“We mature like a fine wine” muses Mazurkiewicz as I’m on the phone to him in his native Florida. Having hacked, slashed and gutted their niche in the Death Metal world, previous release A Skeletal Domain saw perhaps their most mature collection of material to date. Ranging all over the map, long time collaborator Vincent Locke’s artwork was looking for atmosphere than shock value, gory lyrics were replaced with refined lines and musically the band thrived on this new sense of updated playing. Throughout twenty nine years together as a band, Cannibal Corpse have successfully bettered themselves with each release. The quality of a Cannibal Corpse has never been compromised but rather extrapolated.
I think its just taking it to that next level in a sense. Our goal was to just try to do better if we can do better. We feel we can! A Skeletal Domain turned out great! Its a very sharp album, great sounding, I think we worked obviously very hard on the songwriting. I just chalk it unto a couple years go by and you’re a different person in a sense and you’re a little more mature hopefully haha! We feel that Red Before Black is some of strongest material that we have ever come up with!
I just look at it as we just keep on getting better at it as we go, honing our skills, working on those little things. This time around, its a little more of an aggressive sounding record but its Cannibal Corpse, its a culmination of the best of Cannibal the way I look at it!
With this being Cannibal Corpse’s fourteenth studio album, the band understand exactly what they need in order to create the best material possible. Having been together for a staggering twenty nine years, as the band has aged so have the members. The likes of wives and children are of course one of the most important elements in any person’s life. Well versed in their own specific techniques, the Florida Death Metallers are at their best when in close proximity to their family. Gone are the days when the band saw it necessary to hole away in a studio, having if anything negative impacts on the bands material. Returning for the first time since their 2012 effort Torture, to their previous producer and Death Metal model man Erik Rutan’s Mana Studios the band know exactly just what is needed to be done.
“At this point in our career it was really a proximity thing. We want to stay home to record, we don’t have to go somewhere. We don’t feel the need to go to some studio, its just not that way anymore. We don’t all have to be somewhere for a month, I think that we’re more productive if we’re home for other things. When we thought about it, the obvious choice was of course Erik because he’s in our home town here.
We don’t all have to be there at the same time and we can just focus on what we need to get done and still work on the home life and the families. We’re gone so much, everbody just thought that it would be the best mentally. Of course Erik also did a fantastic job with the last three that it all just fell into place that way.In that sense it really does help, having his background, knowing, well he’s one of us, he’s a Death Metal guitar player. He’s a Death Metal musician. He’s going to know the ins and outs of a Death Metal band more than anybody I guess the we’ve worked with. There’s no one like Erik.”
For most, you would argue that bands would have seen the best of their careers in their hey day but like their relentless touring schedule, Cannibal Corpse’s sound on Red Before Black has anything but dulled. One of their most interesting compositions to date, A Skeletal Domain, was not an album that sounded like a band coasting but rather that was hungry for experimentation, cutting the fat, understanding the importance of simplistic dynamics. Rather than rehashing their old material, Cannibal Corpse consistently change their own blueprint. Sharpening their tools with every release, improving on elements leading some to think that the band could be creating some of their best material to date.
“We’re mentally in the right place, the fact that we’ve been doing it for so long and the fact that we’ve had time to work on it. I just tend to think that we’re ageing like fine wine, its hard to say haha! I’m just glad that its happening and I’m glad that we’re coming up with stuff that we feel is our best. We’ve got no shortage of creativity and we just get it done. Slowly getting better and better as we go in every aspect. I think its just a natural progression of how things fall into place. We don’t ever have a set template or plan of what we’re doing, it just happens. Whatever we’re feeling, whatever we’re writing. This time around we got these songs that are a little more riff heavy, a little more breathing, more organic to me. The next chapter in the Cannibal Corpse story.”
Though Paul assures me that Cannibal Corpse have never been the kind of band to try and actively create differing material on purpose, there has of course got to be some direction. One listen to Red Before Black and you’ll note that there is a huge amount of breathing space something the band might not be as familiar with, particularly in the droning “Scavenger Consuming Death“. Lumbering bass lines leave room for a creation of atmosphere, Cannibal Corpse have once again incidentally focused on something that they haven’t before.
“I think overall we just kind of wanted to have those kind of open chords ringing out. You’ve got a lot of open ringing and noises, we do have that throughout the album as well. I guess that was our only thing that we might have talked about, it would be cool to have a little more of that, more that breathes, riffs that hang a little. Just because we don’t have a lot of that so I think that we were a little more conscious of that, per se! Little things like that that makes things different and that much more effective. It is a good song I’m really happy the way that “Scavenger” turned out.”
