Cannibal Corpse is a band that does not need any sort of introduction, as they really are an artist that you immediately fall in love with or you turn off instantly upon your first listen. Hell, you could probably decide how you feel about them just from the first time viewing their iconic grotesquely detailed album covers. Cannibal Corpse represents nearly every aspect of metal music that is off-putting to the casual listener, from the deep growling vocals of frontman Corpsegrinder to their nonstop blast beats and high-frequency piercing guitar solos. While The Wiltern was the last venue I would expect to see an artist this extreme, Cannibal Corpse’s recent sold out performance proved that the love for death metal that passionate fans have is stronger than ever and their dedication to the genre can force itself into the most unexpected of environments.
Black Anvil kicked off the absolutely stacked lineup, offering a completely different brand of black metal than we would see from Dark Funeral later that night. Black metal purists may scoff at their polished production and use of synthesizers present, but Black Anvil’s formula of more emotional post-hardcore and shoegaze influenced black metal definitely represents the future of the genre as newer metal bands move towards an artistic and theatrical direction rather than the pure brutal evil that it once embodied. Even with this softer and more experimental take, Black Anvil still manages to sound dark as hell with their choir-like backup vocal samples behind the passionate shrieks of frontman Paul Delaney that sound like they’re being heard from the inside of a tornado. Black Anvil may have a completely different energy than the straight-forward heaviness seen in the rest of this lineup, but their fresh take on black metal influences added some much needed youthful diversity to the evening.
While Immolation are also a death metal band, their take on the genre is completely different from the more barebones fast and heavy nature of early 90’s Florida death metal bands like Cannibal Corpse. Rather than just jumping straight into the violence, their melodic and uplifting guitar intros find their way of building up to become these grandiose masterpieces that resemble a fine painting in how detailed and awe-evoking the complex compositions are. The guitar solos from Robert Vigna at the peak of these songs are absolutely hypnotic in how many different frequencies are hit, and he plays with such bizarre and spazzy body language that he almost appears like a robot programmed to play as precisely and quickly as possible. It was clear that Immolation was a huge draw in this show selling out The Wiltern by how much the crowd was blown away by the pure talent they exhibit in bringing these abstract visions to life.
Dark Funeral was actually the first original black metal band that I had ever seen live before, and their performance definitely lived up to the scene’s infamous reputation of being as dramatically evil and menacing as possible. Sporting the genre’s signature facepaint makeup and all-black body armor adorned with studs and spikes, the entire band appeared as inhuman demon spirits with their newest vocalist Heljarmadr acting as the orchestrator of darkness to lead them. Heljarmadr screams with a distant raspy wail that sounds like a soul leaving the body of a dying paranormal creature from the middle of a snowstorm.
Dark Funeral were still able to pull off the gritty sound of their lo-fi recordings with the constant blast beats and rapid distorted guitar riffs throughout, which proves the lengths they will go to in order to create the most brutal atmosphere possible and never sound too polished. While most genres try to have the most clean sound as possible when performing live, black metal is focused on bringing the listener to a completely otherworldly universe and the raw sound of it is essential in bringing the right amount of discomfort to the listener to immerse them in the evil chaos. The campy “devil worship” stereotypes of heavy metal were in full effect, with Dark Funeral commanding “Hail Satan” chants from the enthusiastic crowd between tracks and everybody throwing their horns high in the air. Outside of art rock or mainstream pop concerts, black metal is easily the most theatrical genre that can be experienced live.
Even from outside of the Wiltern, Cannibal Corpse could instantly be heard as soon as they approached the stage with how ear-shatteringly loud of an atmosphere they bring to the room. Their newest guitarist Erik Rutan absolutely shreds into the squealing solos that Cannibal Corpse is known for, as the rapid machine gun-like blastbeats of Paul Mazurkiewicz shake the walls of the venue feeling like an earthquake. The first thing that anybody would notice about Cannibal Corpse upon seeing them is the comical yet intimidating way that Corpsegrinder headbangs by whipping his long hair in a spiral motion, appearing like a small portal into a dark abyss before the crowd and immersing them into this hellish landscape. While Dark Funeral’s set before them focused on bringing a cold atmospheric sound and occultist vision to the room, Cannibal Corpse is focused on creating the most violent and adrenaline-filled environment that they possibly can to inspire absolutely primal apeshit energy in the listener.
One of the most memorable moments of Cannibal Corpse’s set was when Corpsegrinder addressed The Wiltern by stating “This is a fun little song about shooting blood from your cock” to an explosion of applause from the audience. The opening guitar riff of “I Cum Blood” is like a siren signaling all metalheads to stop what they’re doing immediately to rush towards the floor in time to indulge in violently slamming for the insanely brutal combination of blastbeats from Mazurkiewicz and Corpsegrinder’s guttural vocals that enter the song to bring its volume to 11. The song really embodies everything that fans love about death metal, from its chaotic execution to the disgusting and gory themes that Cannibal Corpse proudly embrace.
After teasing the crowd by claiming that the last couple of tracks would each be the last song of the night, a combination of relief and violent adrenaline was shot down the spine of each person in the room as Cannibal Corpse started to play the face-smashing intro to “Hammer Smashed Face”. I personally believe that the classic death metal anthem is the greatest metal song of all time. From its signature guitar riff that will stay stuck in your head to the absolutely shredding bassline before the first verse hits, the song instantly throws you into the depths of Hell and guides you on a grueling, chaotically complex journey as you crawl your way back out of the nightmarish torment. Even with the set being over an hour long, Cannibal Corpse’s rabid fanbase could have waited the entire night to hear them play the magnum opus in-person.
As niche of a genre death metal may be, the esoteric nature of its gory imagery and brutal nonstop instrumental fury inspire such a passionate fanbase that cannot get enough of its musical chaos. Even as trends within metal change to enter more technical and artsy directions, pioneers of the extreme elements of the genre like Cannibal Corpse will always remain relevant due to their raw and unapologetic nature of being as vile, heavy, and fast as possible. Violence and aggression are inherently natural human instincts that will never go away, as much as some people want them to, and seeing Cannibal Corpse live will always be one of the most effective ways of scratching this itch for pure mayhem that one could experience.
Words by: Danny Ryan
Photos by: Albert Licano