I’m sure a lot of people would agree, because I’m sure it can’t just be me that would say, “the last decade of Cannibal Corpse’s career has been their best in the business so far”. For me personally, it started with 2004’s “The Wretched Spawn” and after a good few listens (believe me it took a GOOD few listens) I was eventually hooked on Cannibals harsh grooves and punishing, head banging riffs. Stand out tracks from “The Wretched Spawn” for me would be “Decency Defied” and the title track of the album “The Wretched Spawn”. These are the tracks that to me make up the basis of great traditional death metal and when I hear these songs, it reminds me of why Cannibal Corpse really are the Fathers of modern Death Metal. So it’s these reasons as to why I’m rating “A Skeletal Domain” 8.5/10.
The album opens with a haunting noise and drone which makes for the eerie introduction to the album which you can only expect from Cannibal and totally prepares you for the grim adventure ahead. The intro scream from George leads us into a riff that instantly lets you know this album is going to be full of tales of horror, gruesome riffs and terrifying hooks. The opening track, which is named “High Velocity Impact Spatter” comes in with a very powerful opening riff. It grabs attention of the listener and puts them in the position they need to be in for the album… on the edge of their seat.The song entails a description of bodies hitting a pavement or wall or other surface at high velocity so the song includes riffs that have the same descriptive force of such an event. The track is very reminiscent of early songs from Cannibal Corpse such as “Shredded Humans”, “Slit Wide Open” and “Living Dissection”.
Moving further into the album, George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher has once again proved he is an incredibly skilled and efficient death metal vocalist with his performance on “Kill or Become” which I find to be his crowing achievement on the album. For me it’s a real Cannibal ‘hit’ that has a multitude of really catchy vocal parts which you might find yourself repeating when in a normal, everyday situation, such as catching the bus to work or doing your weekly shop in Morrisons… Which could make for some awkward / hilarious situations e.g. Buying your weekly shop while muttering “Fire up the chainsaw, Hack all their heads off” and creating either the greatest encounter with your local butcher ever, or ending up dealing with that security guard that looks like he should be listening to Cannibal, but unfortunately doesn’t.
The title track, “A Skeletal Domain”, begins with a somewhat macabre riff that really begins to bring the album together with the theme of death and doom. It’s definitely worthy of being the title track of the album not only musically or lyrically within this album, but to me it really sums up the subject and objective that Cannibal Corpse have always tried to purvey. It has the horrible impeding doom sound that they constantly strive to achieve but with the fast paced, hard hitting punch that “Blunt Force Trauma” talks about. This track really hits every nail on the head that is the “Cannibal Corpse Coffin” and at only 4 tracks in, I love that they set the tone for the full album within this one song. It’s like the first 3 tracks of the album have something totally different about them in their own way but then when “A Skeletal Domain” hits, everything about those first three tracks merges together and forms this single song that really sets a path for the rest of the album and see’s this new path to the end of the album.This doesn’t mean that once the tone is set the album becomes formulaic or boring, I feel it makes it a journey of one that is familiar to you but is still totally fresh and newly grim in your minds as it is told.
“The Murderers Pact”, alongside “Kill or Become” and “Funeral Cremation”, is for me an impeccable Cannibal Corpse song and includes what I would consider the greatest Cannibal Corpse guitar solo of all time, which is why i’ve put this album way ahead of “Torture”. With the writing of this album there seems to have been some clearer vision with the lead guitar work that maybe wasn’t as prevalent, like some previous albums or been left until last minute or possibly seemed like second thoughts as maybe some Cannibal solos have previously sounded. “The Murderers Pact”, “Sadistic Embodiment” and “Vector of Cruelty” really show off Pat O’Briens lead guitar work within the band aswell as his ability to write technical death metal riffs but write melodic and meaningful lead parts.
The last track “Hollowed Bodies” ends the album the way it starts, with classic Cannibal moments and passages that sound exactly like the perfect ‘old school’ death metal genre that cannibal helped forge in the early 90’s but at the same time, sounds incredibly fresh and shows that there is still life in the genre and that there is still a lot more that Cannibal Corpse can teach us and show us in this genre.
– Chris Kemp