One of the lyrical pillars of Cannibal Corpse, Mazurkiewicz has become an integral part of the lyrical make up over the years. Red Before Black being no different, the drummer once more drafted up lyrics that would be fit for the demented. Yet rather than looking to the likes of stimuli of Horror movies and their ilk, Mazurkiewicz instead looks inside our most horrific of entities, our own imagination to come up with the lyrical stylings of cuts the likes of “Heads Shovelled Off” and “In The Midst of Ruin”
“At this point its just delving into the imagination. I don’t start thinking “Oh now I need to write lyrics, I’m going to watch movies and read some articles” Its more in the vein of coming up with some cool titles. Thats the key importance, thats how I work in that way and then say, well the story is going to kind of fall into place at some point. Really delving into the imagination. If someone else has an idea too, like I said with “In The Midst of Ruin” which is Rob’s song and he had an idea of what he wanted to write about. I said “Ok convey that idea to me and I’ll take it from there”. It might take a couple of days for you to mull it over and see what direction you’re going to go in but basically, the last few records have been very organic.”
Not only known for their relentless nature but Cannibal Corpse’s musical ability has always been one of their signature traits. Composing tracks the likes of “Hideous Ichor” and “Shedding My Human Skin” is merely one facet of the Cannibal Corpse process. One of the hardest elements no doubt in the band is to be able to perform such demanding material, in a studio environment. To play material that is physically demanding takes a hell of a lot of practice.
“I wanted to be as prepared as I can be and we’ve always been as prepared as we can be. Knowing, you can always do this better. Those little things that can make you more prepared. Really when you get into the studio, you want to just record, you don’t want to have to figure things out. Obviously there are going to be some little things but thats no big deal. I got into the studio and said lets knock this out. I knew what needed to be done because I had done my homework and that makes for the studio being a pretty painless endeavour. For me personally, it was probably the best session I ever had.”
Having been behind the kit from the very beginning, Mazurkiewicz style is a staple in the sound of Cannibal Corpse. Behind the bellows of Corpsegrinder, flanking the furious leads of O’Brien and Barret and in tandem with Alex Webster, Mazurkiewicz is no doubt responsible for this primal, relentless aggression that Cannibal Corpse embody throughout their time together as a band so what is it that makes him such a recognisable personality on the kit?
“Just playing what I do behind Cannibal. I have my own distinct style, kind of a primitive, in your face and it juxtaposes with some of the things they do. It makes it somewhat primal sounding and its recognisable, everyone hears our music and they know its Cannibal and I think a lot of it is due to my drumming. I don’t look to be the best drummer and be some amazing percussionist that can do everything, I just want to play drums in Cannibal Corpse. Here we are thirty years later so I guess its working!”
Even with the return of the modern king of Horror, Jigsaw’s franchise, the idea of this torture porn seems to be something that people have almost become complacent with. Nevertheless it hasn’t always been that way. Releasing their eponymous double whammy of Butchered at Birth and Tomb of The Mutilated that laid the shock artwork blueprint down for countless other bands to follow. Yet owing to the growth of the internet the underground movement that once was Death Metal is getting some serious time in the spotlight but again nothing shocks fans anymore.
“Its not new anymore, its not underground. The way it once was, its just open to the world and maybe thats another reason for our success. We’re able to reach everybody with the internet, music can hit the world but its just not new anymore. Its been around a little while, it doesn’t have the shock value that it maybe did because it was new back then. Death Metal is going to grow and its going to be here forever.”
Working together with Vince Locke again from the word go on Eaten Back To Life, the band have moved throughout different planes of aggression and violence on their records. Moving away from the straightforward brutality of the likes of Butchered at Birth and Tomb of The Mutilated to the more refined likes of Kill and Evisceration Plague. Once again on Red Before Black, the band change the scenario around to see the perspective not of the killer but the victim.
“We wanted a cool piece of art and sometimes its a little more intense than others. We thought it was something different to have this different perspective going on like you’re the victim basically. Stabbing you to death, seeing the Red Before Black you know? The way I thought it was something simple and effective. I felt that it was fairly apparent what we were talking about being Cannibal Corpse. Talking about those colours, it seemed that mostly people would feel that was what we were talking about.”
