If we take the term “shock rock” to genuinely mean artists who frighten and repulse the general public, then there is no greater act in the genre’s history than Cannibal Corpse. While the Florida-via-Buffalo death metal quintet don’t employ the theatrical onstage practices normally associated with the term — instead letting their grinding, ferocious music do the talking for them — they have always courted outrage via their gruesome album covers by artist Vincent Locke. And as the uncensored cover of their upcoming new album Violence Unimagined proves, these guys haven’t lost their touch.
“We felt like it was time again,” explains drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz. “Especially with having Erik [Rutan, newly-joined guitarist and frontman of brutal death metallers Hate Eternal]. The last couple have been great albums — we’re proud of all our covers, of course, Vince does a great job and we’ve always gotta approve them and sign off. But this time around, I myself thought, and I think the other guys as well, that it was time to get really, really brutal here. Especially with a title like Violence Unimagined — with a title like that, it’s gotta be something pretty shocking. That was important.”
Violence Unimagined certainly describes the music present on Cannibal Corpse’s new album. Fans will be surprised to hear just how savage the band still are this far into their careers, but even seasoned listeners will see this album cover and be somewhat grossed out by it (“I’m so glad to hear you were appalled,” chuckles Paul when we tell him this).
This made us wonder whether or not Cannibal Corpse are horrified by their own art, or if they’ve become desensitized to it over the course of fifteen albums. With that in mind, we asked Paul to rank the band’s album covers by how disgusting he personally finds them. Here’s what the forensics team turned up…
15. Kill (2006)
“I’d have to go Kill as the most tame, since basically there is no artwork on that cover. We have the piece that Vince drew, the zombie guy with the knife that’s inside [the CD]. But if we’re talking about the cover, that wasn’t on the cover, it was just the world ‘KILL.’ It’s a great album, of course, and a cool title, but obviously it would have to be our least offensive, since there’s no artwork.”
14. A Skeletal Domain (2014)
“Just because I think it’s our most different — our landscape cover, where every other cover has some sort of creature or being on it, with some intense murder scene. The fact that we went with a landscape, eerie effect, was different. We love all our covers, and that’s a great cover, but it’s very much different from any other cover we’ve done. Nothing too intense on that — just a cool, eerie dark piece.”
Was this a South of Heaven moment, where you guys made a conscious effort not to go brutal?
“I think that was how Skeletal came about. We never did something like that. There’s no blood on that cover, there’s just skeletons in the foreground and the towers with the faces. It’s very weird, and I think we thought it was about time we did something like that. That was probably more my idea — I know myself and Alex have come up with the most album titles, and I’ve come up with a lot of the artwork.”
13. Evisceration Plague (2009)
“That one is similar to Skeletal, in that you have figures, but there’s nothing really graphic about it. You’ve got a couple of zombie-looking guys, they’re pretty intense-looking. You can tell they’re up to no good there. But really, when you look at it, it’s nothing that terrifying. It’s another eerie one. It has a vibe to it.”
12. The Bleeding (1994)
“Then I went to original Bleeding cover, where we just used the close-up. I think you know the story — there was the original piece of artwork, but I’m not going with that piece because it didn’t become the actual cover. Blowing up the abdomen of that middle piece made it avant-garde, but the fact that it’s still bloody and splattery makes you think, Okay, something’s up with that. Gives you the feeling of blood. It’s more intense than, say, Evisceration, but if that’s all you got, it has to be a little lower on the list.”
11. Red Before Black (2017)
“Here’s where the covers start getting more intense. I love that cover, I think it’s intense, I think it’s scary and different, where you’re the victim looking up at this killer stabbing you. But if you’re comparing it to everything else coming after, I think it’s still relatively tame by comparison.”
10. Gore Obsessed (2002)
“It’s intense. The coloring on it and it being fantasy-like, where these zombies are coming like ghost zombies almost, coming out of the ground, adds something. Still, of course, the main figure is holding up the body part — the spleen, the stomach, or something. A great cover. But this gets a little tough at this point!”
