Monday, 11 November 2013

Review; Carcass - Surgical Steel

Track Listing:

1. 1985
2. Thrashers Abattoir
3. Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System
4. A Congealed Clot Of Blood
5. The Master Butcher's Apron
6. Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard
7. The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills
8. Unfit For Human Consumption
9. 316L Grade Surgical Steel
10. Captive Bolt Pistol
11. Mount Of Execution

The return of Carcass has set the Metal world ablaze. For any poor sod unfamiliar with the legacy of this UK band - Carcass were spewed forth from Liverpool, England in 1985. After a few demos they went on to release 'Reek Of Putrefaction' in 1988. In a very short amount of time they became a founding band of the Grindcore scene, alongside Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror. Album number two, the seminal 'Symphonies Of Sickness' was a continuation of the sound, but featured a distinct flavour of Death Metal. The follow-up 'Necroticism - Descanting The Insalubrious' almost completely abandoned the Grindcore format in favour for Death Metal. It was also their first album with Michael Amott.

It was the 1993 album 'Heartwork' that saw the bands go in another direction, and made them pioneers in the emerging subgenre of Melodic Death Metal. Many fans didn't take too kindly to the band's change in sound back then, but the album stands as a landmark classic within the subgenre that it helped to forge. They then went on to release 'Swansong' in 1996. This was seventeen years ago now, in which times there have been a few break-ups, reformations and now-legendary festival appearances including Wacken Open Air and Bloodstock Open Air, among many others. It is only now, without Michael Amott, (who's primary focus has always been Arch Enemy) that Carcass return with new material as a three-piece. Guitarist and Vocalist Jeff Walker, Bassist and sometimes-vocalist Bill Steer and drummer Dan Wilding present 'Surgical Steel'...and it's a cast-iron Extreme Metal classic!

Opening with an instrumental intro in the form of '1985', which consists of guitar lines that almost sound like a lead that Iron Maiden forgot to write, it provides a foreshadowing of the greatness you're about to experience. Within seconds, any ill-feeling towards the band for not giving us any music for nearly two decades is obliterated. Then comes the first full song 'Thrashers Abattoir', which annihilates any worries on what Carcass would sound like in the 21st Century. It's a short, seemingly effortless statement of intent, and a furious one at that. Already the band sounds more vital than pretty much any band half their average age. 'Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System' carries this on with some more melodic moments added and a brilliant Thrash-like riff underneath a catchy guitar solo. Vocally, Walker and Steer are on top form.

As the album carries on into the third track which has a very modern groove to it, there's no denying the sheer power of the music on display. The tag of Extreme Metal has been applied to many, many albums in the 21st century, many of which have seemed to lack ant real conviction of the label applied to them. A lot of bandwagon-jumpers have caught the scene's interest simply for being the latest name in Black, Death or whatever niche of Metal it is they seek to inhabit. True extremity is something that the Metal world has lacked for some time. It only seems right that a band like Carcass would be the ones to give the scene a bloodied boot up the ass.

'The Master Butcher's Apron' breaks into a slow, stomping riff in mid-song that proves that Carcass have never been a one-trick pony. Their faster works may be what whips us all into a frenzy, but if riffs like the one heard in the aforementioned song don't make you bang your head, you're probably losing the function of your neck muscles! Throughout the record, the band's penchant for gore-laced lyrical content has been on constant display. The drumming of Dan Wilding is more than proficient for Carcass' music' Blastbeats are impeccable and every strike of a drum or cymbal falls in the right place and never feels wasted. Carcass are clearly a band made up of masters of their individual crafts the same way that a band like Revocation or Motorhead are. The tightness of the rhythm section and the flurrying guitar licks at the start of 'Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard' are the perfect show of this very fact.

'The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills' shows the side of Carcass that gave birth to 'Heartwork' a little more obviously, but as a whole the album does seem to combine the Grindcore sounds of their 'Reek Of Putrefaction' debut or 'Symphonies Of Sickness' with the aforementioned 'Heartwork', resulting in a balance of the sounds in their repertoire that flows with ease where it could easily have sounded like a muddy mish-mash of former glories. Whether this was a calculated move or a result of spontaneity barely matters after a few listens. The riff - vocal - riff structure in 'Unfit For Human Consumption' gives the song an anchor in the starting days of Metal. Some more sublime guitar leads fit the near-virtuosic musicality in with the brutality of the band like a glove. '311 L Grade Surgical Steel' and 'Captive Bolt Pistol' strike a similar chord as the previous songs without being tiresome. You're too busy trying to pick your jaw up off the ground to get bored with this album. Boring, this certainly is not!

The last song 'Mount Of Execution' starts with an unexpectedly slow series of clean guitars then leads into almost Doom-tinged territories that yet again have an almost classic-metal vibe to them, perhaps inadvertently showing the bands initial influences from back in the day. Then just as you think the album has come to a close, the best riff I have heard in a long fucking time comes in and lets Jeff Walker solo over it one last time, leaving the listener craving the next Carcass album to further cement the bands name in the history pages of Heavy Metal, just as Surgical Steel has this year. In a word - Brilliant.

Rating: 10/10

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