Ever the theatrics, Cannibal Corpse brought to life one of their best videos to date following the announcement of their brand new album. Directed by Zev Deans, the video for “Code of The Slashers” was an instant classic. Dedicated to Tobe Hooper, the master of Horror, the video played with this tongue in cheek idea that Cannibal Corpse have epitomised in their music for years. It was however the first video that they were not physically in but that doesn’t’t mean that they didn’t have anything to do with it!
“We’re not in the video of course but I liked that. I liked it that way, other videos that we’ve been in, we didn’t have to be in it. Do we have to be in this video? Why can’t we just have a little short movie? “Kill Or Become” there you go, you’ve got a short movie and then you see us playing in an outdoor setting, where you know we’re not really playing haha! We didn’t want to put out a kind of lyric video, we just don’t like those. Metal Blade really wanted to have a video to coincide with the release of the first song for promo so they wanted to make a video and use Zev Deans.”
“Nothing is going to be signed off without our approval and consent, all of that was sent to us. Here are my ideas for what I want to do with the video and we thought it was right up our alley. It was all basically done without us, we got the video to approve and if we needed to make any changes but we thought it was a really good representation of the song and it was a great video! He did a great job.”
With the growing pressure from the dropping of album sales, artists are relying more and more on the life of touring. Following the release of their brand new album, Cannibal Corpse will head out on a US tour from November 3rd right up to December 8th. Following that once again the band will embark on a European tour in February 2018. Aside from the touring life, Cannibal Corpse have been painted the world red for a solid twenty nine years without adapting to any trends or social changes. How does one of Metal’s most visceral bands have this kind of staying power, reliability and most importantly consistency.
“Being a band that fans can count on. Our whole career we’ve never been away, we’ve always been in the public eye. If we’re not touring we’re writing a record, we’ve always done that our whole career. I tend to think that we have written some pretty good Death Metal songs that people want to hear because they’re good actual songs. I think that a lot of those factors involved and here we are thirty years later. Its pretty crazy and no end in sight. It seems like everybody likes it all for the most part, people are going to have their particular albums of course and eras that they’re into more than others but overall I feel that everyone embraces what we do.”
Having been involved in the world of film, courtesy of Ace Ventura Cannibal Corpse have never been averse to doing something different. With that in mind the band released a very limited run of their Three Floyds Brewery Amber Smashed Face. Wanting to try something new, it was a fantastic collaboration and one that we might be seeing again sooner than we think…
“Interesting. Three Floyds Brewery outside of Chicago, kind of like a small Midwestern brewery thats all they distribute, they’re not nationwide or anything of that nature. They’re really great with the beers that they do but they collaborate with bands all the time and they want to make band beers. They got together with us a couple of years ago and we came up with Amber Smashed Face a pretty cool IPA they came up with. We worked with Vince to get the beer label actually but we just left it up to them to come up with the beer that they wanted to but being an amber of course, they had never really done an amber. It was a limited edition run, all of their beers are limited editions. Its funny that you talk about it because we did the run with the beer a couple of years ago and we’re going to re do it for this upcoming tour! We’re going to have a new batch of Amber Smashed Face going on here in the states and it should be available for about a years time or so.”
With 2017 seeing a return of the gatekeepers of the genre, the likes of new albums from, Suffocation, Immolation, Obituary , Dying Fetus, Broken Hope along with the addition of newer bands flying the flag. Most notably The Black Dahlia Murder for their earth shattering Nightbringers its safe to say that the health of Death Metal could well be the best in decades. Leading the charge twenty nine years ago Cannibal Corpse are still one of, if not the biggest Death Metal act out there. With Red Before Black set to stand atop even this pedigree of Death Metal choice cuts, the band have proven, similarly to Corpsegrinder’s taunt when head banging live that “You can try to keep up but you will fail.” that regardless of competition, even almost thirty years on Cannibal Corpse will always be atop the heap.
“Sometimes you do listen to it and think, “Wow this is pretty cool and people are freaking out” it seems to happen every album haha! Then we do it again! I don’t know! Its crazy. We never feel like we’re under pressure, we just want to write some cool stuff and as long as we’re happy, that has always been the main key. We’re not writing for anybody else or playing for anybody else and we can walk away and be 100% happy then we did our job. I think its just that matter that we want to always try and better ourselves. The next record is going to be even better than Red Before Black! I’ve gotta try even harder and push myself even further!”