9. Vile (1996)
“Vile and Gore Obsessed feel similar to me. Because you look at Vile, and it’s this thing that just can’t exist. I mean, it’s still horrific, it’s still crazy looking — this guy that’s cut in half, and he’s got a face like he’s still alive, but when you look at his body, he obviously can’t be. You have the maggots crawling out of him, the chains of barbed wire…and the ol’ penis in front of him.”
When I was young, I thought this was the most disgusting thing I’d ever seen, and that was at least 90% the penis.
“Yeah, the penis factor maybe made it rank higher. But it’s tough! It’s a tough list to come up with at this point! If I thought about this a little, it might rank higher…”
8. Bloodthirst (1999)
“This is a pretty intense cover, but it’s also a very crazy fantasy cover, where you have this demon bug creature. But he’s holding the head, and obviously he’s ripped apart a body and all that, there’s blood everywhere. But when you look at something like that, it’s definitely more fantasy. It’s cool, but I think I ranked it a little higher than Gore Obsessed and Vile because he’s got the body and the head.”
7. Gallery of Suicide (1998)
“The very fact of suicide is pretty insane. Just being able to depict that on a cover is pretty intense, I think. It’s a little more realistic among the covers we have, because there’s really no creature thing happening. You’re just depicting suicide — the woman’s cutting herself, the guy blew his head off…it’s pretty intense.”
6. Eaten Back To Life (1990)
“This is where the album covers are all more intense. And what a great album — the first album. What a great depiction of a zombie ripping himself apart. It has that motion in a still painting. One of Vince’s best, I’d say. It was amazing to have that as our first album. When it first came out, people were like, Woah, that’s pretty insane. Great detail, blood everywhere.”
5. Torture (2012)
“I hate that people still use the slipcard cover, where they show the guy with nothing around. That’s the slipcover for the CD, it’s not the real cover. The real cover has the bodies hanging, the pregnant woman and all that, with this crazy sadistic guy down there holding the knife. The colors are great — very ominous, very dark colors. When you look at it, it’s pretty disturbing.”
4. Tomb of the Mutlated (1992)
“I mean, blood everywhere, very horrific, but very much one of these covers that’s just horror fantasy. You’ve got this skeletal half guy, he’s doing this to this woman, but very obviously not alive. Of course, it’s very offensive, and a very crazy piece of art — it’s one of our best, of course — but I put that in [this slot] as part of a battle between this and the next one…”
3. The Wretched Spawn (2004)
“I think I put this here just because of the fact that you’re looking at a woman. It’s not a zombie, it’s not a creature — there are zombies and creatures around her, so there’s still that fantasy aspect. — but the fact that it’s a depiction of a real woman of sorts, with the creatures coming out of her everywhere, is very intense. Something different, something shocking — I can see people being offended by that.”
2. Violence Unimagined (2021)
“I mean, really, I think Vince did an amazing job capturing old-school Cannibal covers that we’ve done in the past. It’s pretty disturbing, very bloody — just an intense cover.”
Did you come to him with notes, or did he just run with it?
“This was one of those where we had the title, but no idea. I thought, Man, I’m not gonna even think of the concept with this one like I did with, say, Red Before Black. We came up with the title and said, You know what, let Vince go on his own. He came back with a couple ideas, some for us to choose from, and then yeah, we went from there. It’s cool to work with him on his own. He’ll take leads from us, but I’m sure he’s happy to do it on his own.”
1. Butchered at Birth (1991)
“How can Butchered not be Number One? The all-time most disturbing cover, arguably, in music. Man, I’ll never forget seeing Butchered for the first time. We were blown away by it, just like, how CRAZY it was. Especially going from Eaten — which was a great cover — to seeing something like that was just…WHOA. This is taking it to a whole different level. Even looking at it to this day, it’s never not disgusting. It’s never not that piece that you look at and say, This is crazy. I can’t believe these guys did that.”
Cannibal Corpse’s Violence Unimagined comes out April 16th via Metal Blade Records, and is available for preorder.
Words by Chris Krovatin