Cannibal Corpse - "Eaten Back To Life"

Metal Blade (1990)

I was sixteen years old and walking up to the village from my campground at 2001's Wacken Open Air. "Eaten Back To Life" was playing on my Discman. I had purchased it at the festival, based on the cover, it's status as "banned" in Germany, and the fact that most people I had until then spoken to deemed it "stumpf" (which means both demented and unnecessarily aggressive at the same time) and shunned it. I clearly remember walking into the Wacken village (ran out of money) trying to wrap my head around this crude yet enticing sound.

At the time, I considered most non-keyboard metal "stumpf" and I basically listened to Dimmu Borgir waiting for the slow and atmospheric parts. It may come as no surprise that my first reaction to "Eaten…" was boredom. Yet something about this was strangely attractive. The first chords of the opener, "Shredded Humans" reminded me of the feeling of the original "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" movie and reading the lyrics along, I felt immersed in a gruesome car crash in all it's horrid detail with the humidity and stench choking me.

Today, eleven years later, I still enjoy this death metal classic and treasure each individual track. There have been various live releases of material from this album which, along with the part on the creation of the album in the "Centuries of Torment" DVD), have helped me better *get* the essence of the album, what it was really about. No song here can better exemplify what it is about than "Scattered Remains, Splattered Brains". Starting out with a mid tempo thrash groove, the listener just knows that this band consists of metalheads as pure as they come. The uninitiated will call the opening stale, and will not be surprised by the drum fury as the speed attack opens up. But as pure metal as this song is, it already has the typical Cannibal riffing with overludes too complicated to be appreciated at the first listen.

While I think Corpsegrinder is the better vocalist, let me state clearly that Chris Barnes wrote the sickest words, exemplified in this song by a gory description of a pathologist gruesomely playing (yes, playing, like a child) with bodyparts. I have studied on dead humans, and the lyrics get all the more irritating as for me it is virtually unthinkable: Any personnel schooled in dissection will never even get the idea to cast their tools aside to just tear at the parts. It is just not effective, so I guess the only motivation a human being could have to do that would be extreme aggression or pure insanity..

Another example of Barnes' hilarious psychological insights is "Bloody Parts". In it, the protagonist casually walks down the street as a rotting stench sets upon him. He finds a garbage can full of dead body parts. Next follows some internal monologue as to the course of action: "What have I found, what should I do, take it to the police or make it into stew". Then the lyrics focus on his lust for murder. But consider the line I quoted: It takes the listener completely by surprise. Reading (and listening), I find myself emphasizing with this guy finding a can of rotten flesh and am totally revulsed. Then he thinks about making stew. What. the. fuck!!!?!??

"Eaten Back To Life" - the title itself is paradox, but only an artist like Vince Locke could pull off a fitting and gorgeous artwork. I love his anatomically correct, detailed yet crude and over the top artwork. A dark, otherworldly sky brooding over a cursed graveyard cluttered with gore (and, if you look closely, allusions to the lyrics) provides the atmosphere for the carnage that the undead one in the center inflicts upon himself. Atmospheric, brutal, aggressive - as is the music.

Even though the production has aged, I value it's relative clarity - no problems hearing each instrument in the mix. The guitars retain sawing mid range, the bass (already foreshadowing the mastery of Alex Webster) is clearly discernible and features prominently in parts, just like on the later releases. The drums seem to be played slightly too fast, lending another layer of aggression to the sound. Barnes' voice is raspy and demonic. His monotonous vocals sound like a third prominent guitar, sawing relentlessly through the bone. I generally appreciate the Corpsegrinder more, but listening to the individual tracks, I tend to think that Barnes sound quite perfect. But that discussion remains for the die hard fans...

In it's 22 years of existence, "Eaten back to Life" has aged appropriately and lost nothing of it's sickness and aggression. It's musical innovation has only been overshadowed by the mighty behemoth that Cannibal Corpse themselves have become.


Composed by Lennard Bertram

Roy Kristensen 15.03.2012 09:18

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