Back when the Earth was young, poofy-haired dinosaurs ruled the world, and this author was in middle school, finding heavy metal music more extreme than, say, Extreme was a social imperative. As an angrier-than-ya-oughta-be adolescent wishing to distinguish yourself from the Skid Row fans, this was completely necessary, lest you be herded with the rest of the sheep into torturous teenage social rites like having friends and talking to girls. No band helped further the cause more than Cannibal Corpse. With albums like Butchered at Birth and Tomb of the Mutilated, Cannibal Corpse weren't just a metal band — they were contraband. A Metallica T-shirt wouldn't raise an eyebrow at school (well, maybe the one with the knife coming out of the toilet would) but Cannibal Corpse T-shirts, with their graphic depictions of gore-splattered violence, guaranteed detention, or worse. And if your mom found your C.C. tapes? Kiss your summer goodbye, buddy.
When the Corpse's newest record, Evisceration Plague, showed up on my desk a few weeks ago, the question arose: Can a grizzled, grown-ass man still get the same thrill from this band that a sheltered, scandal-seeking suburbanite adolescent did? It's not that I had ever stopped listening to extreme metal, it's just that after the initial wave of death metal, with bands like Morbid Angel and Death, my tastes veered away from the fast and technical and toward the slow and sludgy. (Also, I'm a fan of singing rather than growling, and being able to understand the lyrics — two things death metal isn't particularly known for.)
So can this pretentious professional listener get the same prurient titillation from latter-day tunes that his teenage-self got from songs like "I Cum Blood" and "Entrails Ripped From a Virgin's C***"? Yes and no.
The hyper-violent horror-film lyrics could have been about puppies and rainbows for all I care — blame years of reading the Consumption Junction website and watching hardcore splatter films for the desensitization — but the music, the unflinching brutality in those blast beats and bludgeoning guitars, is just as exciting now as it was back in the day. It took about four bars of Evisceration Plague's opener, "Plague of Sodom" to regress from a melody-obsessed, prog-loving nerd to headbangin', speed-freakin' chucklehead. By the time "A Cauldron of Hate" came on the stereo it was clear that the primal, angry portion of my brain had been suffering from neglect for far too long, buried beneath years of over-intellectualized music listening. I suddenly realized that listening to Cannibal Corpse was only tangentially about scaring parents and squares — that in reality the appeal was strictly in finding music that resonates in the deepest, darkest parts of my brain.
Thank God I don't have to hide this album from my mom.