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Carcass - Surgical Steel Award winner

Surgical Steel
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein / Lex Mishukhin / Dorothy Cheng / Michael "MettleAngel" Francisco at 19 August 2013, 4:22 PM


Hopefully not to be a swansong ever again, and I mean by a duo of counts. Back in the day, meaning 1996, the English CARCASS, considered as one of the forefathers of Grindcore / Goregrind Death Metal, released what was regarded as their grand finale album, “Swansong”, which presented the band in a different light, from superior melodic Death Metal to solemnity of Death N’ Roll. As a fan of their early 90s melodic excavations, “Swansong” was both a surprise and a bizarre listener. With the official comeback album of “Surgical Steel”, newly signed to Nuclear Blast Records, the corroded old surgery table was replaced with a shining purification and all the necessary tools were refined, in a way reverting to the band’s earlier stages of “Symphonies Of Sickness” and “Heartwork”, that is the first count. As for the second, optimistically “Surgical Steel” wouldn’t be a single thundering echo in the blasted wind and will continue a legacy of a band so missed.

Mentioning “Symphonies Of Sickness” and “Heartwork” seemed quite natural after catching the drift of “Surgical Steel”. With two thirds of the original lineup at the composing table, it could have gone as a prolongation of where the last stop sign was placed or back to the inspirational past that laid out roots of class. Aided with Andy Sneap’s prolific engineering work at mixing and mastering, along with the veteran production management of Colin Richardson, which has been producing CARCASS nearly their entire grinding career, the crew efficaciously made their studio comeback with a rousing material. Though not as classic as these two albums I mentioned, yet at least “Surgical Steel” appeared to be rallying most of what these two have to offer. This new number is as nearly melodic as “Heartwork” and as feverishly gruesome as the grinding mania of “Symphonies Of Sickness”. I haven’t noticed any immaculate ideas regarding the band’s style, as complexity hasn’t been foreign to these English chaps not by a long shot; however, there is a measure of freshness within the lines and rhythms. Bill Steer’s magnificent and quite varied playing derived an incredible collection of tasty guitar riffing, partially melodic and harmonic as early incitements mainly from “Heartwork”, astute soloing efforts that might have been the main Rock register on the musical proceedings aside to a few shred divergences, and I would also like to applaud his backup vocal abilities of supporting Jeff Walker’s middle range growl shrieks. Daniel Wilding, as the new recording and a registered drumming member of the band since Ken Owen (appearing on the album as backing vocals on “Thrasher's Abbatoir” and “Unfit for Human Consumption”), unravelled his experience (after manning the skins for ABORTED and the meat grinding bastards of TRIGGER THE BLOODSHED) with staggering excellence.

As I stated earlier on the review, “Surgical Steel”, from my point of view, is CARCASS’s retaining of their melodic deathly past scenarios with Thrash signatures. “Mount of Execution”, crowned as the album’s epic custodian, reflects the album’s entire direction outlines. With an intro serving as a build up for the later on severity, the oncoming atmospheric pleasure sounded so soothing. Generally, it could have been a wonderful addition to their early 90s afflictions for sure right before plunging into the later “Swansong” conveyances. “Noncompliance to ASTM F899-12 Standard” is a fierce intensity well played, it is amazing to feel these old energies burst straight into the face again. CARCASS hammers with impressive melodic thrills, glitzy soloing and head bashing rhythms with pure bloodletting malevolence, heavy and provocative. “A Congealed Clot of Blood”, “Unfit for Human Consumption” and “Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System” reaffirmed the band’s comeback with astonishing musicianship, still bombastic, sadistic and débuted by the shining iron. CARCASS have been keeping their composure upon delivering great material, abided by their past with a glimpse to the future. I can’t really compare this number to “Heartwork”, yet I do believe it is close enough.


The year is 1996, British Grindcore / melodic Death Metal pioneers CARCASS release what seemed to be their last studio album, the appropriately titled “Swansong”, and as the title goes, the band called it quits. Fast forward 11 years to 2007, the band announce a reunion of the classic lineup with Jeff Walker, Bill Steer, Michael Amott and Daniel Erlandsson taking over for Ken Owen on drums (Ken suffered a brain haemorrhage in 1999, leaving him unable to play in his aggressive style). And so the band began a reunion tour covering pretty much every major festival in Europe. A year later the question arose of writing a new album, however the question was shot down very quickly by Bill Steer who said he doubted it would ever happen. But as Jeff Walker told me when I set down with him a few days ago, things change.

Fast forward again, this time to 2013, and here we go, we're less than a month away from the release of a brand new CARCASS album, “Surgical Steel”, a full 17 years since their final studio release. As you can imagine, 17 years is a very long time, to put it in perspective, some fans that are now seeing the band playing festivals were probably in diapers when the band released “Swansong”. But the main question is, were these 17 years’ worth waiting? I'll try to answer this question for you.

