Review Summary: Veteran British Goregrind/Death-heads collect their rare and unreleased offal for one meaty feast of brutaliciousness...
If I'd had any interest in the extreme metal scene back in 1995, I probably would have cried my little eyes out upon hearing of the breaking up of grind/death/metal immortals Carcass. As it was, I was seven years old, and not in any way a metalhead (a shame, I know...).
Truly, Carcass were masters of their craft, at various points in their career turning their mighty hands to grindcore/goregrind, melodic death, and their infamous brand of death rock (amusing titled rot 'n' roll), and excelling at every one. Which made their eventual demise such a great loss to the music world.
Thankfully, their parting shot "Swansong" had been a cracker, and luckily for us all, there was more where that came from. Five studio outtakes, in fact, which make up the backbone of this rarities and outtakes album. These are the first five tracks, which show the rot 'n' roll sound of "Swansong" even further, with cuts such as "Edge Of Darkness" and "I Told You So..." in particular overshadowing some of the material on "Swansong." Not bad for outtakes, eh"! The latter is ironically the most catchy, and deals lyrically with the way in which the major they'd signed to (Columbia, a short lived venture if ever there was one!) had tried to groom the band for the mainstream, even going so far as to suggest the Jeff should take singing lessons!!! While we're on the subject of vocals, Jeff's raspy growl is at it's most biting and brutal on these five tracks, and the top notch production, despite sacrificing a little of the expected heaviness, allows every instrument to be heard. The riffs are intricate and melodic, and the solos never less than totally wailing! The tempo veers towards mid-paced, but other than that, these tracks can't be faulted.
Tracks 6-9 are Radio One Rock Show sessions from back in 1994. It's unclear which second guitarist is accompanying Bill Steer on these live sessions, but whoever it is, they certainly pull off the songs with aplomb. The recording quality, while not up to the standard of the studio recordings or the energy of a concert recording, is sufficient for each instrument to be heard well in the mix. Certainly the band do anything but tone it down, even when faced with the strange environment of a radio studio. They even mix it up a bit, tacking the long and ominous intro of "Ruptured In Purulence" (from the "Symphonies Of Sickness" album) onto the beginning of "No Love Lost," a song which in itself was a minor hit for the band at the time. "Buried Dreams" retains all its venom from the melodic intro right through to the insane soloing towards the end. "Rot 'N' Roll" does exactly what it says in the title (and then some), and "Edge Of Darkness" (unreleased at the time of the sessions) is pulled off with startling accuracy, considering the complexity of the sprawling intro section. All four songs are played a little faster than the originals, which adds to their unbelievable brilliance.
The next two tracks, "This Is Your Life" and the original studio version of "Rot 'N' Roll" are taken from the now out-of-print "Heartwork" EP (not to be confused with the album of the same name), and map the transition of the bands sound between the "Heartwork" and "Swansong" albums. "This Is Your Life" has a battering opening riff, and the chorus of "Birth, copulation and death... This is your life!" outline the darkly humorous outlook of Jeff's lyrics. "Rot 'N' Roll" as I hinted at above, rocks, right from the melodic shreddy riff that heralds its start, to the moment the aural assault dies away. Essentially the perfect hard rock song, with death vocals to boot.
"Tools Of The Trade," "Pyosified (Still Rotten To The Gore)" and "Hepatic Tissue Fermentation II" are taken from the also out-of-print "Tools Of The Trade" EP. The former, whose lyrics consist mostly of surgical and coroner's tools blurted out, mixes the mile-a-minute attack of Carcass' grind days with the frantic, yet slightly melodic death metal that followed, echoing the sound of the "Necroticism..." album which came out around the same time. The other two songs are re-workings of older songs from the band's "Reek Of Putrefaction" debut album , both unrelenting grind orgies, with the usual almost atonal riffing, and vocal trade-offs between Bill (cookie-monster vocals) and Jeff (higher pitched growls). Unbelievably fast and ear-rapingly heavy.
"Genital Grinder II" is a reworking of the "Genital Grinder" instrumental opener from "Reek Of Putrefaction." Since I haven't heard the original, I can't comment on how faithful this is to the original, but I can say that it the riffs are inventive, and the song as a whole is, again, incredibly heavy. "Hepatic Tissue Fermentation" is the predecessor to the version two tracks previously, and differs very little. The production isn't the best in the world on either of these songs though. They are both taken from the "Pathological" compilation.
The final track, "Exhume To Consume" is actually an alternate version of one of the highlights from the "Symphonies Of Sickness" album. This version is taken from the "Grindcrusher" compilation, which gathered songs by various bands who participated in the near-legendary tour of the same name. It has a weird, spooky, sound effect laden intro, before the "two chord and a high-pitched wail" beginning of the song itself, and subsequent guttural vocals, burping and farting out words about eating dead people. A highlight of these lyrics, in fact, of all Carcass lyrics is included here...
"Bereaved relatives are not amused,
As on their dear departed, I feverishly consume!"
Grinding, unrelenting, heavy as hell; a great song, and one hell of a way to end the album!!!
Despite this being a rarities album (a fans-only affair, one would expect...), this could actually serve as a good starting point for Carcass-virgins (there's something that sounds SO wrong about that term!!!), as it contains material spanning the band's career and outlines all their signature sounds and styles. Of course, it is also essential for all Carcass fans, and the amount of unreleased and rare material on here makes it a worthwile purchase.
A fitting end to the career of a visionary, and brilliantly brutal band.