Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cannibal Corpse - Tomb of the Mutilated (1992)

Tomb of the Mutilated, released in 1992, very well may be the most well-known and beloved album from Cannibal Corpse. This is quite unfortunate as, even for this band, it is far from the best of their early works. It has its moments, but too many negative things drag it down.

To begin with, the vocal performance by Chris Barnes is terrible. His voice is much deeper and more guttural than before, lacking any feeling whatsoever. As opposed to the evil, risen-from-the-grave ghoul from Eaten Back to Life, he just sounds like someone vomiting into a toilet bowl and capturing the sound on tape. It does not to evoke a feeling of death or horror. It's just another percussive instrument, on an album that has far too much of a percussive sound as it is. Occasionally, he lets out a raspy scream, though these moments only prove that he could have done better and just chose not to.

The songwriting is not as good as that of either Eaten Back to Life or Butchered at Birth. There are far too many plodding, mid-paced riffs that really do nothing but serve as a background for the horrible vocals. The thrash influence seems to have completely died by this point, as well. There are some decent faster-paced riffs, but the wretched production has them buried beneath the percussion. Nonetheless, Tomb of the Mutilated does possess several memorable parts, found in tracks like "Addicted to Vaginal Skin", "Necropedophile" and "The Cryptic Stench". Things gradually improve throughout the course of the album, with the riffs creating a bit of a dark and morbid atmosphere, despite all the rest of the elements that are actively working against this. Some of the guitar riffs from songs like "The Cryptic Stench", "Entrails Ripped from a Virgin's Cunt" and "Post Mortal Ejaculation" really could have been expanded upon and worked into better, darker songs. As for the latter, it features the best moments of the whole record, with some riffs that might have been better suited for Black Metal. The break near the end, with the guitars standing alone and then a high-pitched cry and the blasting drums coming back in... this small part of the song possesses the darkest feeling and shows a bit of potential. Ever since my first time hearing it, so many years ago, I've felt like they could have done so much more with that section and with this album, in general.

The lyrics are a point of interest for many, and in this regard Barnes did quite a good job at conjuring up a variety of unsettling images and scenarios. While many have attempted to write rather disgusting lyrics, often just to outdo the next band, Barnes comes across as genuinely disturbed and that does add to the atmosphere of the record, to an extent. The lyrics would have had more of an impact had he chosen to utilize a more raw and decipherable vocal style, however.

The production is a definite step down from Butchered at Birth. The bass and drums are far too high in the mix, giving the overall sound a really weird vibe. The guitars do not possess the same kind of tone as on the previous two albums, somehow feeling weaker. The poor mix only emphasizes this even more. The vocals are probably mixed about as well as possible, given the circumstances.

In the end, Tomb of the Mutilated could have been much better than it is. A different vocal approach, and a production job that was less percussive, would have done quite a lot for the album just as it is. As well, some of the more boring riffs could have been scrapped. Despite all the setbacks, Side B showcases some rather decent material from Cannibal Corpse and certainly beats the hell out of anything they have done in the past twenty years. There's much better old school Death Metal out there, but this is still worth a listen if you're a fan of this band.