Thursday, September 19, 2013

Carcass - Surgical Steel

Unless you have been under a collective rock and hiding from extreme metal as a whole you may have heard, maybe once that one of the the godfathers of death metal has a new album out; that band is Carcass and this new album Surgical Steel and is the product of several lineup changes and 17 years in the making. The sheer magnitude of a new Carcass album means a lot to a metal scene that may not be familiar with the foundations of the genre that is now well known to fans as simply melodeath; consider this album to be a definitive statement that the masters have returned and are begging anybody to challenge that title they so firmly grasp.

Band founders who double as both guitarist and vocalists, Jeff Walker and Bill Steer, have managed to bring their sound to a much different place than the one we last saw in 1996 on the band's last album Swansong. The history of the band from 1996 to the current time is one that saw longtime drummer Ken Owen suffer a hemorrhage whilst playing for he and Walker's new band at the time; Blackstar. Mike Amott returned from his playing in Arch Enemy and Spiritual Beggars and the band saw new life with session drummer Daniel Erlandsson. They embarked on a tour in 2008 (one I was lucky enough to attend) I was absolutely stunned with the performance and wanted more from the band. Sadly Amott and Erlandsson departed and once again the band was in a state of flux.

When news of a new album broke in 2012 I was surprised and with the band set to headline the following Maryland Deathfest, perhaps something special was happening. Surgical Steel finds it's sound somewhere around 1992 as it very carefully toes the line between Necroticism and Heartwork without ever going too deep in either end of the pool. Right from the album opener of '1985' you see the band showcasing excellent melody and inviting the listener in for a closer display of violence. Songs like 'Thrasher's Abattoir', 'The Master Butcher's Apron' and 'Captive Bolt Pistol' become an aural assault and hearken back to the heyday of the band; both songs even eschew completely from melodic death metal and take a very straightforward approach to the insanity.

For those who yearn for Heartwork perhaps a song with the fury and fervor of 'Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System' will suit you. I feel a strong connection between this song and 'Arbeit Macht Fleisch' the attack of Dan Wilding's drums bears a strong resemblance and Steer and Walker show off their exemplary solo technique making for an excellent combination. Hidden later in the album are an excellent consecutive duo of 'Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard' and 'The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills' the former of which references the very surgical instruments that adorn the album's cover.

The pair of songs soar with an Iron Maiden paced drum beat which intertwines with the crunchy and vicious riffing. The melody hits home with the same energy that the entirety of Heartwork did so expertly well. It balances the history of UK bands like Cancer and Bolt Thrower and tempered this steel with the style as the NWOBHM did more than 30 years ago. The combination of these things are why Carcass are so revered by fans and other bands alike.

For all of you out there wondering if it is safe to come out and see if this album is a real return to form for a pioneering band of the genre; the answer becomes a resounding yes. By bridging 2 of their best albums, Surgical Steel is an absolute triumph in sonic form; one that takes all of the band's prior successes and uses them in a new and exciting way. Perhaps this is Carcass' masterstroke only time will tell; in 2013 it hardly gets any better than this no matter the style of metal you prefer.


1 comment:

  1. When 2013 started out, I just KNEW that the upcoming Carcass record was gonna be far and away album of the year. However, when the reality of listening to it set in, I was disappointed. I needed a few listens. To my ears, this record has NOTHING in commmon with "Necroticism" but more fits in between "Heartwork" and "Swansong." On its own merit disregarding preconceptions, it is a fantastic record. "Noncompliance..." is probably the best SONG of 2013 for the entire metal genre. Right now this album is #5 for 2013 on my list, but time will tell how it remains. No matter what, the world is a better place with the Steer/Walker tandem than without.