By Greg Pratt
It was no easy task for death metal granddaddies Cannibal Corpse to outdo 2006’s Kill. That disc was the band’s best, one that combined all the brutality they’ve ever known with a tightness and maturity that held it all together. It sounded like a band that had finally made the disc they’d been trying to for many years. So where to go from there? Well, there was last year’s excellent Centuries of Torment DVD (now certified platinum in Canada!), and now we’re banging heads to the band’s 11th (!) full-length, Evisceration Plague. The band’s new disc is even tighter (more on how they pulled that off later), and just as brutal as ever. After 21 years in death metal, it’s hard to imagine just how these guys are pulling this stuff off, so we caught up with guitarist Pat O’Brien to get the scoop, a day after the band filmed a video in New Jersey for the album’s title track.
“It was very cold,” he says. “We actually did this thing outside in the snow, if you can believe this shit. I couldn’t believe it. We got there and I was like, You gotta be fucking shitting me. You know? We did part of it in this old barn and we did some of it outside and there was no heat whatsoever and it was cold as fuck out there. I know it’s cold where you are but I’m spoiled by being down here in Florida. Once we got into it, it wasn’t so bad. But it’s so much colder when you’re standing around. Like hunting, you’re just sitting there not moving in the cold - that’s when you really get cold.”
Now that the video shoot is over and the album is done, O’Brien can take a minute to sit back and listen to the disc removed from the recording process. And he’s pretty happy with it.
“I feel good about it, I think,” he says. “Any time after I record an album I have to step away from it for a while to let myself forget about all the little things that went into it or all the little things that could be better. It’s very tedious work. I think we got something pretty good on this one. I thought it was going to be hard for us to beat Kill, because it did good, sold a lot, people really liked it. So we had some pressure to at least make it as good as that album, or make it better. So the only thing we can do is keep trying to make the best albums we can make.”
Some bands thrive off of the pressure O’Brien speaks of; does the Corpse relish the pressure? Does it work to their advantage?
“Oh yeah, it does, but no matter what we’re just gonna do what we’re gonna do,” he says. “Some albums, people are gonna like, and some albums people aren’t going to like as much or they’re not going to like. I remember when I first joined the band, when we did Gallery Of Suicide, there were a lot of people who hated it, but now a lot of people seem to like it; it’s kinda weird. I remember when Black Sabbath put out Never Say Die and a lot of people didn’t like that album; I always thought that was a kind of cool album. I guess it’s really up to the fans, in the end.”
No doubt most Corpse fans are going to agree with this scribe’s assessment of the disc being the band’s strongest and tightest yet. O’Brien says, especially in regards to the guitar sound, that this may be the case.
“Yeah, I was gonna say, I think that’s one of the things we might have achieved; I think the guitar sound might be a little better, more tighter sounding, cleaner but still heavy, still with the distortion, but it’s more clear, more defined, you can hear the notes better. I think the performances are tighter. We used a click track on this album; we had written every song to a click, which made everything tighter. I think it made the whole thing come together more clear.”
It does seem strange that at this point in a successful career a band would try something as different as using a click track to record. Why start now?
“Just to try something different,” says O’Brien. “Basically, just to try to make it better. We say to ourselves, ‘How can we make the next album better? Let’s try it this way. Let’s try a click.’ We started rehearsing with it in practice and Paul (Mazurkiewicz – drums) really liked it. It’s actually made him a better drummer; he’s done some of his best drumming on this album.”
O’Brien says he definitely thinks the band will use the click again, ensuring future Corpse albums will be just as tight as this one. I mean, check out the mean groove of the title track, the technical death of ‘To Decompose’ or opener, raging pure Cannibal Corpse tune ‘Priests of Sodom’. It doesn’t get much better than this.
“There were so many advantages to it,” he says of the click track. “It’s just a better way to do things. Before, certain songs I would write, I’d have an idea in my head but it would come up a little faster in the studio than I thought it was going to be when I initially wrote the riff, just because you start playing a little different after a couple of months of rehearsing without a click track. So I think it helps to keep things more consistent. We knew what the speed was going to be before we went into the studio. Sometimes if you play things a little too fast or a little too slow you lose the initial feel of the riff.”
And, really, kudos must be given to the guys just for simply trying something different at this point in their career.
“Oh yeah, it was very different for us (laughs). I didn’t think we’d be able to do it. I really didn’t think we would be. Just because we’ve done things the same way for so long. But we gotta keep things exciting for ourselves, too. So I think this helped, just trying new things like that.”
And man, it all comes back to the click track for this disc: when I mention to O’Brien that the album feels and sounds confident, he doesn’t hesitate for a second in telling me why.
“I think part of that confident feeling was that we knew what we were going to be doing before we went in there. There was the grey area with certain solos or whatever, where we didn’t know what was going to happen but as far as the overall timing of the songs, a lot of that had to do with us using the click. It just helped make everything more solid.”
Stay tuned for Part II of BW&BK's chat with guitarist Pat O’Brien.
The video for the title track of Cannibal Corpse's brand new release, Evisceration Plague, is available - check it out below:
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