Cannibal Corpse were in a unique spot in 1994, after already laying down a few of the more brutal death metal albums to get big distribution at that point; where does a band go from there? With fourth album The Bleeding, Cannibal Corpse decided it was time to get serious about more than just the horror lyrics; it was time to get serious about the songwriting.
It worked: the album is a phenomenal piece of '94 death metal, the songs crafted with attention to detail, the band clearly pushing well past their previous established boundaries, while (kinda) reining it in a bit when it came to the cover art, lyrics, and song titles (uh, yeah... kinda).
Our own Justin Norton inducted The Bleeding into our Hall of Fame in our May 2017 issue, which made us think the time was right to revisit the album and rank each song from worst to best, no small feat given that this was a band reborn, and extreme death metal re-energized.
10. An Experiment in Homicide
Nothing at all wrong with this short bruiser that closes off the incredible Bleeding proceedings, “An Experiment in Homicide” delivering 2:37 of fairly standard Cannibal Corpse, although at this point in the album the listener is well aware that “fairly standard” Cannibal Corpse pre-The Bleeding and post-The Bleeding now mean two very different things, as even this relatively simple song shows improvements over anything from their first three albums.
9. Force Fed Broken Glass
You can definitely accuse The Bleeding of being front-loaded, although these late-album songs are not anything to dismiss by any means: “Force Fed Broken Glass” delivers tons of the band's underrated labyrinthine riffs and lays down a truly disturbing mid-song breakdown/broken-glass-chowdown part. At 5:03, it's the album's epic, as well, and it works as song nine of 10, the band delivering a decent amount of creepy atmosphere, especially in the slower parts.
8. The Bleeding
The title track kicks off the album's final three tracks; on a ten-song album, song 8 can be a tough place to be, but “The Bleeding” pulls it off with confidence and a kind of laid-back grace that the band did not possess prior to this album. Killer song, great riffs, only down so far on the list because it's not as outrageously memorable as many of the other songs on this album are.
7. The Pick-Axe Murders
The band kick off the second half of The Bleeding with tons of excitable Cannibal Corpse sounds here, “The Pick-Axe Murders” racing out of the gates with guitar solos before vocals even emerge from the cave, the fast and mid-tempo sounds and general guitar-riff disorientation all sounding familiar from Tomb of the Mutilated but with a clarity that album wished it had. Plus, the bass/drum part at 1:56 totally rules.
6. She Was Asking for It
Did I say the band was reining it in a bit with the song titles? Maybe not, as this oh-god-did-they-actually-call-it-that song proves, but it also proves that the band was focusing on songcraft this time around in a big way: this song ebbs and flows and brings you with it, ready or not. When it goes faster, you're with it; when it slows down, yup, you're with it. Almost hypnotic in its impact, this one shows the band doing everything with great power.
The first three songs on this album totally, absolutely kill it, and by the fourth cut, “Pulverized,” the band has loosened up a bit with regards to their “new sound” and lay down this slab of more straight-ahead death, which would not sound at all out of place on previous album Tomb of the Mutilated. But a closer listen reveals that they're not just slamming toward the finish line like they used to: they're playing as a unit, and they're focused on a common goal.
4. Return to Flesh
Love the Immolation-esque opening sludge trudge of this one, the band—wisely—starting song five of 10 with a bit of a respite for the listener, who just sat through four of the best Cannibal Corpse songs of all time. “Return to Flesh” drops some technical skills mid-song while keeping the tempo low and slow, a sound which the band pull off excellently here. A majestic moment on an all-killer album.
3. Staring Through the Eyes of the Dead
A fantastic opener and a now-classic Cannibal cut, “Staring Through the Eyes of the Dead” established that this album was going to be just as brutal as the band's first three but that something is different: there's a bit of breathing room, there's a touch of maturity (the good kind), there's a sense of... song. Song? Song! That thing missing from the band's first trio of albums is indeed all over the place on this album, and on this killer album opener.
2. Fucked with a Knife
Ah, yes... that song title. But check out those riffs, the energetic drum performance, and the way the song totally ebbs and flows and races to its conclusion before you do anything else: this is one well-written song, the band's newfound focus on song structure coming to the forefront here on this all-time Cannibal Corpse classic. Plus, songs like this one were not just all brutal all the time; they were actually almost fun to listen to, thanks to the band's progression as writers. It's a Cannibal classic for a reason.
1. Stripped, Raped and Strangled
So, there's that riff, the first time in the band's history they made the listener stop and say the word previously not at all associated with this band: “groove.” But not sports-bar groove, furious death metal groove, the band doing the perfect stop-on-a-dime at 1:05, everything falling into place way smoother than a band doing songs with names like this have any right to be writing. This has become the dictionary definition of Cannibal Corpse songs, and for good reason: it's a great song, something that the band had never truly accomplished before now. And they accomplish it with incredible success here, this one never getting old, never sounding any less impactful, never anything less than totally ruling. Plus, it was inspired by Lenny Kravitz! (Pick up the issue to make sense of that one.)