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Death metal veterans Cannibal Corpse obliterate assumptions—along with eardrums

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By Kevin Gillich

When you hear about Cannibal Corpse for the first time, you might leap to certain conclusions. For instance, you’d probably guess that they don’t sing too many songs about sunshine and lollipops. That would be a fair assumption.

“I think ‘Skewered from Ear to Eye’ is kind of a cool title because it’s very visual,” says bassist Alex Webster, when asked his favorite track name from the group’s latest album, "Evisceration Plague." “You can actually picture somebody putting a skewer into someone’s head at an angle, so that it starts in the ear and goes diagonally out the eye. Those kinds of visual song titles have always been my favorites.”

In the 21 years Cannibal Corpse has been around, they’ve written quite a few such songs: “Force-Fed Broken Glass,” “Every Bone Broken,” and “Five Nails Through the Neck.” These tracks and others have helped the group—rounded out by vocalist George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz, and guitarists Rob Barrett and Pat O’Brien—earn their reputation as the hallmark death metal band.

Listeners might also assume that death metal (which Webster defines as a “faster, darker form of heavy metal where you have a guttural type of vocals and lyrics that are about a dark subject”) is just a couple of guys haphazardly slamming on their instruments in order to make the most indecipherable noise possible. That, however, would be a bit unfair.

“For anybody out there who is open-minded and doesn’t really know about our band or about any of the death metal scene, I’d recommend giving our music a close listen,” says Webster. “There might be a lot more going on than they would assume just by looking at our imagery. We put a lot of time into these songs; there’s a lot of difficult musicianship. Even if someone isn’t into the violent imagery, I think they could still probably find something to appreciate.”

Loud and aggressive music about death and violence tends to appeal only to a certain niche, and people outside of that niche often wonder what the attraction is.

“I’m not a particularly aggressive person, but I really enjoy listening to aggressive music. I guess, for me, violent or aggressive music can be a good outlet for that side of my personality—any side of me that might have some aggression to it, I can get it out in a positive way by playing music,” explains Webster.

What holds true for performers often holds true for audiences, and Cannibal Corpse’s fans seem to share Webster’s sentiments.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people that they feel real happy after they listen to our music because they’ve been able to get out a lot of aggression,” he says. “Everyone has aspects of their lives that are frustrating, and we aren’t always able to deal with them exactly how we’d like to. “

Cannibal Corpse will visit Japan next month for the second time, following an appearance here way back in 1996. “We were almost thinking we would never have a chance to come back,” Webster says. “Now we’re finally getting back there, and it’s like a dream come true.”

Cannibal Corpse had a blast the last time they came to Japan—and the trip had an additional, and rather surprising, health benefit for Webster. Nowadays, the bassist leads a pretty sober lifestyle, but 13 years ago was a different story.

“After four days of partying, I must have worn my resistance down and I ended up getting the flu,” he recalls. “I actually felt really sick for the two shows we played. I was sick enough that I was able to quit smoking. I haven’t smoked cigarettes since then.”

Extreme the Dojo vol. 22@Shibuya Club Quattro, June 8.

This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

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12 Comments
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They should be extremely popular in Japan, where violence is evident in most Manga, movies and even imitation "rape" movies and games are wildly popular.

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Cannibal Corpse had a blast the last time they came to Japan.

Tea ceremony?

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imitation "rape" movies and games are wildly popular

oh yes, when i go to work on monday mornings, the first question in the staff room is always, "have you seen the latest rape movie?" or "what's your high score on that rape game?"

enlighten me BurakuminDes, since you seem to be the expert on this kind of stuff, where did death metal originate? Osaka?

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even imitation "rape" movies and games are wildly popular.

Pure lies. This sort of total nonsense is spread usually by people with an agenda who don't live in Japan, yet somehow naive people around the world seem to believe it. It's really offensive.

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rape movies and games are not widely popular nut have a strong following and are allowed by law.

This band which seeks to corrupt youth with their filth should have been refused visas. They give America a bad name. What happened to good old fashioned wholesome entertainment?

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Well it can't be helped I suppose....I know a lot of people who think there's a panty vending machine on every corner and all the girls here wear cat ears, so far I haven't been to successful in convincing them otherwise.A lot of people are going to disappointed when they get here.

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On what do you base the assumption that 'it's very popular here'?

Moderator: Readers, please stay on topic. The subject is death metal.

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They should be extremely popular in Japan, where violence is evident in most Manga, movies and even imitation "rape" movies and games are wildly popular.

this is nonsense! i never see cannibal corpse but I see obituary and autopsy double show in the UK in 1990 was plenty loud but good feel

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You should check the anime DMC, Detroit Metal City...

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Odd how many people have gone off on the rape trip. These guys are a great band and their twisted lyrics are wasted in Japan. I can just see all the Japanese crowd jumping up and down with their index finger in the air applauding lyrics they have no idea of the meaning.

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"This band which seeks to corrupt youth with their filth should have been refused visas. They give America a bad name. What happened to good old fashioned wholesome entertainment?"

Correction: it's people like you that give America a bad name, refused visa for your musical taste? You can't be serious. I guess hunting wild animals or invading a foreign country is way better than guys making music that talks about how bad death is? I am a long time death metal fan and I have never assaulted anybody nor have any of my friends, Cannibal Corpse is a quality band and by the way there are far heavier bands out there, some people just don't know what "open minded" means

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I'm sure they will do well here and have a niche of followers but I don't expect the youth of Japan to be corrupted by this and more than KISS wrecked the place. Has Danzig ever played Japan?

Of course the lyrics could be a whole english lesson in itself. I'm always getting myself in trouble with metaphor and analogy in Japan. Got to wonder how the fans work through that.

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