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On the Offensive

Cannibal Corpse stays alive despite controversy

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"Dismembered and Molested." "Born in a Casket." "Meat Hook Sodomy." "Fucked With A Knife." Headlines from this week's National Enquirer? Tomorrow's New York Post front page? Stumped? The correct answer is C, none of the above. It's just Cannibal Corpse, going about its daily death metal business.

Since 1988, the band has drenched their audiences in blood and gore, hammering them with a relentless beat that drives home their obsession with things dead, evil or a combination of the two. That choice has meant that the band has had to rely on supporting themselves with little outside help. Their choice of subject matter was and still is too extreme for the mainstream press.

But that never was a problem for the band. "We just do what we do, and that's it," says drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz, calling in on the way to a gig in Oregon. "Man, we're playing music we want to play, writing about subjects we want to write about. If other people like it, that's great, but we never went any farther than any of those thought patterns."

A lot of people did like it. Since their debut, Eaten Back To Life in '90, their records have sold in the millions. It's the stuff of classic horror movies. "I crave gore, I'll eat your guts/ ... blood drives me nuts/I drink blood, I don't like water," original lead singer Chris Barnes sang on "The Undead Will Feast," from Eaten. Necrophilia was celebrated on "Born in Casket." But the band seemed to have a change of heart on "Put Them To Death," turning on the monsters they were celebrating a moment ago. "Evil people with evil minds/Slaughter their victims with ripping knives /We should take their fucking lives/They should be caught and punished," Barnes croaks on "Make Them Suffer."

Even though the body of the Corpses' work would make the perfect soundtrack to any horror movie, apparently neither George Romero nor any of his director friends have them on speed dial. The only movie work the group had been offered was on '94's Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Star Jim Carrey loved the band and insisted they be featured in the movie. But when it came out, their big scene, with Carrey actually performing with the band, had been cut. "At least it surfaced on network TV," Mazurkiewicz says, "so you're able to see that extra scene where Jim jumps on stage."

Aside from that, the band has been ignored by the mainstream -- with a couple of notable exceptions. Tipper Gore, religious fanatics The 700 Club and Bob Dole have all publicly condemned the band. The 700 Club showed most of the video for "Staring Through the Eyes of the Dead" from Live Cannibalism. The Corpse got dragged in during a discussion when Dole ripped into Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction as a corruptor of youth along with bands like the Corpse. It was the first and only time the band got a mention in both USA Today and Newsweek. The band had no problem with any of it. "Any publicity is gonna be good publicity," Mazurkiewicz says. "People are gonna want to check us out -- so it just helped us out, that's all it did."

But one woman did pay a bit too much attention to the band, and cost them dearly. A German schoolteacher managed to get the group's first three albums banned in that country for ten years. "This woman actually took it upon herself to go to the local government," the drummer says. "We had to sign paperwork saying we will not play songs off those three albums, otherwise we could face prosecution and fines." Two years ago, the band finally got word from their German record label that the ban had been lifted. "Its ridiculous to me that any of this would come to light or even be talked about," Mazurkiewicz says. "We're just a band. It's entertainment -- there's many other things in the world that you should be concerned about other than a band named Cannibal Corpse."

But there is one concern that the band isn't able to do much about -- age. Metal is a young man's game and the Corpse has been at it for 19 years now. How long can they keep it up?

"There's always new fans coming out and it just makes you feel young," Mazurkiewicz says. "I think that's what death metal does, cause obviously it's very energetic, very adrenaline driven. You have to be young to keep it going this long."

Even Mazurkiewicz seems surprised at the band's longevity. "I never thought we would have been together this long," he says. But after the release of their 10th album, Kill in '06, he feels the band still has a lot to offer and a long way yet to go. "We'll keep it going till that day we cant do it anymore or don't have anything more to offer. But I think that seems to be very far into the future at this point because we never felt for one day, one minute that we were forcing it."

And for a legacy, Mazurkiewicz has a mantra that any metalhead would be proud to claim. "I would like to be remembered as one of the most brutal bands of all times," the drummer proclaims. "We were Cannibal Corpse throughout our whole career: a band that did what they wanted to do, and that was that."

Cannibal Corpse plays Tuesday, Oct. 9 at Tremont Music Hall, 400 W. Tremont Ave., with Black Dahlia Murder, The Red Chord, Goatwhore and The Absence. Show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $23 at the door.

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