The Buffalo born, Tampa raised band Cannibal Corpse has long been a staple of the Death Metal genre. Their lyrics are gore obsessed (pun intended), although not in the humorous medical book fashion employed by Carcass or, more recently, Exhumed, but in a vein of infantile splatter movie scripts that runs red through a massive discography and various line-ups all the way back to their 1988 adolescent heyday. On their latest offering, Kill, the songs still read like a sadist manifesto of kill this, gore that, a spot of impalement there and a dash of flesh eating Zombies here.
“I like to think that most of our fans can depend on us and can trust us at this point in our career,” says Cannibal Corpse’s bass player Alex Webster – speaking to me over the phone fresh from a recent stint in Europe.
In comparison to recent developments in the Death Metal genre that is getting more technical and faster with each passing year, Cannibal Corpse’s modus operandi is a bit aberrant. When pressed about the lack of speed and technical twists in their song writing, Alex concedes the point saying that if they were to compete with bands like Origin and Brain Drill for speed they would surely lose, and although he personally wouldn’t mind adding a pinch of jazzed up Cryptopsy flavour, ultimately Cannibal Corpse chooses to focus on making the heaviest (having kept Kill in rotation for a couple of weeks this seems like an understatement), best and catchiest music possible and satisfying long time fans.
Seeing as how Cannibal Corpse was originally formed in 1988, during the infancy of the Death Metal phenomenon, Alex says history is currently being written regarding the longevity of acts in the genre and how old, for example, a drummer in a band that tours extensively can get while still keeping up machine gun tempo for an hour every night. A pressing issue surely and one that Alex – who finds sleep on the tour bus harder and harder by the years – addresses with a lot of time in the gym.
During our conversation, Alex’s more appealing character traits, such as his exemplary politeness, shine through. As this diametric opposition between the music and lyrics peddled by Death Metal musicians and their real life personality is something I often come across, I ask him if he can relate, which he does:
“Of course every person that is into Death Metal isn’t the same person, we’re all individuals. But it’s not uncommon to find people who are very reserved and polite, like you said, in the Death Metal scene, and the time that they release any inner hostility or whatever they might have is through the music. Either as a fan in the pit headbanging or up on stage playing the music…”
The fact that the guy seems laid back like a recliner and is apt to elaborate for over five minutes on every question (most of which he’s probably answered far too often) leads me to believe that this is the reason frontmanship was awarded to (or forced on) him. This turns out not to be far from the truth, as he claims in fact to be among the more talkative of the bunch and that by force of him being a founding member he is easily trumped in the interview avoiding game by members with shorter tenure – or in possession of a more easily annoyed temper – who are unable to respond correctly to some questions regarding various eras of the band.
Cannibal Corpse stands apart from their Death Metal brethren for one thing in particular and that is their performance in the 1994 Hollywood blockbuster Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The official story is that their appearance was requested by Jim Carrey himself – a claim that I’ve always found a bit hard to swallow, and is therefore my highest ranking subject of curiosity and, according to Alex, among the most frequent queries put to him by fans and media.
“He actually did ask for us personally. He even knew the names of the songs and everything and once we got there he was like, “Yeah could you guys play Rancid Amputation and Hammer Smashed Face?”, Alex tells me.
So with my curiosity slaked and the tape about to run out there is but one matter to be addressed – the mandatory question of how much the band is actually looking forward to visiting our wind-beaten shores. Since bands of Cannibal Corpse’s stature are seldom told about the low-ball offers made to their booking agents or managers by Icelandic promoters, shows like this do not come about except by cutting out the middle man and talking straight to the band – indicating that bands who do so (e.g. Cannibal Corpse) are indeed quite psyched on the prospect of coming here.
So too is Alex Webster, who says that Iceland is just about the biggest thing on Cannibal Corpse’s to-do list for ’07. As the tape screeches to a halt I let him wax poetic on the subject for just little bit longer until phone bill worries put an end to the pleasantries. I hang up on him with wishes for their summer European tour to be great and hopes of seeing them lay Nasa to waste this summer.
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