As much as I’ve championed brutal death metal here at THKD lately, I’d be remiss not to review the latest album from Cannibal Corpse, the proverbial granddaddies of ’em all. I mean, I think we can all agree that this entire subset of death metal wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the boys from Tampa, who’ve now been at it for an unbelievable twenty-six years. A Skeletal Domain is the thirteenth album in their lengthy, storied career and even after only being out for a few weeks it has already garnered opinions ranging from “it’s the best thing they’ve done since 2006’s Kill” to “it sounds like Cannibal Corpse.”
Although I dug 2012’s Torture, I would definitely agree that A Skeletal Domain is the best batch of Cannibal Corpse songs since Kill, which has proven itself to be one of the definitive albums of the Corpsgrinder era. Much like Kill, A Skeletal Domain sees the band ratcheting up the catchiness to pen some of their most memorable late-period material to date, including at least one future classic in the form of “Kill or Become.” Many write-ups regarding the album have focused on this track, and with good reason; with its ridiculously infectious refrain of “Fire up the chainsaw / hack all their heads off / fire up the chainsaw / hack their fucking heads off” it is a damn near perfect death metal song that will likely have a spot on CC’s setlist for many years to come.
But of course, one song does not an album make, and although there is some stock riffage to be found on A Skeletal Domain (what do you expect after two-plus decades?!), there is also a hell of a lot of Cannibal Corpse at their neck-wrecking finest. From the frantic “High Velocity Impact Splatter,” to the thrashy “Sadistic Embodiment,” to the slow-burning (by CC standards) title track, to the crushing “Icepick Lobotomy” and beyond, there’s no shortage of brutalizing big league death metal to enjoy, and the band’s knack for hooks (something their legions of imitators could never quite manage to copy) is on full display throughout the record. It’s becoming increasingly rare that a modern death metal album lodges itself in my skull, but I find numerous tracks from A Skeletal Domain worming their way in.
Cannibal Corpse have never released a bad-sounding album, but it’s worth noting that the band switched producers for A Skeletal Domain after a three album run with Erik Rutan (who hasn’t he produced?). Mark Lewis (Deicide, Arsis, Six Feet Under, etc.) is a newcomer to the Corpse camp, and does a great job here of making them sound like the kings of the death metal mountain. The production scheme features more low-end than the past few releases, making for a fuller-sounding album, as if Cannibal Corpse wasn’t already heavy enough. The difference is subtle, yet it goes a long way towards helping the music sound fresh in spite of the band being so long in the tooth.
A Skeletal Domain is a damn good album from the most consistent brutal death metal band that ever existed. Not every song is an all-out banger, but when Cannibal Corpse is on, and they’re “on” far more often than not here, there isn’t another band in the game that even comes close. If you’re not down with the band or the subgenre they helped spawn, this one isn’t going to change your mind, but it’s sure to be a feast for fanatics. Enjoy or die.