We’ve all wrung our necks headbanging to Cannibal Corpse’s most infamous song, but did you know it literally saved the band from breaking up? In a new interview with Metal Hammer, drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz tells the story of how “Hammer Smashed Face” kept himself and bassist Alex Webster from quitting Cannibal Corpse.

Corpse were at a low point following the tour to promote Butchered at Birth, with tensions between Mazurkiewicz, Webster and vocalist Chris Barnes boiling over. “Alex and I technically quit the band,” recalls the drummer. “We were fed up with the situation and one guy in particular, who we’ve since replaced. I remember us getting back from a tour and saying, ‘We’re outta here! We’re gonna start our own band!’ This only lasted maybe a week, but in that week, guess what was born? ‘Hammer Smashed Face’! We put it together out of sheer hatred.”

The Cannibal drummer gives Webster most of the credit for how “Hammer Smashed Face” turned out, also citing Iron Maiden bassist / primary songwriter Steve Harris for the song’s rhythmic approach and using bass as a lead instrument.

“We always wanted to be fast and the beginning of ‘Hammer’ is one of the most intense we’ve had for a song,” Mazurkiewicz explains. “Then you’ve got the killer bass break, it goes into a blast again and then, yeah, you go into the groovy, middle-paced part. That was the style we were shooting for; we like variety, even within one song. Throwing those grooves in, we like doing that. It just feels good!”

Of course, Cannibal Corpse experienced a huge boost once Jim Carrey requested they perform in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective — a scene that’s now legendary amongst metalheads. Movie producers even changed around their shooting schedule to accommodate Cannibal Corpse, who had a European tour booked during the initial shoot.

Following the cult fervor of “Hammer Smashed Face,” Cannibal Corpse found huge success with their following album, The Bleeding, which is one of the highest-selling death metal records ever and Corpse’s all-time bestseller. The momentum ultimately helped their following album, Vile, to get Corpse on the Billboard 200 chart for the first time, where they’ve now been featured a total of six times.

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