Cannibal Corpse, purveyors of gory death metal for more than twenty years, show they haven't lost a step with their latest blast of extremity. First things first, the real story here is Alex Webster, who puts a unique stamp on this band's music with his incredible bass playing. Webster shines on Torture, exhibiting an impressive range of skills. He rumbles along with the solid death metal tracks like Demented Aggression, provides a heavy, distorted buzz beneath Sarcophagic Frenzy, and dazzles with technical brilliance on Intestinal Crank, The Strangulation Chair, and Caged...Contorted. Big points go to Webster for helping CC distinguish themselves from other bands. This is no small point, as several parts of Torture remind me of a few Florida death metal acts, plus a certain older band that heavily influenced them; but, Webster's bass keeps each song entrenched in the Cannibal Corpse sound and makes them their own.
Torture starts with a bang. Three of the first four songs remind me in spirit of Slayer's Hell Awaits-Reign in Blood period. It isn't that they sound like those songs, but the heaviness, production, and breakneck speed create the same atmosphere of ferocity. The one exception in this group, Scourge of Iron, slows things down with a heavy crawl that brings Morbid Angel to mind. The fifth track, As Deep as the Knife Will Go, starts with an intense blast beat that shifts into a thrashy death metal crunch that reminds me more than a little of Deicide. The next three tracks that make up the album's midsection inject a trace of variety, keeping the songs from starting to sound the same. Track 6, Intestinal Crank, features some of the most technical riffing and bass on the album, plus a couple of great solos. Next, Followed Home Then Killed has a crushing groove and thrash sensibility. Then, The Strangulation Chair mixes a death groove with technicality, including a brief, but amazing, bass solo and some spacey runs by Webster. The last four songs finish with more intensity, with Caged...Contorted recalling early Malevolent Creation death-thrash, Crucifier Avenged giving an old-school death metal stomp like Slayer on steroids, Rabid scorching with fiery thrash metal, and Torn Through ending everything with massive blast beats.
This album shows why Cannibal Corpse is one of the elite bands in death metal. Every song boasts quality riffs that are catchy and brutal, as well as good solos and a mix of speeds. They intersperse fast sections with monstrously thick slower parts, giving dynamics to the overall sound. And though I'll concede that George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher's vocals are somewhat monotonous, his delivery is vicious while still being intelligible, so I'll give him credit. It seems to me that anyone who's into death metal would have to try to find something to dislike about this music.
Update 4/8/12: I just got back from seeing Cannibal Corpse live in Huntington, WV, where they played half of the new album, six songs, as well as a ton of old classics. As far as the new songs go, they opened with Demented Aggression, which was beyond brutal, and I'm now convinced that Scourge of Iron is one of the heaviest songs ever. They played the first five songs from Torture, plus Crucifier Avenged. I've seen some of the top death metal and extreme metal bands live, like Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, Grave, Entombed, At the Gates, and a few others, and this show might have had the best sound of any of them. All the instruments were clear and incredibly loud, and the intensity was relentless. Watching Alex Webster's fingers while he plays bass reminds me of watching Trey Azagthoth play guitar. And I now have a newfound respect for Corpsegrinder, not only because he was surpisingly entertaining and funny, but because his vocals were insane, brutal, and they sounded just like on the albums, a feat some of the other death metal vocalists I've seen have been unable to match. After this show, I can see why Cannibal Corpse is the top selling death metal band in existence. They really are like the Slayer of the genre.