THIS MONTH IN METAL No. 16: Cannibal Corpse’s “Eaten Back to Life”

The Legacy

Torture, necrophilia, car crashes, and of course, CANNIBALISM!  Volume II of This Month in Metal started off focusing on the horrors of sociopolitical injustice, and as important as that is, sometimes you just need to eat a spleen.  Therein lies the beauty of this month’s hunk of meat.  30 years ago on August 17th 1990, death metal flesh-eaters Cannibal Corpse unleashed their debut LP Eaten Back To Life.*  

Let’s eat.

Original cover artwork by Vince Locke // Photo: Discogs

Cannibal Corpse is one of those bands that immediately comes to mind when you think the word “brutal.”  They own it.  Cannibal Corpse owns the word “brutal.” And beyond that, they pump out increasingly brutal records with every release, ticking up the volume dial every time.  But they started at 11, and Eaten Back To Life* remains by far the rawest.  As much as I love Cannibal Corpse’s later tightness of sound, I always come back to this one because it’s just such a feast (and we’re all out of napkins).  This thing was probably recorded on intestine jerky for tape.  Few things sound so sandpaper-dry and yet so generously lubed up with blood and other miscellaneous bodily fluids at the same time.  Everything’s falling apart, but somehow keeps chugging along like a dull rusty chainsaw slowly splitting you into edible chunks.  The palpitating drums and scraping guitars are the sheer sound of hunger, and Barnes’ vocals vomit back out your undercooked meal, speaking of all depravities under the moon.

Back cover artwork by Vince Locke // Photo: Vinyliciously

I hope you’re not taking this seriously.  The beauty of Cannibal Corpse exemplified perfectly on Eaten Back To Life* is that it’s fun to play with the dead… fictitiously, of course.  If Eaten was a movie, it’d be Dead Alive, offering just as much opportunity for disgust as enjoyment.  So perhaps if you were planning to kill and eat someone just for the taste, maybe throw on this record and gobble down a nice rare steak instead.  Eaten Back To Life* is exactly what it should be: raw and chewy as a fat piece of cartilage.  It’s no wonder they dedicated the album to “the memory of Alan Packer, the first American cannibal (RIP).”

I Must Eat, and You Must Be Eaten.

30th anniversary tribute artwork

I Must Eat, and You Must Be Eaten
Cannibal Corpse – “Eaten Back to Life” 30th anniversary

Eaten Back To Life* embodies the sound of hunger and spontaneous aggression, so I wanted to take the same approach with this work.  Starting with a raw monoprint, I interpreted the random texture only and entirely as gnashing mouths hungry for flesh.  There was essentially no planning, as I wanted the spontaneity to remain apparent in every lip, gum, tongue and tooth.  I don’t think I draw less than 40 thumbnails for each work to nail down an image, but this had not a single one.  I treated the process how I would treat total starvation, being willing to eat the next thing in sight until there was nothing left.  Likewise, I feverishly drew mouth after mouth as soon as they appeared to me.  No rhyme or reason, just hunger.

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*Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.

–NCM