Carcass is legendary these days for being the founders and leading lights of not just one, but two Death Metal sub-genres. With 1988's Reek of Putrefaction
they created what is known as goregrind and with 1989's Symphonies of Sickness
they perfected it. In 1991 they release a more classic death metal styled album entitled Necrotism- Descanting the Insalubrious
. 1994 was the year they released their seminal Heartwork
which has the distinction of not only being one of the first melodic death metal albums but also one of the best. Finally in 1996 is when they released Swansong
, which turned in a completely different direction from their extreme past into "Rot'n'Roll" territory.
The first track, "Keep on Rotting in the Free World" is the perfect example of the band and their new musical direction as it starts off with a palm muted chugging riff and a straight up Rock'n'Roll drum beat, much unlike anything done in the past. The chorus of the song employs some great Iron Maiden style harmonization lead work and Jeff Walker's voice is really amazing, still containing his trade mark spit and bile. During the solo, you can really tell how influenced these guys are influenced by classic rock, from the tone of the guitar to notes played, it has a very retro feel to it. The song finishes out in it's incredibly strong chorus and really lets the listener know that they're in for a treat for the rest of the CD. "Tomorrow Belongs to Nobody" kicks off with a a mid-paced thrash riff, accented by some pinch harmonics and very well timed double bass drumming courtesy of Ken Owen. One thing that is great about Ken Owen, is that he always does an amazing job with the timing of his drum-work. Throughout Carcass's career his drumming has evolved perfectly to mesh with the music of his fellow band mates, and never once has it sounded stale or contrived. During the chorus we get some very melodic guitar passages and we actually also able to hear the bass loud and clear, something usually omitted from the extreme metal world. After a trade-off solo we come around back to the chorus which this time incorporates what sounds like a very simple, delayed (or possibly phased") guitar lead that really adds something to the already amazing mixture.
When "Black Star" starts off you can tell this song will be more aggressive then the last two. It starts with a riff that to me, is a combination of melodic death metal (the note choices) and straight up death metal (just the way it's played). This continues into the verse and then the chorus with has a very upbeat, groovy feel to it. This riff is definitely one of the highlights of the album and every time i hear it i just want to headbang like crazy. The lead up into the chorus is straight- up from the classic metal guidebooks, being harmonized and galloping. There's a short (but sweet) guitar solo and we get launched back into the chorus, and then the end of the song. "Cross My Heart" opens with a salvo of power chords which eventually turn into a mid-paced death metal riff, but when it hits the chorus turns into a full place thrash riff. Once again, Ken Owen's drumming is perfect as he puts the double bass into some great use. The solo of this song is one of the more shredding of the album, its very reminiscent of one that would be on Heartwork
. The chorus of this song is extremely catchy, that even Jeff Walker's grinding vocals wouldn't deter anyone from listening to its greatness.
"Child's Play" starts with a quite indescribable bass line. Again, its great to hear some actual bass on an extreme metal (extreme rock") record, as it really adds another level of depth to the overall sound. The guitar during the chorus of this song is one the best, having a southern metal/classic metal vibe to it, while throwing in some AMAZING squeals in for good measure. During the guitar solo, Ken performs some interesting, more progressive metal based drumming and that leads into a really cool harmonized classic metal section. The song ends with a slow double bass beat and ringing power chords. The very beginning of "Room 101" is quite interesting in that it sounds quite uplifting, but then quickly turns into a groovy death metal styled riff. This riff is repeated during the verse (interspersed between some more chugging guitar work) Honestly this song kind of bores me until we get to the riff before the solo, which sounds like a metaled up Lynyrd Skyrynd . The lalst chorus is also a high point in the song because it actually brings in some atmospheric keyboards, something that has never been done by the band before.
"Polarized" could very well be the song of the album. It starts out with palm muted chugging but turns into this crazy groovy riff that is just unbelievable. It's easily the best riff on the album, as it is interesting as it is heavy. The guitarists, Bill Steer and Carlo Regadas, really did an amazing job with the guitar work on this album. The tone sounds great, the riffs are very original and you cant really expect what to hear next. The solo's are played immaculately and keep the listener intrigued. "Generation Hexed" starts with a mid-tempo punk/death metal riff (if there were ever a band to pull off a punkish death metal riff, it would be Carcass). The song continues with variations on this riff until the solo where once it again they take southern metal approach to their writing. The solo is very blues influenced and it's easy to see now how Bill Steer went from playing in Carcass to his straight up rock'n'roll band Firebird.
"Firm Hand" is another song (and probably the other aside from"Room 101" that fails to keep my full interest) I find some parts really amazing and other parts no so much amazing. The verse reminds a lot Arch Enemy as it seems to carry some Michael Amott styled riffs. The most interesting point of the song is no doubt the part before the solos (and the solo as well) The pre-solo is actually played with acoustic guitars and it just sounds absolutely phenomenal. It kind of makes you wonder why they never tried that before, because it's so refreshing to hear that kind of diversity in an album. I'll have to give it to Carcass, they deserve all the praise they got for being the kings of invention. The sign of great freaking metal is metal that will keep you guessing of what could possibly be next. The guitar solo for song is one of their more shredding and its awesome to see that they still got it. "Rock the Vote" is one of my favorite songs on the album, starting with a harmonized riff, and leading into the verse with a mid-paced chugging riff. Once again its one of those riffs that takes stances in the death metal because of the way its executed but still they retain their melodic tendencies with it. The solo in this song isn't one of the most technical, but its one of my favorites, because just because it a mix of a more bluesy thing, with a just tad of neo-classical style towards the end.
"Don't Believe A Word" starts incredibly slow which is an anomaly for the band, and contains some of the heaviest riffs the band put on this record. The chorus has some harmonized (yet not quite melodic) octaves which really will grab your attention. The solo on this song is very good, but thing that will really impress you are the short bursts of what i guess would be considered a "bass lead" which sounds pretty cool. The last song "Go to Hell" is a great mixture of heavy guitar with some upbeat rhythms. For the content of the song, its sounds pretty happy (which is probably what the intention was knowing Carcass). Jeff Walker's vocals sound superb on this song. One thing that i know has really kept me (and I'm sure a lot of other fans) loving Carcass is that Mr. Walker never abandoned his death metal delivery on any of the bands CD, no matter what the style change. Most bands would've probably had their vocalist try to add some cleans, but he never did which in my mind, really still gave the band their connection to the death metal underground no matter how different they were musically.
Sadly after the release of Swansong
we had the displeasure of seeing Carcass go in it's separate ways, but before they left, they delivered their latest classic, one to keep their name in the history books indefinitely.