Death metal is defined largely by its extremity, so it perhaps goes without saying that the genre’s most provocative band is also its greatest commercial success. Buffalo, Cannibal Corpse from New York released their debut album, Eaten back to life, in 1990. Four years later, they would appear in the $ 100 million Jim Carrey vehicle Ace Ventura: Animal detective at the request of the rubber-faced comedian, an avowed fan. Two years later, they would land the Billboard 200. Their 15th album, Unexpected violence, went all the way to # 6 in April, and they’re now widely regarded as the best-selling death metal band of all time – a feat for the guys who wrote “I Cum Blood”.
Eaten back to life was the macabre opening salvo that introduced the world to not only Cannibal Corpse, but Vincent Locke’s artwork as well. The underground comic artist behind Dead world had found their perfect subject in the group’s ultraviolent lyric imagery, and their collaboration continues to this day. The cover for Eat is the archetypal Locke and Cannibal Corpse creative partnership, with its portrayal of a stringy-haired zombie devouring his own gutted innards. (He also has the Kourtney Kardashian seal of approval.) Locke would soon be raising the bar with much less tasteful covers, which, of course, would only gain more Cannibal Corpse fans.
While they amass these fans, Cannibal Corpse also makes enemies, including powerful ones. Efforts by American activists to have Metal Blade sever their relationship with the band failed, but their music was successfully banned for years in Germany and Australia. In Germany, an injunction against the group even prevented them from playing songs from their first three albums. George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, who has not performed on these records, noted the absurdity in a 2004 interview with Chicago Innerview: “We can’t play ‘Born In A Casket’ but can play ‘Dismembered And Molested. ‘”
Here is the part where I concede that some of the lyrics and illustrations from Cannibal Corpse are, in fact, a little beyond pallor. Every song in the band’s discography portrays extreme violence, but few are interested in excavating its trauma, meaning the less cartoonish the lyrics, the more bad they feel. This isn’t an argument for censorship, but it’s a fair warning that diving deep with Cannibal Corpse’s catalog is going to mean seeing and hearing things that don’t necessarily hold up in 2021. The rankings below reflect a bit that, but usually it’s a list for people who know what they’re getting into. You are either the type of person who has the capacity to like a song called “Blunt Force Castration” or you are not. With that in mind, here are the kings of death metal albums ranked from worst to best.