Since 1988, Cannibal Corpse have been at the forefront of death metal, having helped shape and define the genre, and creating a seminal, incomparable body of work in the decades that followed. In 2021 they raised the stakes again with 15th album Violence Unimagined, growing ever more complex and intense, and now they return with its successor, the equally monstrous Chaos Horrific, starting a new chapter in their legacy. Written closely after the conclusion of the Violence Unimagined sessions due to the pandemic preventing them from touring like usual, echoes of that album exist in Chaos Horrific, but this is a whole new beast of its own. “To me this album feels sort of like a continuation of Violence Unimagined. The style is quite similar, but individually none of the songs on Chaos Horrific sound like songs on Violence Unimagined,” says bassist Alex Webster. “It’s a full-on death metal album, Cannibal Corpse style, and a very natural progression from Violence Unimagined.”
While the band have always been noted for their technicality and complex songwriting, this does not define where the writing process takes them. “I believe that our songwriting has progressed in a manner where every song paves its own path whether it be a straightforward song or a technical song, sometimes a mix of both, so there’s no preconceived idea that we want to be more technical. The music just sort of takes its own course,” explains guitarist Rob Barrett. The band also had no specific plan for the record, always approaching each one with an open mind, just intent on writing the best songs that they can. “When we create a new record the writing flows freely and organically,” says guitarist/producer Erik Rutan. “One thing I had hoped for with the writing of Chaos Horrific was that the material would push the envelope a bit in a slightly different direction than Violence Unimagined; expand the dynamics, explore new territory without departing from what Cannibal Corpse is and always shall be. That naturally happened and is exactly what we achieved with this album.” The band also continue to uphold their legacy as they sonically progress and evolve with each and every release, never repeating themselves and working hard to make every song unique. With the intention of making albums on which every song is potentially the standout they have certainly pulled this off on Chaos Horrific’s ten tracks, showcasing a broad range of dynamics that propel the whole thing thrillingly. Kicking off with the aptly titled “Overlords Of Violence” they are in full on attack mode, the track a straight down the line rampant aural assault designed to kill. Then there are the likes of “Frenzied Feeding” and “Blood Blind”, the former alternating between high speed technical aggression and deeply atmospheric mid-tempo ugliness, and the latter a brutal, loping chug-fest that carries so much sonic weight it is quite devastating, but literally any track could be singled out. Likewise, every track stands apart from those alongside them, but together they make so much sense, the record flowing seamlessly.
With the album named by drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz, the members all felt it was a great representation of the band, as is always the intention, and lyrically they linger in typically dark and twisted territory. Subjects covered include resetting the human race through mass mutilations (“Blood Blind”), fighting off hordes of zombies (“Chaos Horrific”), the selection of a random individual to be dismembered and sacrificed (“Summoned For Sacrifice”), and the violent revenge of victims of human trafficking (“Vengeful Invasion”). The album artwork – by longtime collaborator Vince Locke – is also suitably Cannibal Corpse-esque, featuring a chaotic tangle of the living and the undead, which evokes the lyrics of the title track.
Having now produced six Cannibal Corpse albums – starting with 2006’s Kill – this is Rutan’s second release as a full fledged member, having officially joined in 2020, and his contributions have only improved the band. “He already was part of the Cannibal Corpse family so his transition from producer to guitarist/songwriter/producer was seamless,” says Webster. “Erik’s a super hard worker so somehow he’s able to do all of those things at the highest level. We were already very comfortable working with him, and it’s only gotten better. We’re energized and excited about the future, and Erik’s contributions are a big part of that.” Adds Rutan, “I feel like every album we’ve worked on together has progressed forward with a better understanding of each other, allowing us to push each other further even more to get the best out of one another.”
Tracking at Rutan’s studio, Mana Recording in Florida, the band’s home state, was comfortable for all involved, though required everyone to work hard and be at the top of their game. Things went smoothly, and smoother than ever on the guitar front due to Barrett and Rutan having “custom guitars built with longer scale necks to hold the proper intonation necessary for lower tunings, which drastically reduced the hours spent on trying to track guitar that stays in tune throughout the session,” says Barrett. Webster asserts that it was a lot of hard work, and that “there’s a lot of attention to detail in the studio. We try to get the best possible tones from our gear, and capture the best possible performances. This can take a lot of time and effort but the end result is absolutely worth it.” Rutan states that the sessions were a “powerhouse”, with so much effort going into what has emerged as a massive album, further asserting that “everything about recording albums is hard but damn I love doing it! Creating albums, something that will last an eternity beyond our time, is something so very special, and every album we create I feel very grateful to have such an opportunity to do so.”
With the pandemic behind them, Cannibal Corpse were thrilled to hit the road again in 2022, finally able to unleash the Violence Unimagined tracks live. “We’re so grateful to be able to get back out there and play for all of our fans,” says Webster. “We’ve always enjoyed it, but after being forced off of the road for almost two years we appreciate the opportunity to play live that much more, and we are so thankful for all of the fans who’ve come out to the shows since we’ve been back at it. It’s great to see you all again!” They are already looking ahead to the touring in support of Chaos Horrific, every track on there destined to go off like a bomb when played live, and the band are primed and ready to destroy everything in their path. Though they have not given much thought to the fact that 2023 is their 35th anniversary, Rutan sums up how everybody feels about this milestone. “I think it is such an amazing feat. It speaks to the work ethic and dedication that everyone has put into Cannibal Corpse. When you think about how many bands never make it a decade, let alone three plus, it is such a testament to the creativity aspect and determination and loyalty towards what we do.”