Cannibal Corpse is an American death metal band from Buffalo, New York. Formed in December 1988, the band has released thirteen studio albums, two box sets, four video albums and one live album. The band has had little radio or television exposure throughout its career, although a cult following began to build after the release of the 1991 album Butchered at Birth, and 1992 album Tomb of the Mutilated. As of 2015, they had achieved worldwide sales of two million units for combined sales of all their albums, making them the top-selling death metal band of all time.
The members of Cannibal Corpse were originally inspired by thrash metal bands like Slayer and Kreator, as well as other death metal bands such as Morbid Angel, Autopsy and Death. The band’s album art (most often by Vincent Locke) and lyrics, drawing heavily on horror fiction and horror films, are highly controversial. At different times, several countries have banned Cannibal Corpse from performing within their borders, or have banned the sale and display of original Cannibal Corpse album covers.
Cannibal Corpse was established in 1988 by members from earlier Buffalo-area death metal bands: Beyond Death (Webster, Owen), Leviathan (Barnes), and Tirant Sin (Barnes, Rusay, Mazurkiewicz). The band played its first show at Buffalo’s River Rock Cafe in March 1989, shortly after recording a five-song demo tape, Cannibal Corpse. Within a year of the first gig, the band was signed to Metal Blade Records, apparently after the label had heard their demo that was sent in by the manager of the record store at which Chris Barnes was working. Their full-length debut album, Eaten Back to Life, was released in August 1990.
The band has had many line-up changes over the years. In 1993, founding member and guitarist Bob Rusay was dismissed from the group (after which he became a golf instructor) and was ultimately replaced by Malevolent Creation guitarist Rob Barrett. In 1995, during recording sessions for a new album, singer Chris Barnes was dismissed and was replaced by Monstrosity singer George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher. Barnes went on to perform with the band Six Feet Under, and later Torture Killer.
In 1997, Barrett, who had originally replaced Rusay on guitar, left Cannibal Corpse to rejoin his previous bands Malevolent Creation and Solstice. After Barrett left, he was replaced by guitarist Pat O’Brien, who first appeared on Cannibal Corpse’s 1998 release Gallery of Suicide. Founding member and guitarist Jack Owen left Cannibal Corpse in 2004 to spend more time on his second band, Adrift. He joined Deicide in late 2005. Jeremy Turner of Origin briefly replaced him as second guitarist on 2004’s Tour of The Wretched Spawn. Barrett rejoined the band in 2005 and was first featured on the album Kill, released in March 2006.
Writing for the next album began in November 2007, as presaged in an interview with bassist Alex Webster. Evisceration Plague, Cannibal Corpse’s eleventh studio album was released February 3, 2009, to a highly positive response from fans. They also released a live DVD in 2011 entitled Global Evisceration. Cannibal Corpse released its twelfth studio album, Torture, in March 2012.
In February 2014, Cannibal Corpse announced that they began recording a new album, A Skeletal Domain, scheduled for a September release. “Sadistic Embodiment” was released as a single in July, and all of the names of the songs on the forthcoming album were announced the same day. The same month, Metal Blade announced the publication of the band’s authorized biography Bible Of Butchery, written by the British author Joel McIver.
Responses to Critics
Cannibal Corpse’s lyrics and album/T-shirt artwork frequently feature transgressive and macabre imagery, including depictions of extreme violence and gore; the band has always defended this as artistic expression that is clearly fictional. In an interview for the documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, George Fisher expresses the opinion that death metal is best understood “as art”, and claims that far more violent art can be found at the Vatican, pointing out that such depictions are arguably more transgressive because they actually happened. Some examples of Cannibal Corpse’s most controversial song titles include “Hammer Smashed Face”, “Meat Hook Sodomy”, “Entrails Ripped from a Virgin’s Cunt”, “Necropedophile”, “Stripped, Raped, and Strangled” and “Fucked with a Knife”.
On the same topic, George Fisher once said in an interview:
“We don’t sing about politics. We don’t sing about religion… All our songs are short stories that, if anyone would so choose they could convert it into a horror movie. Really, that’s all it is. We like gruesome, scary movies, and we want the lyrics to be like that. Yeah, it’s about killing people, but it’s not promoting it at all. Basically these are fictional stories, and that’s it. And anyone who gets upset about it is ridiculous.”
In response to accusations that his band’s lyrics desensitize people to violence, Alex Webster argued death metal fans enjoy the music only because they know the violence depicted in its lyrics is not real. He also believes the violent lyrics can have positive value : “It’s good to have anger music as a release.” George Fisher explained the content of their songs: “There’s nothing ever serious. We’re not thinking of anybody in particular that we’re trying to kill, or harm or anything.”