Carcass
Surgical Steel


4.0
excellent

Review

by Karl V.H. USER (85 Reviews)
September 7th, 2013 | 305 replies | 49,170 views


Release Date: 09/13/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Swansong this is not.

38 of 39 thought this review was well written

When Carcass disbanded before releasing their ironically titled Swansong in 1996, it left a flavour of polarizing sounds in many people’s ears. They were signed to heavy weight label Columbia and expectations were high, especially after coming off an album like Heartwork which wasn’t just a huge seller for an underground death metal band - a low count of 80,000 units by Columbia’s standards - but was also a game changer as well. You see, what Heartwork did for melodic death metal is what Death’s Human did for more forward thinking death metal. It changed the face of how hooks and great production could be incorporated into death metal without ever losing sight on the blasting extremities that were now highlighted with a higher budget and a standard of expectations in keeping it relatively “safe”. In my mind, it was a mainstream label that did a great thing with a death metal band that growled about textbook medical terminology and the horrors of the operating room. With all this in mind, it’s easy to criticize a band like Carcass who wrote a death n’roll album – another spearheading album in this subgenre - as their final farewell to their fanbase. Seventeen years later, it would be announced that Carcass was finally ready to release an album with only half of their original line-up intact. Would this be a graceful return to their mid-era Heartwork roots and settle safely within the comfort zone the band's fanbase? Or would it be an album that would leave us puzzled as to how Carcass could expand further on their death n' roll affair?

The answer is a positive Heartwork-era yes. If you had any doubts about a stripped down record or any anticipation of Carcass moving backwards into their old grinding ways, you can lay those thoughts to rest. Surgical Steel is a full-fledged realization of the type of death metal Carcass excelled at and should have stuck with in the first place. It’s more than just a blatant excuse to get back in with the crowd that made good on their purchasing. Rather, it’s an album that makes good on where Heartwork should have naturally gone next. Within the first strings plucked of the album, fans of Heartwork should breathe a sigh of relieve with intro/ teaser “1985” as long-time guitarist Bill Steer and new blood Ben Ash serenade the listener with a beautifully spun harmonized lead that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Thin Lizzy album. What’s great about this leadoff track is where it goes next with “Thrasher’s Abattoir – a taut little number that frantically races forward in perfect death metal form. If these opening two tracks prove anything, it’s that Carcass are back in fine shape and giving a warm call-out to their fans by getting down to business within the first three minutes of Surgical Steel. Following their sharp yet brief opening are a number of classic Carcass tracks, packed with an insane amount of dynamics and unmatched intensity within their thrashing melodic riffs that feel as fresh as discovering Heartwork for the first time again. Jeff Walker hasn’t lost a beat either leading the charge with his signature raspy vocals that spit-out his typical vile lyrics giving these tunes a huge venomous punch to gut.

While the first half of the album feels familiar, it’s the openness to conformity on the last batch of songs that truly propels Carcass beyond most of these modern bands that have tried their hand at sturdy, melodic death metal. If it’s not the well crafted, intricate riffs that will get you, it’s their compromising stance of song-writing that feels like it’s more melodic than lead to believe. Carcass has taken the hooks of Heartwork and magnified them to a precise point, concentrating on a memorable hook rather than allowing themselves to fall into a zone where extreme heaviness needs to be front and centre. For all intents and purposes, it works quite well and I will be the first to say the last half of the album will get stuck in your head for a very long time. It’s not as if Carcass have chosen to put melody in front of aggression because these songs still intensely rage hard. It’s almost as if some of these songs could have been written by Arch Enemy if they knew how to write interesting parts and didn’t leave such huge gaps in their song writing department (yes, I know Michael Amott did a great deal within Carcass’s melodic direction but what has he gone on to do that’s worthy of your time?). Listen to the song “316 L Grade Surgical Steel” and tell me you don’t hear a song that finds a perfect balance between lead guitar hero posturing and the sharp, galloping riffage of Iron Maiden a long time ago. There’s even a few mid-tempo parts that rock so damn hard throughout the last half of the album making for an even more interesting listen. Closer “Mount Of Execution” would be the best summation of the above mentioned traits to Surgical Steel, quickly flashing between a folky acoustic intro, a sweet mid-tempo lead and an almost black metalish dirge without ever losing sight of what makes Carcass Gods amongst the table of well produced melodic death metal.

