'Cannibal' Review: Bury Tomorrow pull no punches with this frenzied metalcore assault dealing with mental health
'The term 'cannibal' not only refers to being eaten away by your own thoughts but also eaten away by other humans,' vocalist Daniel Winter-Bates explained
British metalcore stalwarts Bury Tomorrow are back with their sixth studio album titled ‘Cannibal’, which releases July 3 via Music For Nations/Sony Music. Following up on their 2018 release ‘Black Flame’, the five-piece outfit’s third straight UK Top 40 release, this new album packs jagged riffs, tasty licks, frenzied breakdowns, and glorious melodies. While recording 'Cannibal', the band reunited with Sikth guitarist and 'Black Flame' producer Dan Weller (Enter Shikari, Young Guns), while the mixing and mastering was completed by Adam "Nolly" Getgood and Ermin Hamidovic (Architects).
The band commenced work on the album in the latter half of 2019, recording drums and rhythm guitars at Middle Farm Studios, in South Devon, with the remainder of the album recorded at Vale Studios in Worcestershire. Putting into practice the lessons they had learned while making 'Black Flame', the band tore into, reworked, and then scrapped any tracks that weren't up to their high standards. While lead vocalist Daniel Winter-Bates has long been one of metal's loudest advocates for discussing mental health, this time he's delved into his own personal experiences, penning brutally honest lyrics for 'Cannibal'.
"The term 'cannibal' refers to being eaten away by your own thoughts but also eaten away by other humans," he explained. "We're not kind to ourselves, let alone kind to each other. It was a cathartic process to address some of the darkest moments I've had in my life." Considering he has facilitated Safe Space Sessions with mental health professionals during previous tours, Daniel Winter-Bates wanted to live by his words. "I talk to people about normalizing mental health so how can I write an album where I'm not talking about mental health? The normalization of mental health is what saves lives. I want people to see the light in the dark. If they delve into that, they can find solace in the discussion, the normalization, the positive action by discussing this."
He also added, "For some people, it'll be a hard listen. But I thought I have to do this. If I'm going to go in, I'm going to go in. I'm not doing something half-a**ed. There is nothing lyrically I would change on this entire album."
‘Choke’ opens the album and right off the bat, Bury Tomorrow are in demolition mode. The guitar duo of Jason Cameron and Kristan Dawson lay down some big riffs to the syncopated rhythm section of drummer Adam Jackson and bassist Davyd Winter-Bates. The vocals are exceptional, with both Daniel Winter-Bates's harsh vocals and Cameron’s clean vocals shining in the mix. The juxtaposition of clean and dirty voices works really well for Bury Tomorrow, and it's definitely one of their signature effects.
The title track ‘Cannibal’ is up next and this is another ripper of a track. "All I see is a world of cannibals, I’m not sure that we’ve been looking for an antidote," sings Daniel Winter-Bates, speaking about the loss of hope, concern, and empathy. The duo of Bates and Cameron work very well as a tandem unit once again, while Cameron deserves special mention for handling the guitar responsibilities on top of the vocal load.
Released in late 2019 as a single, ‘The Grey (VIXI)’ is the next song on the album, with its title alluding to the Latin for "I have lived." With lyrics like "I have lived a life to defy / From the first time I have died," ‘The Grey’ is a song that looks back at one’s life in an introspective yet rebellious fashion. Cameron’s clean vocals have a haunting effect and play a perfect second fiddle to Daniel's screams, who amps up the energy whenever he’s on the mic. The song is mid-tempo compared to their other numbers, and is propped up by some meaty riffs from Dawson and Cameron.
‘Imposter’ is up next and features some excellent harmonic guitar playing and a tight groove. Daniel Winter-Bates returns with his visceral delivery and scores big. Drummer Adam Jackson is in top form, laying down an extremely groovy beat and is ably supported by the bass playing of Davyd Winter-Bates. Credit is also due to the guitarist duo of Cameron and Dawson for some tasty riffs and licks. As mentioned before, Cameron’s clean, deep vocals perfectly complement Bates’ rage-filled guttural style.
‘Better Below’ is one of the more melodic numbers on the album. Kristan Dawson and Jason Cameron’s harmonic partnership shines as they combine to pull off some intricate and spidery six-string work. Bury Tomorrow have managed to carve out their niche in metalcore with a formula that balances the heavy with just the right amount of melody. The song also features a fantastic solo by Dawson.
‘The Agonist’ is up next and literally jumps out of the speakers at the listener. The band sounds hungry from the get-go, with Daniel’s barked vocals sitting astride the tight riffs of Dawson and Cameron. ‘The Agonist’ has plenty of stop-and-start moments, tempo switches and doesn’t settle, keeping the listener on their toes. Both guitarists Dawson and Cameron combine to play some very interesting guitar arrangements that complement each other wonderfully well.
‘Quake’ is up next and slows things down a tad, to stunning effect. The song allows Cameron’s lyrics to breathe, but the best thing about this song has to be the guitars. Cameron and Dawson sound monstrous, courtesy of the slower tempo and fuller chord selection. Bates saves his pipes for the big moments in the song and delivers emphatically. Cameron explores his voice a lot more on this track, and his throaty wailing has its own special charm. With expansive guitar playing, plenty of harmonies, and a more melodic direction, ‘Quake’ is one of the highlights of the album.
‘Gods and Machines’ kicks in with a drum roll and then gallops on relentlessly. The track speaks of the age that we’re born in, where war, pain, and suffering are commonplace to a desensitized population. With lyrics like "Unholy Unloved / Raised in the world / Baptised in blood," the song essentially talks about reconnecting with what makes us human and abandoning machines of greed and destruction. The band is incredibly tight with bassist Davyd Winter-Bates and drummer Jackson holding the fort on rhythm. Guitarists Cameron and Dawson ride the drum wave with tasty riffs, licks, and superb harmonies.
‘Voice and Truth’ is up next and is definitely one of the more aggressive numbers on the album. Quick, snappy drumming and ferocious vocals set up the mood for this song that thrashes its way out of the speakers. Cameron’s voice shines again as he sings in the higher register. Dawson gets a mention for some exceptional guitar playing on the compact solos that pepper this song. Although a fairly short number at just about 3 minutes in length, ‘Voice and Truth’ packs a serious punch.
‘Cold Sleep’ is a fast number with thrashy drumming and breakneck speed riffing. Drummer Adam Jackson shines on this track with his precision and powerful control. Credit is due to the guitarists for some exceptional riff playing on this song, especially in the latter half when Dawson and Cameron are locked in a syncopation battle alongside Jackson. Both the singers, Bates and Cameron have their moments and the song is a great aural treat.
‘Dark Infinite’ wraps up the album and in keeping with the previous few songs, it is loaded with quick riffing, fast drum rolls, and plenty of headbanging moments. If anything, Bury Tomorrow seem to be amping up the album's intensity as it progresses and it’s evident in this song. ‘Dark Infinite’ also features probably the best breakdown section on the whole album. The precise drumming of Jackson alongside the tight bass playing of Davyd Winter-Bates provides the perfect soundscape for Dawson and Cameron to riff along to. Bury Tomorrow don’t hold back on this number, in the same way they haven’t held back on the entire album.
Given this exemplary piece of work, fans of the British metalcore act should be eagerly looking forward to seeing Bury Tomorrow's live shows in the future. "I want it to grow our fan base and capitalize on what we did with 'Black Flame'," Daniel Winter-Bates revealed. "'Black Flame' connected with a lot of people. I want 'Cannibal' to take us to a new part of our career. It's a great starting point for a discussion: I'm excited for people to hear it."