Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cannibal Corpse - Butchered at Birth (1991)

Cannibal Corpse has always been a rather prolific band, going all the way back to their earliest days. Though nearly every album of theirs has sounded the same for well over a decade, such was not the case in the beginning. Each of their first several records had a rather distinctive sound. Released in 1991, Butchered at Birth came across as a bit darker and more serious, leaving behind the '80s Death / Thrash and campy horror movie lyrics in favour of something more disturbing.

The sophomore effort from Cannibal Corpse is a much heavier record and this is a result not only of the lower tuning for the guitars, but also the thicker production and the bludgeoning riffs. Also, the vocals become less discernible and more of an instrument that pushes the compositions forward, as Chris Barnes uses a deeper and more guttural style than before. This is one of the more negative aspects of the album, as his voice on Eaten Back to Life possessed a deathlike feeling that was lost with the arrival of the infamous "cookie monster" vocals. As for the music, the band discarded more of the trappings of their Thrash Metal roots and embrace a more pure Death Metal style, featuring more droning tremolo riffs and blastbeats. In some ways, Butchered at Birth seems to utilize a more percussive approach. Rather than just keeping a beat, the drums drive the music along just as much as the guitars and vocals. Even during the mid-paced sections, the double-bass never stops rumbling. Some of the riffs start to blend together, and one may have a hard time remembering which one belongs to what song, but then there are tracks like "Vomit the Soul" (featuring guest vocals from Glen Benton of Deicide) and the powerful closer, "Innards Decay", that stick with you long after the album concludes.

Though the production is not as raw and the vocals lack much of the unique character from before, Butchered at Birth is filled with memorable riffs and still stands as a guitar-oriented album. Because of the tuning of the guitars, the lower-pitched vocals and the prominence of the drumming, the sound of this album comes off as rather muddy, in a sense. It is like a wall of sound that repeatedly smashes you in the face, which may have been what the band was going for.

Cannibal Corpse was never the greatest Death Metal band out there, gaining a lot of notoriety from their album covers and promotion and so on, but they were solid in their early years. Butchered at Birth shows a bit of decline in quality from Eaten Back to Life, but it is still a decent Death Metal record with a fair amount of memorable riffs and ideas, if not actually memorable songs. If you are new to the band, or only familiar with their recent output, put that trash away and stick with their first few releases.