Imagine for a minute that you grew up in the musical suburbs, in an unpretentious little subdivision called Death Metal; you know, right down the road from Thrash Town but a long way away from Rock City and on the other side of the freaking country from Country Burg and the glittering excess of Discolopolis.
Just a few houses down from where you live are the guys who like to play a lot of fantasy-based role playing games, who read lots of H. P. Lovecraft and swear the paperback copy of the Necronomicon they bought at the B. Dalton Booksellers (in the same strip mall with the Baskin-Robbins where everyone got a free cone after Little League games) is totally the REAL THING and spend a lot of time attempting to dial up Pazuzu only they always seem to get it’s answering machine.
One street over are the foreign exchange students who all sport Mjölnir tattoos and always have plenty of beers and bottles of some vile liquor from “the homeland” which you could swear is fruit juice they fermented in the unused bathtub upstairs. These guys are like, educated: they’ve actually read Nietzsche and Kierkegaard and don’t mind discussing it with you, at least until the booze kicks in and they get real quiet and start glaring at you through forests of dirty blond hair, which is your cue to get the fuck out of there.
Then there is that house your mom doesn’t want you to visit. “I don’t trust those boys,” she says as she whips up another one of the Devil’s Own Rejected Fruitcakes from Hell. “Where are their parents? I never see them come to Desolation High School Parent Night.” That’s the house you like, though. Those dudes are intense. You’ve smoked meth with them sitting around the living room while some obscure Fulci flick is on the TV, or maybe a documentary about Albert Fish. They’ve got porn mags all over the place that would make a street magazine vendor from New York blanch interspersed with old copies of Fangoria, Gore Magazine, Playgore, and Horror Classics. They’re nice enough but you make it a point not to fall asleep around them. Where are their parents, anyway? And there’s that one room you are strictly forbidden to enter for any reason… and that smell…
“Sure Mom, whatever,” you say, “I’ll stay away from the Cannibal Corpse house.”
This is how I feel when I listen to old Cannibal Corpse; like I’m violating some rule that says I shouldn’t like this and yet I totally do. Butchered at Birth was the second release from the boys from New York and of course this was essential listening during those heady days of the early 1990’s. Even though I was in Florida at the time (a breeding ground for the new deathly sounds), I knew almost no one who was into death metal, so when someone got into my car I would naturally say something like, “Hey have you ever heard Cannibal Corpse?” and hit play on “Meat Hook Sodomy”. Reactions were mixed at best, as I recall. The girls didn’t get it (well one young lady did but that’s another story) and the guys couldn’t understand why I didn’t like Pearl Jam.
The personnel on the second album is the same as the first, and the cover art is another fantastic job by the inimitable Vince Locke. As usual, this was banned and banished in countries severely lacking in a sense of ironic detachment (Germany… really, Germany?) and freaked out a bunch of others who just don’t see the humor in two half-undead vivisectionists extracting a baby from the mostly skeletal remains of a woman.
It’s another Scott Burns production job, recorded at Morrisound Studios (for better or worse… I’ll get to that) and this time the thrash elements that informed Eaten Back to Life have been pushed a bit into the background. Much of this has to do with Chris Barnes’ vocal delivery: someone flipped Chris’s switch to “EVIL” and he hits those fantastic, incomprehensible low end grunts which push the songs into new territory. Once again Alec Webster and Paul Mazurkiewicz (bass and drums) deliver impressive and solid performances. I tend to prefer the songs that don’t over stay their welcome, like “Gutted”, “Covered with Sores” and the title track. That’s just how I like my death metal: hit it hard, hit it fast, and get the hell out of there.
Now the guitar tone… damn, people are picky as shit. It isn’t as weak as some of the trolls under the internet bridge claim, but it’s ridiculously thin, especially if (like I am now for the old school feel) you listen to the tape on a world-weary jam box. I’m sure Jack Owen and what’s his name, Rusay, didn’t intend for it to come out like that. The riffs, the rhythm parts, the solos, there is nothing wrong with any of it. Listen to “Covered with Sores” or the staggering ferocity of “Vomit the Soul” and try to imagine those guitars thick and meaty instead of sounding like they need a fucking sammich. I mean, in comparison, give a quick listen to the Eric Rutan produced Evisceration Plague; now that’s how Cannibal Corpse guitars should sound. Look, for what it was at the time, I had zero complaints; who cares if the guitars sound a tad bit weak when you’re listening to a song called “Rancid Amputation”?
An all around solid release and certainly a harbinger of things to come for the Cannibal Corpse guys. It was hard to imagine they’d get heavier than this but they totally did and would eventually, almost, kinda-sorta, flirt with something other than underground notoriety. But that, like my death metal lovin’ gal, is a story for another time.