When CANNIBAL CORPSE stormed onto the stage, in the embers of a dying thrash metal scene of the early 90's, metalheads in droves were instantly entranced by their sheer and unrelenting brutality - both aurally and, perhaps even more so, visually. As over-the-top as some of the themes might have seemed, they were created with a certain wit, and, believe it or not, ever-so-slight sophistication. This was done in such a way that embraced its bizarre aesthetics without coming off as either too hokey or tongue-in-cheek. Cannibal Corpse, at that time, stood in bold defiance of every trend in metal. Without doubt, it was an exciting, unique, and often harrowing experience to immerse one's self into their gore infested world. Sadly, after the departure of vocalist Chis Barnes, and following the release of two of their best albums in Tomb Of The Mutilated and The Bleeding, Cannibal Corpse drifted into a rather lifeless and, no pun intended, cannibalizing lull. Each album, despite proficient chops and near-deific execution, lacked the looseness and free-form vibe that made the two aforementioned albums so bloody appealing. Cannibal Corpse, much to many a chagrin, had suddenly become a parody of its once mighty self. Despite these complaints, I've enjoyed most of the post-Barnes work for what it is, occasionally spinning each in appreciation for the hard-work and conviction that I'm sure goes into the making of a CC album. Not expecting anything to be drastically different with the latest (s)platter, entitled Torture, I listened through several times - admittedly in a resigned attempt to get the review submitted by deadline. After about the fourth listen, it became abundantly clear that what I was in fact listening to could be best described as the spiritual successor to The Bleeding. Twelve albums in and Cannibal Corpse had once again found what it was that made those early albums so special. I'm not even exactly sure what that is, to be perfectly honest. Yes, Torture is quite parodic at first glance. In fact, I'd say that it's rather condemningly so, with an album cover and song titles not far removed from my high school science textbook doodlings. That said, I'm not quite convinced that it is intended to be self-satire; and, if so, the riffs, structure and pacing usurp any of the preconceived silliness. There seems to be (thankfully) a greater focus on thrash-centric riffing, slower breakdowns and mid-paced groove (à la 'Stripped Raped And Strangled'). The mind-melting technical ferocity of the last few albums has been toned down in favor of a more earthy, organic structure, which, to these ears, might very well have been the one missing ingredient throughout these lackluster years. The boys in Cannibal Corpse might not be sporting the clothes and attitude of some of their younger/cooler/finger-on-the-pulse peers, but you can bet your ass that those same peers will be lining up at Boutique CC once they get a load of Torture. Such is the continuous influence and legacy of this genre/trend-defining band.