As well as Carcass’s sound has comfortably transitioned from their Heartwork days, Surgical Steel is a fresh listen from beginning to end. They never seem to try anything blatantly new in this arena of death metal. How they can restrain themselves when they’ve latched onto a special part of a song instead of an overbearing idea speaks miles about how far Carcass has come in seventeen years. Some fans of their early days will just write this off as another extension of “selling out” but what they’re missing is a band that did more game changing during their Heartwork days than when they found more monotonous ways to grind faster than everyone else. Surgical Steel is the most anticipated metal album of 2013 and it doesn’t disappoint!



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user ratings (493)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
September 7th 2013



6987 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Karl whips out a 4?

TheSkilledMachinist9
September 7th 2013



99 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice album

Wizard
September 7th 2013



19304 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I indeed did. And here's something that will blow your mind.......I like this a lot more than Ulcerate and Gorguts.

Digging: Downer - Downer

linguist2011
Contributing Reviewer
September 7th 2013



1852 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album is going to get a ton of reviews-I knew that the moment I posted the link to the album stream. As for the album itself, I don't feel I've listened to it enough to give a settled score, but it's definitely sounding solid for the most part.

Digging: Black Anvil - Hail Death

Tyrael
September 7th 2013



20798 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

'The answer is a positive [Heartwork-era yes.'

small typo ;)

great review wiz, I totally agree with you

album rawks, the fucking riffs man... THE RIFFS

Minus.
September 7th 2013



2680 Comments


Excellent review, pos'd

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
September 7th 2013



16299 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Looks like you got hit with some troll negs but no matter because this is a great review. I agree with pretty much everything you say here, this album riffs so hard. I wouldn't say I like it more than the new Gorguts but it's probably on par with Ulcerate in terms of how enjoyable it is.

Digging: Ulver - Bergtatt

Minus.
September 7th 2013



2680 Comments


Yeah seriously, I was just thinking the same thing...how can this have 4 negs wtf??

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
September 7th 2013



13969 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

It's a pretty ace review, pos'd.

Digging: Abigor - Leytmotif Luzifer

Epitome
September 7th 2013



129 Comments


Yeah seriously, I was just thinking the same thing...how can this have 4 negs wtf??


People cant have opinions? Maybe some users didnt think this was a "pretty ace review" like the weirdo with the creepy avatar above me.

ThenamesTrenton
September 7th 2013



88 Comments


quite lengthy review, idk but pos'd. xD

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
September 7th 2013



13969 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

@epitome - Your criticisms?

Minus.
September 7th 2013



2680 Comments


lengthy review? Do you have the attention span of a peacock?

psyclonus
September 7th 2013



127 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

i'm not sure if Ben actually played on this recording. he plays with them live, yes, but im not sure about the album. think all the guitars are Bill. can anyone confirm?

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
September 7th 2013



5987 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Great review overall, but needs some polishing.

Listening to the stream right now, the album sounds awesome, I could 4 this just for listening to Walker singing.

Digging: Lisa Gerrard - Twilight Kingdom

Epitome
September 7th 2013



129 Comments


@epitome - Your criticisms?


Did I say I had any criticisms for the review? No, I did not. Personally, I think it's a good review. Im just saying that it's stupid to question other people's opinions. But it looks like the mods erased all the negs anyway so this is all moot now.

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
September 7th 2013



13969 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Pretty sure the new guy is just a live performer yeah. I dunno, I actually thought Michael Amott was
still in the band before I was told otherwise.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
September 7th 2013



5987 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

In an interview for the Hellenic Metal Hammer, Walker said that Carcass are more than likely to revisit Necroticism... on their next album.

Fantastic drumming on this one!!

Inveigh
September 7th 2013



24866 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Fantastic album, I don't think it's quite on par with the new stuff from Gorguts or Ulcerate, but it's
close. Nice work Wiz.



Digging: YOB - Clearing The Path To Ascend

Poet
September 7th 2013



5921 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

KARL!!!!



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