Got Death for Sale

Those who don't love Cannibal Corpse doesn't understand Cannibal Corpse.

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Cannibal Corpse, your friendly neighborhood death - squad.
Cannibal Corpse, your friendly neighborhood death squad.
I have a mother. And a girlfriend. And I love Cannibal Corpse. Like vomit on velour, the three don't always mix so well.

Throughout history, bands that churn out songs like "Entrails Ripped From a Virgin's Cunt" and "Addicted to Vaginal Skin" have seldom gone over well with the lady folk. Throw in album covers featuring images of rotting female bodies, and your goodwill plummets even lower.

And so Cannibal Corpse has earned a reputation as perhaps the most misogynist band ever, like a flesh-eating Rick James. You'd have to drink milk straight from the carton for a full year to match the ill will their downtuned death metal conjures among females. "I need a woman to fill with my fluid/A delicate girl, to mutilate, fuck, and kill," go the words to one ditty, before sinking into verse that's less "suitable" for print.

"My Y chromosome stands for Why the fuck does my boyfriend listen to Cannibal Corpse?" my better half growled a few weeks back. The recent purchase of Cannibal Corpse's kick-ass new four-disc boxed set, 15 Year Killing Spree, even elicited a little sniff of disapproval from the counter lady at My Generation.

But if Cannibal Corpse's output makes a compelling case for hate crimes against men, it also spawns misperceptions worth clearing up. Yeah, their nine albums burst with over-the-top gore, nastier than bus-stop bathrooms. But in many ways, Cannibal Corpse is merely a comic book come to life, a snuff film with blast beats. The band's music is no different than a George Romero splatter flick: The same bloodlusting zombies trudge through every other song, leaving mounds of bones and brains in their wake. The appeal is also similar: Fans of horror films and death metal -- often one and the same -- thrill to the vicarious violence because it renders something as frightening as mortality little more than escapist entertainment.

But nobody will be picketing movie theaters showing Dawn of the Dead in the same way people have protested outside of Cannibal Corpse shows. So why are folks so taken aback by the same kind of fictionalized violence peddled by such bands?

A big reason is that the songs are delivered in the first person. When you watch a horror flick, no matter how realistic it may be, there's a feeling of detachment, as if you're viewing atrocities unfold from a relatively safe distance. There's no safety of any sort on a Cannibal Corpse record, where listeners are thrust into the action through the eyes of the killer, as if they were wielding the meat cleaver themselves.

Then there's the fact that much of the band's violence is directed toward women. (Ever notice that Freddy and Jason also slice and dice the ladies first?) This doesn't reflect a deep-seated hatred of those with ovaries, just a band playing to the frustrations of its followers. Let's face it: The primary audience for death metal is adolescent males on the furthest fringes of any in-crowd. Rarely is the football-team captain seen rocking a Cannibal Corpse "Butchered at Birth" tee; chicks just don't fawn over dudes in bullet belts. If you're an oddball longhair who has trouble getting girls, Cannibal Corpse is your band: a way of venting those anxieties in a safe, harmless way, where any real violence is confined to the mosh pit.

"There were times when we were looking at our lyrics and started to feel a little uncomfortable about them," Cannibal Corpse bassist Alex Webster says in the liner notes to 15 Year Killing Spree. "But the more the lyrics made us feel uncomfortable, the more we should keep them, 'cause we knew they'd get a reaction."

Nations have been built upon less sturdy logic. And while it's been enough to make Cannibal Corpse the biggest death-metal act of all time -- over a million records sold -- it's also won them no favor in Germany, where their early albums are banned and they're forbidden to perform select songs in concert. Elsewhere, they're the genre's top draw, with a blitzkrieg of warp-speed riffs and headbanging by band frontman George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher so severe that the guy's neck has developed the girth of a redwood. It's all made Cannibal Corpse solid role models for outsiders and blood fiends alike.

And so when the band stops at the Agora next Wednesday, I'll gladly be there. Even if my girlfriend won't.

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