So the other day I’m in my car raging to Cannibal Corpse’s murderous 1994 classic The Bleeding, as I often do.
And I’m ripping through songs like the maniacal “Pulverized”, and of course, the ultra-violent “Fucked With a Knife”, and thinking nothing of this LP that I’ve heard a hundred times before. And then, all of a sudden, track five stops me dead in my tracks.
“Oh my God,” I said to myself (100 percent out loud, mind you). “How did I never notice the genius of this song??”
That song is “Return to Flesh”, and despite being an oft-forgotten deep cut surrounded by iconic Cannibal Corpse moments, is one of the band’s finest hours.
For starters, it demonstrates one of the great ironies of the early ’90s Floridian Death Metal movement: for a genre that’s known for upping the ante on Metal’s aggression by playing faster, it’s the excessively SLOW musical passages where the style’s “brutality” truly blossoms. Listen to this track’s lumbering intro riff, sauntering onto the speakers like an axe murderer who can’t be bothered to flee the scene.
And note how, after this sluggish intro riff, thr song effortlessly turns on a dime, launching into a breakneck sixteenth note feel, and then quickly transitioning to a catchy mid-tempo groove that would make Pantera jealous.
“Return to Flesh” is also one of drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz’s most impressive performances, as he navigates the constant feel changes and stop-start rhythms with masterful precision. And I love the creative guitar harmonies, which sound appropriately disgusting and disease-riddled. It’s truly a Death Metal masterclass.
Classic records like The Bleeding are the gift that keeps on giving. I live for unexpectedly joyous moments of (re)discovery like this. “Return to Flesh” just might be the best song on this whole LP, and I can’t believe I let that fact go unnoticed for so long.