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Released: Sep 13, 2013
Genre: Melodic Death Metal, Death Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast
Number Of Tracks: 11
Aggressive, intelligent, dynamic; metalheads everywhere ought to be glad that Carcass are back in the game.
Surgical SteelFeatured review by: UG Team, on september 20, 2013 3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: Comebacks are tricky when you're not after money. They're hard to engineer when crucial members are halfway across the globe, touring and raising families. They're tough to sell when the party line has been "no new material" for the last five years. They're particularly difficult for Englishmen in their 40s who want to whip their hair about like they did in the '80s, when they wrote feral, dirty grindcore. The new Carcass album, which comes 17 years after "Swansong" and thoroughly cocks up its poignant title, seemed unlikely until the moment it arrived.
Swooning instrumental overture "1985" clears up any confusion about which Carcass is being dug up from the grave. Though the title is presumably a reference to the band's formation as a grind act, this is the Carcass who pioneered melodic death metal in their second wind, getting stuck into combative riffing but trading chromaticism for an injection of catchy lead guitar. At the time they were sell-outs – by today's standards this is subversively hostile. Most attacks come at speed ("Thrasher's Abattoir," "The Master Butcher's Apron") but there are battles on all fronts, of which fast vs. slow is just one. The band are always ready to revel in the ugliness of Jeff Walker's trademark snarl without compromising their attractive scale runs and harmonised leads. What's interesting is the unpredictability of that relationship; take the pleasingly titled "Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard," which seems to lean heavily on guitar solos and trickery further up the neck at first, but is actually kept running by the intermittent rumble of one chunky, old-fashioned death metal riff. // 7
Lyrics: Smarter than most with the language of metal, Carcass use death, gore and suffering for more than shock value or machismo. "The Granulating Satanic Mills," for example, is about the struggle of the working class ("Towering fuming smokestacks loomed/aloft the emancipated industrial mercantile maroon"), while the aforementioned "Noncompliance..." reflects on the sorry state of metal music ("deadpan putrescent prose/a musical spent blunt force trauma/the butcher's cur attenuated"). "Thrasher's Abattoir" is summed up by its interesting neologism: "poserslaught." These cranky old veterans take advantage of their years by writing without any consideration for how cool or how clear they are. Brevity isn't a major concern either, but that's the only way meaning can be achieved with death metal's typical verbal dressing. // 8
Overall Impression: This well-executed, high-intensity album is a welcome reminder that "melodic" (that is, diatonic) death metal can still have grit and guile, and isn't totally emancipated from metal's more challenging or extreme forms. It offers something for everyone. Credit is also due to Andy Sneap for his breathable mix, which ironically keeps "Surgical Steel" from sounding sterile. It's been 17 long years, but this is a worthy addition to Carcass's discography; and if it's good enough for them, then metalheads everywhere ought to be glad that they're back in the game. // 8