This was Carcass' final studio album (hence the title) and the only one they recorded after the departure of Michael Amott (now of Arch Enemy and Spiritual Beggars). The original line-up of Jeff Walker (vocals & bass), Bill Steer (guitar), and Ken Owen (drums) replaced Amott with a relative unknown, Carlo Regedas on second guitar, and yet again, radically changed their sound.
A million miles away from the pure grindcore/splattercore/goregrind/(whatever you wanna call it) of their first two records, and a fair distance from the melodic death of Necroticism and Heartwork, Swansong is essentially a rock n' roll album (or as the band would prefer, "rot n' roll")!
The technicalities of previous albums are pretty much thrown out, in favour of chunky riffs, although thats not to say its simplistic. The band members' talents are evident throughout, they just don't engage in quite as much showboating. One thing I've often heard said about Carcass is that these musicians "knew when to play and when not to" and this is very true.
The only element of the music which hasn't changed is Jeff Walker's menacing throaty vocals, the only indication of the death metal of before. In fact, Jeff really comes into his own on Swansong, not only in the further refinement of his vocals, but also in his bass playing which is prominent, because for the first time in Carcass' recorded history, the bass is actually audible as a separate instrument, and with a great tone too.
Another aspect worthy of praise is Jeff's lyrics. Whereas he progressed from gory lyrical autopsies (Reek Of Putrefaction, Symphonies of Sickness) to notes on the futility of humanity and society (Necroticism, Heartwork), he has this time decided to be overtly political in his venomous outpourings. Each song is a savage dissection of some aspect of our society being looked upon with equal amounts of disgust and sarcasm (the trademark tongue-in-cheek humour is still there!), including consumerism ("Keep On Rotting..."), beauty and lust ("Cross My Heart"), fashion and trends ("Polarised"), the gene pool ("Firm Hand"), politicians ("R**k The Vote") and of course, religion ("Go To Hell").
As I've mentioned, the musicianship is excellent, and quite diverse considering the band's previous musical directions. The solos are less about shredding and more about melody and catchiness, great examples being those in "Child's Play," "Keep On Rotting," and "Go To Hell." A slight Megadeth influence is audible in the chuggy main riff of "Tomorrow Belongs To Nobody," there are harmonised riffs abound in "R**k The Vote." As is expected, Ken's drumming is exemplary. This is a man who knows exactly how much double bass to use; he never overdoes it, so when he does crack out a quick blast on the twin pedals, it sounds all the more effective.
The production is on a par with Heartwork in terms of sound quality. The bass is now audible, the guitars have a crunchy tone, and the drums sound better than before, but all in all, Swansong isn't quite as heavy as its predecessor, although that may be due in part to the change in style.
* Great vocals
* All instruments audible
* New style works extremely well
* Intelligent lyrics
* Great Production
* Solos not quite as impressive as before
* Older fans might not like the new style
* It's their final album! Awwwww!
So there you have it, a brave move from the band who helped found the Grindcore movement, and then went on to arguably CREATE melodic death, into the territory of pure rock, sorry ROT n' roll, but ultimately one that alienated older fans, and apparently also guitarist Bill Steer, who left around the album's release, causing the breakup of the band.
This album may bring tears of sadness to grindcore fans, but *** 'em!
Jeff asks on "R**k The Vote," "Is this really rock n' roll?!"
Yes Jeff. YES IS ***ING IS.