The Death Metal titans have returned with their next slab of crushing brutality titled Violence Unimagined. A new CANNIBAL CORPSE release is always a special occasion, but this one is especially significant for two reasons: It’s the first without long-time guitarist Pat O’Brien since 1996’s Vile, and consequentially, it’s also the first to feature HATE ETERNAL mastermind Erik Rutan as a full-time guitarist for CANNIBAL CORPSE. While this change was expected to have some effect, the overall transition was natural and came without any notable deviations in sound. Violence Unimagined also doesn’t aim to experiment, but instead shows an unrelenting continuation of CANNIBAL CORPSE’s classic signature style and delivers a monstrous Death Metal assault.
Annihilation begins with an instant barrage of heavy distortion and drum fills on “Murderous Rampage” as Corpsegrinder’s indomitable gutturals command further punishment. This aptly titled opener continues its impulsive rage as progressions manifest through dense riffing, and it transitions into pummeling fretwork before the bloodthirsty groundwork is sealed with an intermittent exchange of solos. Speed riffing and accented melodies drive “Necrogenic Resurrection” into a slow rhythmic break that shifts erratically and builds toward the track’s scorching lead. “Inhumane Harvest” begins with frenzied riffing and shows a blatant rawness while progressing through a series of increasingly heavy grooves. These developments are complimented with a rush of melodic soloing, and this effect repeats for the crushing rhythm and doom-laden octaves of ”Condemnation Contagion.” Intricate melodies that rapidly alternate with bursts of speed picking are discernable on “Surround, Kill, Devour,” and one transition before the solo is a particularly complex and unpredictable blur of ferocity.
Brooding impressions lead to fierce shredding within a turbulent mass of speed and heaviness on “Ritual Annihilation,” and “Follow the Blood” contrasts this direct havoc with a slower groove that surges in pace and intensity before delving into the bleak melody of layered soloing. “Bound and Burned” also takes a groove approach while displaying an epic execution of dueling leads throughout. A chugging rhythm meanders through various melodic tangents on “Slowly Sawn” before shifting to a straightforward pace that brings to mind the back-and-forth motion of a misery whip across someone’s anatomy. The chaotic force of “Overtorture” briefly relents for the rugged pulsing of bass before the immensity of all these brutal elements merge on “Cerements of the Flayed” to carry out the final act of devastation.
CANNIBAL CORPSE customarily focuses on darker aspects of our existence in lyrics that match the brutality of the music. The tendencies of a serial killer are acted out on “Murderous Rampage,” and events on “Necrogenic Resurrection” are very reminiscent of scenes from Hellraiser, where blood from a series of murders allows Frank’s skinless body to rematerialize through the floor. “Inhumane Harvest” describes black market operations involving the collection and sale of organs. The more immediate horrors and societal chaos surrounding our pandemic are the topics of “Condemnation Contagion,” with interesting descriptors like “germophobic daymare” putting the situation in perspective. A post-apocalyptic scenario on “Surround, Kill, Devour,” which hopefully isn’t foreshadowed by the occurrences of the previous track, leads to cannibalism fueled by primal instincts for survival.
Ritualistic torture and sacrifice are carried out on “Ritual Annihilation,” with some descriptions resembling the blood eagle. Wounded and fleeing enemies are tracked down and finished off after a battle on “Follow the Blood,” and the effects of abuse culminate into brutal retribution on “Bound and Burned.” Visceral descriptions of physical and mental agony from methodical torture are the focus of “Slowly Sawn” and “Overtorture.” This continues with a bizarre situation on “Cerements of the Flayed,” where somebody is skinned, wrapped in the skin taken from another living person, and then buried while still alive. The real horror behind all these lyrics is that many go beyond mere imagination and reflect the savage realities of the human condition.
CANNIBAL CORPSE is back in full force, and Violence Unimagined is another demonstration of why they’ve earned such reverence as Death Metal legends. The absence of Pat O’Brien is undeniably felt on this album, and hopefully he will triumph over his personal ordeals. In the meantime, it’s a great relief to have Erik Rutan filling his role, and it’s interesting to hear Erik’s take on CANNIBAL CORPSE’s style with the songs he contributed. His presence ultimately added a unique touch to this recording, which is perhaps something CANNIBAL CORPSE needs at this time, and it harmonized favorably with the rest of the band who also affirmed their creative vitality. Violence Unimagined is an imposing work that’s guaranteed to induce bouts of involuntary head banging and various ravaging impulses, and it’s a definite highlight for supporters of classic Death Metal.