CANKER: Exquisite Tenderness
Release year: 1997/2021
Label: Visur Productions/Xtreem Music
No, not Cancer. Canker. You’re not the first one to get these two mixed up, and I suppose it’s more than understandable. Canker from Spain aren’t, after all, particularly renowned or famous. But famous or not, Spanish Xtreem Music has decided to give their second full-length, originally released in 2017, a new lease of life.
Formed in 1990, the Spaniards released their debut album Physical in 1994 and then, three years later, Exquisite Tenderness. The following year, the band folded but have since then reformed in 2002, released one more album and called it a day in 2018.
One thing has to be said from the go: Xtreem’s re-release has much better artwork than the original release. The cover artwork of the re-release looks like a classic cut from some late 80’s or early 90’s album. Much better than the rather drab and boring photo negative of the original – which also had a typo in the name, being called Exquisites Tenderness.
Canker’s style of death metal is at the same time tinged with thrash and laced with technicality. Dropping names like Death and Pestilence, the promo sheet certainly frames the sound correctly: like the earlier material of these two pioneers of death metal, Canker’s sound is rooted deep in the realms of extreme, evil thrash metal, but still mostly falls into the realm of nascent death metal. There’s a definite technical bent to the sudden rhythmic changes and song structures, but it doesn’t come at the expense of good riffwork or songs that work.
In other words, Canker base their sound at that tipping point in time when Death and Pestilence gravitated from their early thrash-informed death metal to the technical death metal of their latter work. And you know what? These Spaniards make a pretty good show out of it, too.
Though released in the latter part of the 90’s, Exquisite Tenderness sounds like it could have been released five to seven years earlier. There’s a certain airiness to the sound that would vanish from death metal as a heavier, more jam-packed sound became the norm; the sound helps put emphasis on the thrash metal elements of the music, whilst at the same time putting the more technical elements to the spotlight.
It’s kind of cool that Canker put out such an authentic piece of prepubescent death metal in 1997, when the conventions and standards of the genre had already been established. This isn’t some kind of latter day death/thrash hybrid, but a recording that genuinely harks back to the days before clear distinctions between the various styles of extreme metal had been established. Just like the already mentioned early works of Death and Pestilence, and of course many others, Exquisite Tenderness isn’t a hybrid, it’s a throwback to a time before there was anything to hybridize.
To be fair, Exquisite Tenderness isn’t quite as high up as “forgotten classic” or “undisocvered jewel” on the “how badly did this need to get re-released” scale. This isn’t the latecomer early-style death metal album you’ve been dying to hear all your life. But it is a very decent album with an appealing sound and some good riffwork. Like many 90’s extreme metal bands with ambitions for more complex musicianship and compositions, Canker do sometimes let the flow of the music suffer from needless changes of pace or rhythm, but not as bad as some.
The end result isn’t something I’d call an essential purchase, but for fans of the style of death metal and acts mentioned above, this is certainly worth giving the time of day. There’s a strong nostalgic appeal to this sound, but not only that. Though far from perfect, Exquisite Tenderness is a good album of somehwat technical, very thrashing death metal.