We’re quite sure you already know the score with Red Before Black, the 14th(!) full length album from scene legends Cannibal Corpse; a band who are infamous for lurid cover-art and ridiculous cartoonish horror lyrics when really they should be famous for taking the classic death metal template, and making it groove in the most sickeningly grim way possible!
Perhaps it’s no small coincidence that Red Before Black harks back to the kind of juvenile, gross-out cover art not seen since The Wretched Spawn. Certainly there is a feeling, perhaps not of renaissance, but of renewed vigour about the band just now that is being driven by more than just a few extra quid in Metal Blade’s promotion budget.
We won’t lie to you, opener “Only One Will Die” is utterly standard Cannibal Corpse fare. But, it is a heightened, optimised version of said fare – delivering slithering, greasy riffs, pummelling beats and expert syncopation between the rhythm section and Corpsegrinder’s barking vocal.
While the title track follows in formulaic fashion it’s with “Code of the Slashers” that we really started to enjoy Red Before Black. It contains the half-time feel beatdowns that Cannibal Corpse pioneered to great effect, revelling in a menacing stateliness that calls to mind serial killers lurking in dark alleyways wielding blunt, ruddy-bladed knives (we’re assuming that’s what they were going for!) and the end refrain of “We’ll end your fucking life!” is just brilliant!
There are weaker moments, of course. You can’t stick to a formula that your fan-base have effectively entombed you in for 14 albums without phoning it in from time to time but, unusually, it proves to be the second half of Red Before Black that’s the strongest. The ludicrously titled “Scavanger Consuming Death” and the closing track “Hideous Ichor” are particular standouts, notable for their deviations from the Cannibal Corpse playbook with their interesting dynamics and freakishly catchy riff-outs.
When comparing Red Before Black to other works in Cannibal Corpse’s catalogue, we found the production to walk the line between their earlier, more aurally ‘dark’ sounding, records and the cleanliness that, for us, peaked on The Wretched Spawn. Here, the reverb on the guitars and drums convey the necessary grim atmosphere perfectly but not at the expense of clarity and punch. We also noted a deeper bass response than on any of their other works.
Red Before Black is a solid, energetic record that delivers precisely nothing you haven’t heard before but it does it so well that you can’t help falling in love with CC once again. This is vintage Cannibal Corpse circa 2017 – a rock n’ roll band caked in blood and toxic waste, a gang-fuck of guttural blasts, bombastic rabid dog grooves and some of the best extreme metal diction you’ll hear this side of David Vincent’s shower room! You didn’t expect anything else, did you? 7/10