The album opens with "1985", a very cool melodic guitar intro which leads us to "Thrashers Abattoir", a classic sounding CARCASS song, under two minutes of heavy aggression. We're next treated to more speed and aggression with the Thrashy "Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System". One thing striking about this album after the first listen through is that the album really reflects the bands career, what I mean is that “Surgical Steel” opens very heavy and fast but slowly transforms into melodic Death Metal with songs like "316 L Grade Surgical Steel" and "Captive Bolt Pistol". And so we reach the question that I asked in the beginning, was it worth waiting 17 years for? Damn right!! This album represents CARCASS perfectly, it reflects the bands entire career, but also shows you a glimpse of the future. The band seems very refreshed with new member Dan Wildling and Ben Ash on board (replacing Erlandsson and Amott, respectively).

The album is both aggressive and melodic," and truly shows no rust from the Death Metal legends. Nothing can be perfect, but this album comes damn close.


The time it took CARCASS to release a new album is as long as the lifespan of, well, me. 18 good years did the men of CARCASS gather to hone their craft and write riffs with the intention to deafen. All the time it took meant one thing only - that fans would have certain expectations left to fester and suppurate over more than a decade.  Can “Surgical Steel” live up to the expectations fans have of it?

Apparently, somebody couldn't wait for the release date slated for September 17 and decided to jump the gun, wrecking the CARCASS base camp months even before “Surgical Steel”'s official release with a controversial leak. Amidst rave reviews from longtime fans regarding one the album's keynote tracks, “Captive Bolt Pistol”, I went into this review with some expectations of my own. Having very nearly killed myself from the effort it took to abstain from taking a sneak listen to the available leaked tracks on the internet, I approached the album both with apprehension and some reservations, but also with anticipation – wanting badly to fast forward to “Captive Bolt Pistol” to see what all the fuss was about.

But thankfully, CARCASS being CARCASS, the first track itself, “1985”, opened my eyes to a new dimension of what the band was all about. I was like a hobo taking my first shower in years, a hermit dissecting an iPad after decades of 'chastity', a marathon runner taking a sip of lemonade after 20 kilometers of hell… I felt like a 12-year-old listening to my first Metal record again. There are so many parts and elements to each song that even though they are only at about three minutes long, they seem to last for eight rocking minutes - an illusion that allows us to shamelessly soak up every facet of the songs, from their melodic intros to their grinding verses to breakdown-heavy bridges, and seriously, killer riffs everywhere. They are so catchy that I would even call them hooks, but I don’t want to insult the ingenuity of Metal.

For instance, the band's Grindcore roots are very much prominent during songs like “Thrasher’s Abattoir” and “The Master Butcher’s Apron”, the latter of which has this killer breakdown that is neck-snapping at the very least. But at the same time, the melodicism of “Cadaver Pouch Conveyor” was so surprising and refreshing. The striking balance between loud, grinding, fast riffs and musically-sensible, bright melody is not something you come across every day. CARCASS is being incredibly brave by showing this side of themselves again, allowing for not just a heavy, fast album, but also for a real lesson in Metal musicality.

Some prime examples of this include “A Congealed Clot of Blood”, which featured lead guitar work mirroring that of “Reign in Blood”-era SLAYER. “Noncompliance to ASTM F899-12 Standard” was absolutely uplifting, if it ever makes sense for Death Metal to be uplifting. This was all done through the work of the flawless lead guitars, and the masterful blend of grind with melody. There’s a particular part around the three-minute mark that broke my brain. My advice is to wait for it, fellas. In case somebody was wondering, because I sure did, “ASTM F899-12 Standard” is a specification for surgical-grade steel. Yeah, CARCASS really take their shit seriously. And if I said “Noncompliance to ASTM F899-12 Standard” was uplifting, there is close to nothing as awesome as “Captive Bolt Pistol”. The song, and in fact, the whole album, is full to the brim with mind blowing riffs that aren't only heavy, but transcend on to the higher register of the guitar as well to produce some searing, blistering lead work.

The solos were also lovely, and I use that adjective intentionally. They aren't your typical chaotic, flaming solos – they are sophisticated and controlled in nature. They also stayed true to their Death N’ Roll style – something of which I was extremely happy about. If you could break up the songs of “Surgical Steel”, they'd be categorized by the level of listening intensity. The verses are the part where you windmill and blow your ears out, the choruses are for you to stare wide-eyed into space wondering what heavenly pot CARCASS has been smoking, and the solos are for you to embrace some good old enjoyable rock and rolling, which in essence, is a combination of the earlier two sensations. Also, for an Extreme Metal album, “Surgical Steel” never gets repetitive, which is often the unfortunate case for many albums in the same vein. Each song manages to be different from the last and each riff never echoes the last – it's something different each time.

The band has put so much work into this album, and that’s a great thought for us fans to digest because it shows us just how much they do still care. With these guys, it hardly seems to be about selling an album – it’s about creating the best music possible. As musicians, the men of CARCASS strike me as exceedingly humble – the complete opposite of their music, which is a loud, shameless, extravagant celebration of hard-rocking Metal and blazing virtuosity. Hard as steel.

