Cannibal Corpse - Butchered at Birth (1991)
I ventured back to this old favourite from my youth over the last couple of days & found that it still hits the spot. I was majorly into the more brutal end of death metal at the time & the early rise of Suffocation had made a major impact on me so I was actively seeking out anything that could remotely rival the masters of brutal death metal. I found Cannibal Corpse's 1990 debut album "Eaten Back To Life" to be pretty fun without ever really commanding repeat listens but "Butchered At Birth" saw them upping the ante on the brutality significantly by dropping some of their early thrash influences, removing any semblance of melody & drawing forth the deepest & most imposing death metal vocals we'd heard to the time, not to mention one of the most grisly & iconic album covers & some seriously sickening lyrical content. It all added up to a welcome death metal feast for a rebellious teenager like myself.
"Butchered At Birth" is the first essential Cannibal Corpse album in my opinion. It starts off with one of the first genuine hits of the extreme death metal scene in "Meathook Sodomy" which still tears me a new one every time I sit through the swamp of sickening whammy bar noise that makes up the intro. The rest of the tracklisting is very consistent with no weak tracks although the second half of the album definitely sees the quality dropping off a little. It's pretty obvious that the earlier tracks are made up of the band's newer material as they're generally more sophisticated & you easily see that this was a band that was still developing its sound.
The instrumentation certainly isn't quite the finished product yet. The drumming is very repetitive & basic, the rhythm guitar performances can be pretty sloppy at times & the solos aren't exactly theoretically correct but there's an undeniable atmosphere of pure death about "Butchered At Birth" that just resonated with so many of the true death metal fans of the time. Unlike Suffocation's early works from the same year, this isn't a brutal death metal record per se. It's a classic old school death metal album with some seriously brutal vocals & if I'm being honest I think those vocals will ultimately dictate whether this release is a winner or a loser with you. They're the highlight of the record for me personally as I absolutely love their monstrous tone. Despite their indecipherable nature which was completely devoid of melody, Chris Barnes strangely managed to pull off some really catchy phrasing & the excessive violence & gore still rocks my boat to this day. It's just so extreme which is something that I crave in my life.
Cannibal Corpse would create better albums in the coming years but they'd rarely show this level of youthful exuberance. Over the subsequent decades they've become one of death metal's most recognizable, reliable & marketable forces but if you really want to know what they're about then this is the record you should investigate. "Butchered At Birth" changed many people's perceptions on what extreme metal could be, would massively influence the new brutal death metal movement I was about to become a part of & became a gateway for so many pimple-faced teenagers who are now life-long death metal fanatics.
For fans of Deicide, Cannabis Corpse & Monstrosity.