Something happened to Cannibal Corpse around 1993. Before that they were basically your standard death metal band. Indistinguishable songs played as fast as possible with indecipherable lyrics about murder and death grunted and screamed over the top of an endless wall of drums and bass with an occasional tone deaf guitar solo. They pretty much set the standard for what one would expect from a band in this genre and in the process, because of the monotony and predictable nature of their music, they became a punchline, almost a self-parody, a byword for the sound copied by thousands of uninteresting death metal "Cannibal Corpse bands" that sprung up in their wake. But then something happened, Cannibal Corpse started writing really good songs and effectively rewrote the rule book for what a death metal band should sound like. The result of this transformation is evidenced in full force on The Bleeding.
The first noticeable change on this record is that the tempo is slowed way the fuck down, allowing more space for the music to work in groove and recognizable melody structures. They started writing actual songs instead of just playing as fast as possible. The songs on The Bleeding can be easily recognized from one another after the first listen. After 10 years I still can't tell the songs on Tomb Of The Mutilated apart from one another. The extra weight carried by guitar riffs on this record is immediately evident in songs like The Pickaxe Murders and Stripped Raped and Strangled, the latter probably being the best song Cannibal Corpse ever wrote. The slower tempo also allows room for the bass to put in some recognizable melodies and changes. The almost progressive sounding bass work on songs like An Experiment In Homicide and Pulverized provides clear reason why Alex Webster is a god to death metal bass players.
Another noticeable change is the clarity of Chris Barnes' vocals. This change is huge because a band this extreme plays as much as possible on shock value with lyrics and subject matter. I never really got the fascination with Cannibal Corpse before this album because as extreme and graphic as the lyrics were, they were indecipherable in the actual songs where Barnes would just grunt one verse after another. I still can't make out one fucking word on the Tomb Of The Mutilated disc. The vocal style on The Bleeding is still extreme, even more so because Barnes has added some black metal style high end shit to his voice as well. Barnes proves his ability as a vocalist on this album, adding some real personality and substance to the music that wasn't there before. The lyrics are much better this time around as well. Instead of simply describing horrible acts of death and mutilation, Barnes takes the time to craft careful characterizations and narratives like a well written horror story. The lyrics are still extreme, and this is all the more evident now that they can be understood, but they are creative and well-written beyond what you could expect from a band like this. The Bleeding represents a band at the top of its game. Barnes left the group after this album to start Six Feet Under, and neither band has yet to write an album this good. This is what a death metal record should be, and all the young bands out there should be taking fucking notes on this CD. If you buy one death metal album in your life, make sure this is it.***** Reviewed: February, 2003