Cannibal Corpse is an American death metal band from Buffalo, New York. Formed in 1988, the band has released twelve studio albums, two box sets, four video albums and one live album. The band has had little radio or television exposure throughout its career, although a cult following began to build behind the release of their 1991 album Butchered at Birth, and 1992 album Tomb of the Mutilated. Both albums achieved worldwide sales of one million copies by 2003.
The members of Cannibal Corpse were originally inspired by thrash metal bands like Slayer and Kreator, as well as other death metal bands such as Morbid Angel, Autopsy and Death. The band’s album art (most often by Vincent Locke) and lyrics, drawing heavily on horror fiction and horror films, haven proven to be controversial. At different times, several countries have banned Cannibal Corpse from performing within their borders, or have banned the sale and display of original Cannibal Corpse album covers.
In May 1995, then-US Senator Bob Dole accused Cannibal Corpse—along with hip hop acts including the Geto Boys and 2 Live Crew – of undermining the national character of the United States.
A year later, the band came under fire again, this time as part of a campaign by conservative activist William Bennett, Senator Joe Lieberman, then-Senator Sam Nunn, and National Congress of Black Women chair C. Delores Tucker to get major record labels – including Time Warner, Sony, Thorn-EMI, PolyGram and Bertelsmann—to “dump 20 recording groups…responsible for the most offensive lyrics.” Clearly these reactionary vote-desperate people had no sense of dark humour or no awareness of lyrics that are deliberately outrageous or provocative to the point of being nihilistic…
Cannibal Corpse pride themselves on overtly violent-themed songs and album artwork, which they sees as nothing more than an extreme form of over-the-top entertainment. In the film Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, George Fisher said death metal is best viewed “as art”, and claimed that far more violent art can be found at the Vatican.
Of their music, George Fisher once said in an interview: “We don’t sing about politics. We don’t sing about religion… All our songs are short stories that, if anyone would so choose they could convert it into a horror movie. Really, that’s all it is. We like gruesome, scary movies, and we want the lyrics to be like that. Yeah, it’s about killing people, but it’s not promoting it at all. Basically these are fictional stories, and that’s it. And anyone who gets upset about it is ridiculous.”
In response to accusations that his band’s lyrics desensitise people to violence, Alex Webster argued death metal fans enjoy the music only because they know the violence depicted in its lyrics is not real:
“I think people probably aren’t that desensitised to it, you know including myself, like you know, we sing about all this stuff and you watch a movie where you know it’s not real and it’s no big deal, but if you really saw someone get their brains bashed in right in front of you, I think it would have a pretty dramatic impact on any human being you know what I mean? Or some terrible, gross act of violence or whatever done right in front of you, I mean you’d react to it, no matter how many movies you’ve watched or how much gore metal you’ve listened to or whatever, I’m sure it’s a completely different thing when it’s right in front of you. Even though we’ve got crazy entertainment now, our social realities are actually a bit more civilised than they were back then, I mean we’re not hanging people or whipping them in the street and I think that’s positive improvement for any society in my opinion.”
He also believes the violent lyrics can have positive values: “It’s good to have anger music as a release.” George Fisher said of their songs “There’s nothing ever serious. We’re not thinking of anybody in particular that we’re trying to kill, or harm or anything.”
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