals. The whole album is like this, really.

I am not sure if epic is the right word, but I cannot think of anything better to describe the feeling that builds throughout the latter half of this album. "Force Fed Broken Glass" shows the continuation of something that has slowly grown, over the course of this record. In some way, you can tell that the album is reaching its conclusion. The first minute or so is pretty fast-paced, though not incredibly intense or anything. A couple minutes in, the pace slows, considerably, and there are the sounds of someone gagging and choking (presumably on broken glass). The riffs create a sense of dread, working well with the vocals as well. The song speeds up again, but this is ephemeral. Again, the pace slows to something morbid, as hellish solos are accompanied by sparse acoustic notes. This is a flash of brilliance, by the standards of this band, and something I wish they had explored. There is the feeling that this would have been a good way to end the album, but it isn't over yet.

"An Experiment In Homicide" telegraphs the fact that the end is upon us. It's faster than the last song, though possessing slower parts as well. It is a fairly short song, giving the sens that the life has been fully drained and that there's no point in going on. As the last echoes fade, your fate is clear.

"I set the dead on fire
To decay in flames"

The Bleeding is, by far, the best album Cannibal Corpse ever recorded. It was at this point that they seemed fully comfortable with their instruments and willing to go beyond the strict boundaries established by their earlier albums. Perhaps sentimentality plays a part here, but it would seem that the band was well on their way to achieving something greater than they would actually go on to do. This would mark the end of the Chris Barnes era. After a couple more albums, they decided to make a career of rehashing old material. However, more than a decade since I have cared at all for this band, this album is still quite enjoyable. I recommend this as a good starting point for anyone looking to check them out. It may also serve as a good stopping point, depending on your point of view.