High Velocity Impact Spatter Sadistic Embodiment Kill Or Become A Skeletal Domain Headlong Into Carnage The Murderer's Pact Funeral Cremation Icepick Lobotomy Vector Of Cruelty Bloodstained Cement Asphyxiate To Resuscitate Hollowed Bodies
This is not the first time this has ever been heard, but when a band sticks to one formula for too long, the magic tends to disappear, but only a handful of bands have managed to stick to one formula throughout their entire careers and keep their music exciting. Of course one of those bands are the reigning kings of American death metal: Cannibal Corpse. With lucky album #13 entitled A Skeletal Domain under their belts, there are no major changes to be found musically, which you would expect with Cannibal Corpse as breaking new ground is not an option for the band, but they've always incorporated small changes on every successive album which are noticeable if you listen with an open mind.
A Skeletal Domain sees the band working with new producer Mark Lewis (Black Dahlia Murder, Job For A Cowboy, Deicide and DevilDriver) at Audiohammer Studios after working with producer Erik Rutan on the previous three albums (Kill, Evisceration Plague and Torture). Alex Webster was the central songwriter on the previous three albums, so another reason for A Skeletal Domain containing some slightly different elements is because a majority of the songwriting was handled by Pat O'Brien this time around, and those mixed with the pristine production and the usual suspects: blast-beats, machine-gun riffs, and Corpsegrinder's signature guttural vocal attack, make it an instant classic.
The dual guitar assault between Rob Barrett and Pat O'Brien is just relentless as it always is, and Paul Mazurkiewicz is just a machine with his insanely precise blast-beats and intricacy of his fills. From the flesh-ripping intro lead and riffage of "Sadistic Embodiment" to the face-smashing grooves of "Funeral Cremation" and "Vector Of Cruelty", everything that you love about Cannibal Corpse is present on this album, and honestly, "Kill Or Become" doesn't get anymore Cannibal Corpse than when you hear Corpsegrinder scream "Fire up the chainsaw. Hack their fucking heads off". The tempo changes are devastatingly destructive and give the songs massive jolts of energy like on "Asphyxiate To Resuscitate".
Corpsegrinder's ability to spit out lyrics at such a ridiculously quick pace shows no signs of breaking down, and the bottom-end of his voice that was absent on Torture has returned on this album. O'Brien and Barrett unleash some of their darkest, malevolent and most destructive riffage on tracks like "A Skeletal Domain" and "Headlong Into Carnage". "Headlong Into Carnage" is one of my favourite tracks with the pure thrash elements thrown into the mix, making it impossible not to headbang. "The Murderer's Pact" is the longest song from the band in years since "From Skin To Liquid" from Gallery Of Suicide (1998), clocking in at just over 5 minutes, and this seems to be the band's most diverse track with little elements of black metal, combined with groove and the standard elements of death metal.
Another element that stands out on this album is the production. On the last three albums, the band stuck to more traditional lower tunings and distorted guitar tones. If you listen to Evisceration Plague, the drums sound slighty muffled in the mix in some areas, especially Mazurkiewicz's snare. I fully admit that I can get a little picky about sound and production sometimes. Too much distortion in the guitars doesn't really appeal to me as much because it tends to drown out all the other instruments and the notes aren't distinguishable, and even though Kill contained distortion, it's one of the band's best sounding records ever, and it's special to me because it was my introduction to Cannibal Corpse and death metal. A Skeletal Domain feels more cohesive than the previous two albums though. While they are both excellent albums and had amazing riffs, arrangements and performances, I just felt that the distortion levels could have been reduced by a couple of notches.
The Cannibal Corpse machine is running full-steam and showing no signs of malfunction or slowing down and this album is absolute proof. Corpsegrinder's vocals, Webster's bass chops, O'Brien and Barrett's guitar wizardry and Mazurkiewicz's drum chops are probably stronger than ever. A Skeletal Domain is definitely one of the quintessential releases of 2014!
Highs: Pristine production, neck-destroying riffs and punishing drums. Standout tracks include "Sadistic Embodiment", "Kill Or Become", "Headlong Into Carnage" and "Funeral Cremation".
Lows: I have nothing to complain about. I think those who prefer the more distorted guitar tones will only be slightly put off.
Overall: A Skeletal Domain is the best written and best produced Cannibal Corpse album since Kill.