I am amazed how nearly two decades, almost 17 years, have transpired since CARCASS delivered what was to be their final “Swansong”. The reunion in 2007 sure peaked a great deal of interest and as the spiritual vegans continued to ply the tools of their trade, even after the departure of Michael Amott and Daniel Erlandsson  who returned full-time to the commitments of ARCH ENEMY. Finally, here we are with a new offering of precise 316 L Grade “Surgical Steel”, and more mighty choice cuts, so wake up and smell the….

I have avidly followed the continued heartfelt works of both Jeff Walker with BLACKSTAR RISING and UND DE FLUFFERS and Bill Steer's love of Bluesy Rock with FIREBIRD. As unique and entertaining as those projects are, I have truly longed for those improper propagations from them who are most well-known for descanting the insalubrious.

Jeff Walker's bloody splattered banter is still as rife as ever before, with that sandpaper rough growl, and thick accented rot 'n rollicking taste. I have always treasured Jeff's wit and walk all over you biting sarcasm. His grasp of arcane, and clinical vocabulary is always poised to manipulate. His penned pedantic abuse has always served as an inspiration for me, even if at first I am utterly vexed. As he chisels out each seething word, which cuts deep to the bone, each skillful thesis and enunciated epigram at first finds my mind perplexed.

Those two British bleeding hearts have consistently managed to make magniloquent melodies which are menacing, mesmerizing and so provocative. Even if I do truly miss Ken Owen's polarized drum dynamics, and beating, bleeding hard work, Daniel Wilding does a decent job of delivering the damage and fatal blow of pulsating ripping sonic torment.

As I begin to resume to consume each tasty morsel, completely oblivious of what the songs themselves are essentially about, sans any lyrics, save the single - “Captive Bolt Pistol” and the title-track itself; my corporeal gist score quandary leaves me salivating with a voracity for veracity.

I am also bewildered how with this attack on the senses, they have manifested a number of tracks which are being released elsewhere like the DECIBEL Magazine Flexi “Zochrot”. Many a grand adulation may not be received, followed by a projection of stark static malice, as hidden tracks in the wilderness, as such, will unfortunately not appear on the final product.

As I delve into this mortal coil of sick, twisted, symphonies of thickness, I clearly see that no love is lost for preserving the melodic Death Metal sound they, and a handful of other notable acts thus created and spawned. The roulade is not without its necro-criticisms, though. Clearly several slices sound as if they are re-hashed riffs left over from the spoils of earlier works of dark. For example, the vacuous “Noncompliance To ASTM F 899-12 Standard” sounds too similar to the song “Heartwork” itself. No matter whatever “The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills” are, the music is dead on “Keep On Rotting In The Free World”.

Though, not necessarily leaving a bad taste in my mouth, I was hoping for a bit more experimentation. I know they have abandoned the grind motif, but some songs are not as accessible, and may require you to indulge in deeply on a number of occasions before you can reach that wargasm of absolution.  To this I respond with emotional flattery as I draw the line and serve to suggest that each carnal longevity still remains forged in fire and fury, conveying that systematic analysis.

Almost every culinary feast fulfills as Steer steers his wayward train of thoughts and crass dementia to deliver punishing slabs of sonic vehemence. It is as if he has become enraptured in a frenzied mania, while his wounded, burdened fingers dance on the fret board with such a frantic frenzy.

One by one they fall into place, those suggestive songs of sadistic butchery. Prime choice chunks of fresh meaty riffs hook and sever, as you become buried in the screaming leads, heaving, upturned solos, and utter disharmony. The raging' works of art themselves are a paramount execution, guaranteed.

From the terse, yet vicious “Thrasher's Abattoir”, to the intolerable cruelty of “Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System” which leads to the dawning of “The Master Butcher's Apron”, almost culminating in the noncompliance of “Unfit For Human Consumption”, all are a bevy of delights - a smorgasbord of the grotesque which will be force fed to our avaricious black hearts, leaving us to choke on our own limitations or grandiose reservations. Advocates of the inculcated salient abuse will once again be prepared to lavage all vain expectations.

Exculpation I need not seek, my final excoriation is thus: the caricature is made whole, again methodically made to sate. The blood never dries, and the blade still slices deep. So keep on rotting with a revolution of the heart. My freewill is burning for this well-received, not dead yet certification. The spontaneous cacophony continues and CARCASS remain the genuine sanguine article, and they reek of pure satisfaction!

4 Star Rating

1. 1985
2. Thrasher's Abbatoir
3. Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System
4. A Congealed Clot of Blood
5. The Master Butcher’s Apron
6. Noncompliance to ASTM F899-12 Standard
7.The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills
8. Unfit for Human Consumption
9. 316L Grade Surgical Steel
10. Captive Bolt Pistol
11. Mount of Execution
Jeff Walker – Bass / Vocals
Bill Steer – Guitars / Vocals
Daniel Wilding – Drums
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records


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