With a genre so focused on aggression and brutality as Death Metal, you’d think that it’d be somewhat difficult for a band to create an album that fails to engage the listener in a fit of headbanging mania. CANNIBAL CORPSE, prior to 1998, had twice achieved this seeming impossibility with their "Butchered At Birth" and "Tomb Of The Mutilated" albums. But with the addition of George Fisher to the band’s lineup and a generally badass album with "Vile", it seemed like the band were on an upswing, never to release a boring album again. Alas, it was not meant to be. "Gallery Of Suicide", the follow-up to "Vile", is unimpressive indeed, with only a few choice cuts keeping it from a total comatose-inducing lack of good ideas.
Now although I’m certainly not going to sing this album’s praises, I certainly don’t consider it a ‘stain’ in the band’s discography. After all, only like half of their output to date is worth listening to, keeping even a mediocre effort like this in fairly good standing when compared to some of their earlier/later work. But it’s a general consensus that this album is the first dip in CANNIBAL CORPSE quality. Some attribute this to the loss of Rob Barrett, replaced by ex-NEVERMORE guitarist Pat O’Brien. This would be a mistake, as the songs are still written in the same vein as those on "The Bleeding" and "Vile" and O’Brien actually proves himself to be a much better lead player than Barrett. Others attribute the problem to be the production. Well the production is fine: the bass is perfectly mixed and there is a very unique atmosphere to the album (the title track is a good example, as is “From Skin To Liquid”). Still others blame the presence of George Fisher. But Fisher isn’t the problem, as he sounds just like he did on "Vile", which is still tremendously better than if Chris Barnes was singing here. No, the problem lies in a general inconsistency between the album’s various songs.
On one hand, you have some of the most unique material the band has released up to this point in time. “From Skin To Liquid,” the instrumental, is long and fucking slow. But the doomy atmosphere produced chills to the bone, establishing it as one of the album’s standout tracks. The title track creates a similar effect, alternating between the tension of the main riff and the groove of the heavier verse/chorus sections. But on the other hand, you have a bevy of generic CC-style Death Metal filler tracks that neither excite nor disgust. Same goes for the lyrical content, which is pretty lightweight compared to their earlier material. Some of the faster ones are still somewhat innovative (“Disposal Of The Body,” “Dismembered And Molested”), but the rest of the album is very disorganized, very unremarkable, standard issue CANNIBAL CORPSE. Album opener “I Will Kill You” is a fine example of this. Somehow praised by CC fans as a band classic, it pummels forth at the same unrelenting tempo for more than the first half of the song, using and reusing the same couple riffs. I’d say at least 2/3 of these tracks are similarly uninteresting in this vein.
Big fans of Fisher-era CANNIBAL CORPSE might dig this anyway, but it’s mostly boring coming from the supposed gods of Brutal Death that just a few year prior gave us "Vile". They’d get their mojo back by "Bloodthirst", but in ’98, this album offered little hope that they’d do anything but continue to decline into the abyss of Death Metal mediocrity they seemed to be descending towards.
(Online May 11, 2008)