The Lowdown: American death metal institution Cannibal Corpse continue their almost-unbroken string of gory and mosh-worthy killing sprees with Violence Unimagined, their first album with longtime producer Erik Rutan as a full-time guitarist. The result is one of their most subtle and disquieting albums – but subtle is a relative term here. Every Cannibal Corpse album is a nonstop metal assault, and Violence Unimagined is no exception.
The Good: While the fortunes of American death metal as a whole have waxed and waned, Cannibal Corpse’s career has remained steady, thanks to a solid lineup and reliable recorded output. Their string of albums since 2006’s Kill has helped the band expand their core fan base without sacrificing their core sound — blitzkrieg rhythms, scorched-earth guitar playing, and horror flick lyrics well-enunciated by blast-furnace vocalist George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher.
Violence Unimagined comes after the band’s first lineup change since Fisher came on board – longtime guitarist Pat O’Brien is out of the fold following a bizarre 2018 encounter with the law that involved arson, assault, and multiple firearms found in his home. His replacement is Erik Rutan, a near-legendary figure in the death metal underground thanks to his esteemed work as a producer and his membership in bands like Morbid Angel, Ripping Corpse, and his (slept-on!) personal project Hate Eternal.
Adding Rutan to the mix does bring a new element to Cannibal Corpse, incorporating a bit of the creeping melody and off-kilter atmosphere to a typically direct band on songs like the delirious “Condemnation Contagion.” Rutan’s ear for the unconventional makes this the first significant (if slight) shift in the band’s sound, making their songs more dramatic, if no less straightforward.
The Bad: Cannibal Corpse excel at making brutal death metal memorable, if not palatable. Look past the name and hear the nonstop hooks in their classic song “Hammer Smashed Face.” Typically, the band manages at least one anthemic, must-hear song per album, the kind of tune you always want to hear in their setlist. Violence Unimagined works well as a unit but doesn’t quite have that one standout song, in part because Fisher’s vocals are a bit low in its thicker, soupier mix.
The Verdict: Losing Pat O’Brien could have been a severe blow to the normally resilient Cannibal Corpse, but Rutan more than steps up to the plate, augmenting the band’s sound with fever-dream harmonies and filigrees without detracting from the band’s core appeal. Violence Unimagined doesn’t precisely deliver a standout track, but it promises an exciting and surprisingly subtle turn in the band’s legacy of brutality.
Essential Tracks: “Inhumane Harvest”, “Condemnation Contagion”, “Surround. Kill. Devour.”
Pick up Cannibal Corpse’s Violence Unimagined here.