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Releasing your first album in eighteen years has got to be a nerve-wracking ordeal, especially if the band in question sports the Carcass moniker. Widely accredited as being integral pioneers of not only grindcore but also melodic death metal, there’s a distinct aura that surrounds the band, thus a hefty level of expectation hinging on their revival album Surgical Steel
. Carcass have done the logical thing and created a blend of their previous albums; fusing the harmonious yet gruff aesthetic of Heartwork
, the aggressive musicianship of Necroticism
as well as a few catchy death n’ roll hooks from Swansong
, culminating in an album that does it’s ancestors proud yet sounds relevant and fresh in today’s death metal scene.
Surprisingly, the album gets off to a shaky start. The first track, barely over a minute in length is an array of dual guitar harmonies which is rudely interrupted by the second track “Thrasher’s Abattoir”. As you may have guessed, the second track is a thrash inspired, breakneck head banger, itself only a little under two minutes in length. These tracks aren’t “bad” by any means, but in the context of the album, they do very little to accentuate any kind of mood or build-up. Once the third track rolls around though, Steer apparently has an epiphany, and the little blip at the start is very quickly forgotten as he reels off riffs that would sound perfectly at home on Heartwork
. Surgical Steel
isn’t just 47 minutes of Carcass ripping themselves off though, while they aren’t doing anything they haven’t done before, they’ve cleverly weaved together a fine balance of their small but incredibly diverse catalogue. Heartwork
appears to have been used as the base, with prominent melodic edges to tracks like “A Congealed Clot of Blood”, “Noncompliance…” and the closer “Mount of Execution”. But the album is noticeably more aggressive than its 20 year old ancestor, and this is thanks to the faint Necroticism
elements that have trickled into virtually every song to a certain degree. “Cadaver Pouch Conveyer System” and “The Master Butcher’s Apron” are arguably the two most frantic songs here, each featuring a blistering array of melodic thrash riffage and brief tremolo picking, alternating between techniques with consummate poise.
Despite the newfound aggression however, the album doesn’t forego the more accessible elements. “316 L Grade Surgical Steel” is one of the strongest and most instantly recognisable tracks on the album due to an insanely contagious vocal hook courtesy of Jeffrey Walker’s gruff, raspy and intelligible growl. The aforementioned “Master Butcher’s Apron” contains two particularly infectious riffs, one slow and plodding, the other melodic and haunting, creating an excellent contrast amidst the chaos surrounding them. The placement of these hooks is very well thought out, almost to the point of being meticulous. For the most part the album is a relentless assault on your senses, and just as the assault begins to wear thin, Carcass throw a curve ball, sucking you straight back into the album without having to resort to soft interludes or lame “progressive” sections. The excellent instrumental contrast is handled beautifully by drumming new boy Daniel Wilding, who demonstrates excellent dexterity and composure, blasting hard for extended periods of time before slowing down and implementing a groovy rhythm with surgical (pun not intended) precision. By virtue of the intelligent song-writing, track placement and the use of hooks rather than softer sections to maintain your attention, the album is incredibly consistent despite the diverse mix of styles employed here.
will always stick out like a sore thumb in the Carcass discography, due to it not having the opportunity to attempt anything new, unlike it’s incredibly influential predecessors. It can thus be viewed as the modern summary of Carcass’ ever shifting sound, a sound so expansive that the modern death metal scene would be pretty much unimaginable without it. Through the intelligent mix of aggression, hooks and a harmonious aesthetic, Carcass have paid great homage to their past while simultaneously creating an album that’s relevant in today’s scene and will likely stand the test of time as a result.