The Wretched Spawn
fter eight albums that helped define gore-death metal, Cannibal Corpse are back with only their second studio album of the new millennium. That’s not to say the band hasn’t been busy, however. In the intervening period between Wretched Spawn and Gore Obsessed the group put out the massive box set, 15 Year Killing Spree, commemorating their amazing run of success. The set contained three music discs, one live DVD, one comic book, one guitar pick and entertaining and informative liner notes written by Alex Webster and Frank Albrecht, Rock Hard scribes. It was a stunning document and an overwhelming one that coincided with the news that the group had become the first death metal band to crack one million in total sales for the entirety of their catalogue. Obviously partly due to their longevity, this feat was amazing nonetheless, proving that the group is far more than thrift store T-shirt fodder for ironic college kids.
But what could they do to follow it up? Sadly, Wretched Spawn is the sound of a band tired after the reinvigorating force of their mammoth self-canonization project. And, with the recent news that songwriter and lead guitarist Jack Owen is leaving the band because his heart just isn't in it anymore, it could well be argued that this is a band beginning to scrape the bottom of their ideas barrel.
Which isn’t to say that there aren’t primal blasts of thrash here that are worthy of the band’s earlier albums. “Blunt Force Castration” bursts forth from its beginning moments and barely stops to catch a breath throughout its length. The lyrics are, of course, delivered in pure Cookie Monster growl throughout, George Fischer only stopping to emit a heart wrenching scream shortly before a ten second respite from the punishing runs and riffs of Owen.
Despite this, and a handful of destructive songs that evoke classic Corpse circa Vile, the most interesting moments are when the group actually deviates from the punishing formula that they’ve admittedly perfected. “Festering in the Crypt” slows down the riffs to a manageable length and speed, allowing the bass guitar to throw down a Sabbath worthy backing to Owen’s stuttering guitar. The group gradually builds up and slows down enough times to make it one of the more varied and successful tracks here.
But single-minded thrash is what this group does best and The Wretched Spawn doesn’t disappoint. But somehow it still does though, coming on the heels of the group’s retrospective set that codified their catalogue and sound so well. Perhaps with Owen leaving, there will be a slight renaissance in the group with different song writing teams forming in his wake. One hopes so, lest the group finds itself continuing to parody its past successes.