If there is one band defines what death metal is all about, then it is surely CANNIBAL CORPSE, nitpicking and elitist assertions notwithstanding. Since 1987, the Buffalo band — the members themselves don't recognize the unit as a "Tampa band" — is arguably the world's most successful death metal band, based on album sales in excess of one million, worldwide touring success, a rabidly dedicated fan base, and continually strong merchandise dales. That the members have always been known as super-nice, approachable guys that go out of their way to connect with fans helps too. The story of this legendary group is told in great detail by members, fans, friends, producers, record executives, and virtually anyone that has been associated with the group in an outstanding three-hour documentary on Disc 1 of this three-disc set called "Cannibal Corpse History". The total running time of the three discs is seven hours and 20 minutes and not a second is wasted. It is not only the best death metal DVD you'll ever see, but it is also one the best metal DVDs for its professional packaging, comprehensiveness, and superb editing.
It is tough to even know where to begin with the "Cannibal Corpse History" disc, which is broken into two chapters: "1987 – 1995" and "1995 – Present". Every facet of the group's history is covered, from the beginnings in Buffalo, New York and pre-CORPSE acts BEYOND DEATH, TIRANT SIN, DARK DECEPTION, and LEVIATHAN to the act's industry-shocking beginnings on Metal Blade with albums like "Eaten Back to Life" and "Butchered at Birth", to the departure of Chris Barnes and his replacement by George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher, to the Billboard-charting success of its 10th album, "Kill". Not a single member, past or present — with the exception of original guitarist Bob Rusay — is left out, and that includes folks like Barnes, Jack Owen, Rob Barrett, and Jeremy Turner. Listening to the adoration in the voices and the smiles on the faces of major metal players and industry figures speaks volumes about the respect and deference afforded to CANNIBAL CORPSE. People like Karl Sanders (NILE), Raymond Herrera (FEAR FACTORY), Scott Burns (Morrisound Studios), Jeff Loomis (NEVERMORE), Ross Dolan (IMMOLATION), Brian Slagel and Mike Faley (Metal Blade) sing the band's praises, discuss how the act impacted their lives, and offer personal insights into the inner workings of the group. Disc 1 by itself would have been made a purchase mandatory, but there is so much more.
Disc 2, "Cannibal Corpse Performances", includes live performances from shows in 1989 (Buffalo), Nashville (1994), Jacksonville (1996), New York City (2000), Germany's Party.San and With Full Force festivals (2005 and 2007, respectively), and Toronto (2006). Everything post-2000 is good quality, the 13-song Toronto performance being the only (presumably) full set. The cool part is that the disc is assembled so that there isn't a repeat among the total of 30 songs performed. The quality of the performances in 1989, 1994, 1996, and 1989 is, of course, not as good as the latter-day material, but all of it is acceptable. Surprisingly, the quality of the 1989 performances of "Shredded Humans" and "Rotting Head" is decent, considering it was shot with one camera, and really captures the raw energy of the band in its nascent stages. Taken as a whole, the performance disc is very well done and gives the listener a grand overview of the act's live prowess throughout the years. Also included are seven music videos, including the live "Stripped, Raped, and Strangled" clip with Trevor Strnad (THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER) assisting with vocals.
With a title like "Bonus Chunks", Disc 3 may sound like little more than a collection of odds and ends, which couldn't be further from the truth. "Bonus Chunks" serves to fill in the viewer on ever last detail of the CANNIBAL CORPSE experience, particularly those parts that may not have been captured during "Cannibal Corpse History". Included are segments on the artwork of sixth member Vincent Locke, touring experiences, merchandising, and member profiles. Capping it off is an animated segment called "Kill Crane", based on Locke's artwork that is just brilliant (you'll have to see for yourself).
"Centuries of Torment: The First 20 Years" is not just mandatory for CANNIBAL CORPSE fans, it is essential for anyone that wants a death metal history lesson. It is the definitive death metal DVD.