Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Cannibal Corpse
The Bleeding


Released 1994 on Metal Blade
Reviewed by Michael-Kim, 06/03/2002ce


To many who've heard at least something of Chris Barnes - era Cannibal Corpse, particularly The Bleeding album, the following words are commonly used for a description: "Sociopathic," "perverted," "nihilistic," "demonic," "repulsive," "blood-drenched," or "scatological" . . . and not without some justice, but that's not the whole of the story. To take it a step further, below the bloody surface, I have another interjection to add to this list, an odd one: Purity.

Yes, it's my view that Barnes and company take you on an all together uncommon quest for purity with this record, both concerning the mind-raping lyrical content and with the relentless sonic assault that outruns and exhausts your endurance at every turn.

Yet, by using the word purity here I don't mean anything expressly moral. To say the word moral and Cannibal Corpse in the same sentence is nothing short of blasphemy. God forbid! What I mean is that The Bleeding is pure in the sense of undiluted vision. Pure, like how a bloody and clearly violent guillotine execution is, not like a sterile and white-washed death by lethal injection or a polite and efficiently tidy electrocution (see Dr. Death, a documentary film by Errol Morris, about the insane workmanship of a man who tried to make the execution process less confrontational and more user-friendly, if this point remains unclear).

A wise man once said, "Veil not your vices in virtuous words." But are not most Americans death-obsessed to the point of vice, though prone to dress up bloodlust with endless "good reasons" and justifications, or by simply 'getting off' on gladiatorial entertainments? I'm an American, I know....

Just think: If tv casualty-couch potatoes everywhere had the assurance they could kill their bosses, co-workers, neighbors, or spouses without getting caught, the streets would run with torrents of blood....

How many of us can admit how frustrated and murderously ugly our modern way of life has become, yet, without also including a list of denials as long as our arm? I mean, come on, everytime we open our mouths to eat a meal, we've killed the shit out of some poor creature.

With this Cannibal Corpse album, a virtual oasis away from any semblance of denial or justification, there are no mincing of words, no euphemisms to whiten an essential black-heartedness. It is what it is, take-it-or-leave-it -- there's the door, it's wide open. It's refreshing in its cold-blooded directness. But, if the stench -- your own mortal and hypocritical odor -- is too much for you, I guess go ahead and leave, and continue to ignore this revealing album.

In the light of all of this, you might be tempted to ask the following question: What possible socially redeeming value could Cannibal Corpse possibly have, lyrically?

Forget that, it'll just make you choke on your your own vomit thinking about it. But this same question might teach you something, by accident, about the soul of unconscious America: That horrific death is always right around the corner, so you might as well get ready for it.

And, of course, art and music are safe ways to explore and come-to-terms with inevitable realities before they occur. Didn't the German poet R. M. Rilke say, "Be ahead of all parting"? This includes the possibility of someone in our immediate environment getting their soul parted from their body by some cut-throat bastard with a heart set on hell. So, we might as well use The Bleeding to go ahead and confront/contemplate some ugly realities, 'cause this kind of violence is coming to a town near you, possibly to someone you hold dear. Be ready.

Hot dogs, apple pies, and bloody entrails -- God bless America. Show your pride! But instead of recommending my fellow Americans to spend their change on patriotic bumper stickers and pendants, post-September 11th, I encourage them to eventually check out this album. It'll teach them or you something about America, something truly disturbing.

Even if this album was released in 1994, it still represents a shadow demographic of our American culture, that has yet to be adequately wrestled with by the majority of our lawmakers, psychologists, school counselors, parents, etc.
Let's hope there is still time...let's begin wresting with these harsh realities.

And by what royal road do the Corpse brothers aim to take us on this journey to the blackheart of America, you ask?

(1) One side of the road is Barnes' vocal growling and spitting out horror movie-like lyrics that read similar to the confessions of a serial killer, no doubt. And he provides no apologies to boot either. But he does teach us about uncompromised expression, and educates us about what a mind looks like that is driven to the end of its tether.

And while on the subject of Barnes, don't let me hear any whining about his vocal range either. If the low demonic growl that he majors in is not enough, he also offers a few victim-style caterwauls, too, for your listening pleasure! Range? You can look for it on the other side of that open door. I don't know about you, dear reader, but I want my psychopath vocalists deep down in it, with or without technically-trained talent or skill. If you want vocal variety go pull out your ol' Rush records.

(2) The other side of the road is the devastating music.

To get an idea of the skin-peeling sonics, I'll start with an image. Imagine your out-of-shape-ass running at full speed down the street. And as soon as you get to the totally drop-dead point, 5.5 minutes later, where your legs are about to burst its blood vessels and your lungs are close to exploding with burning acid, in that feeling is where The Bleeding's music begins. That's right, completely past your comfort zone . . . out of breath, in too much pain to deny. But the endorphin release of pleasure that accompanies this musical overkill is more than worth the trouble.

The thrash guitar riffing and double-bass drum rhythms, not to mention the phenomonal bass playing, herein, just keep accumulating and accumulating the ominous ascendency of this music. Leaving little time for the listener to catch a breath in between concussions, while the aural brutality simply overtakes you and tosses your limp body into the abyss. It's music that is precise as a surgeon's scapel and as delicate as an out-of-control steamroller rushing down a steep hill.

Sadly, this is the last time Cannibal Corpse would record together in this form, that is, with Barnes on board.

According to post-release interviews, the band was in complete tension and conflict during the entire making of this album, which led to Barnes leaving the group shortly afterwards to form the mighty Six Feet Under.

I wish more bands would create such conflict among themselves, when recording, so as to produce more monsters like this one.

Living, we die; dying, we live -- The Bleeding, an appropriate soundtrack to such. An American classic.


Reviews Index