Welcome to Episode 015! Every fifth episode we devote to death metal, and the recently reunited UK titans Carcass certainly deserve recognition. The band reclaims their metal throne with the release of their mighty comeback album, Surgical Steel. We cover their career in reverse chronological order, starting with their most recent melodic death material and ending with their earliest grind.
“Captive Bolt Pistol,” “316L Grade Surgical Steel,” “Unfit for Human Consumption” from Surgical Steel (2013, Nuclear Blast)
Carcass’ first album in 17 years, Surgical Steel was the #1 Metal Album of 2013 by Metal Urges, Decibel, and many other outlets. Produced by Colin Richardson, it was recorded with only two original members, bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker and lead guitarist Bill Steer. Drummer Ken Owen had been replaced because he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage back in 1999 and couldn’t play drums at the level that Carcass required. Walker recruited Trigger the Bloodshed drummer Daniel Wilding, and guitarist Ben Ash was added to augment the live band. Prior to this reunion, the band had reunited for touring in 2007 with Walker, Steer, Necroticism-era guitarist Michael Amott (who founded Arch Enemy), and Arch Enemy drummer Daniel Erlandsson (original). Amott & Erlandsson eventually departed to focus on Arch Enemy.
“I Told You So (Corporate Rock Really Does Suck)” from Wake Up and Smell the…Carcass (1996, Earache)
This cut was one of five unreleased tracks from the Swansong sessions, and Walker stated in interviews that these songs were stronger than the material on Swansong itself.
Those tracks were released along with other odds & sods on this posthumous compilation. No surprise that it didn’t make the Swansong cut with that title!
“R**k the Vote,” “Tomorrow Belongs To Nobody” from Swansong (1996, Earache)
Definitely the most accessible—and most divisive—album of their career, Swansong fully embraced the melodic death metal subgenre that they founded. It was recorded during Carcass’ major-label deal with Columbia Records, though the recording was fraught with difficulties, mostly because Columbia withdrew their support. Since Amott had left after Heartwork was recorded, guitarist Carlo Regadas joined for the recording. Walker said at the time that the album was taking on a Thin Lizzy, rock-based approach, and it shows in the basic verse/chorus/verse structure of a few songs. Carcass had broken up even before this album was released, and with Columbia keeping their distance, the album was released on Earache after all! With one of the worst metal album covers ever, Swansong is the album that everyone loves to hate…except us.
“Heartwork,” “This Mortal Coil” from Heartwork (1993, Earache)
Once upon a time, Carcass were hailed as grindcore godfathers, though they ushered in melodic death metal with Heartwork. Gone were Steer’s death vocals, and Walker’s vocals were cleaner but still growly. The lyrics steered away from the usual “medical dictionary” subject matter. With iconic artwork by H.R. Giger, Heartwork is considered one of metal’s greatest achievements and continues to influence hoards of bands around the world. After this album, Carcass signed with Columbia Records and began recording their major-label debut, the ill-fated Swansong.
“Rot ‘n’ Roll” from Heartwork EP (1993, Earache)
This EP was released one month before the full-length album. It previewed the title track from the Heartwork album, plus “Rot ‘n’ Roll” and “This Is Your Life.” The latter two tracks were later included on 1996’s Wake Up and Smell the…Carcass compilation.
“Tools of the Trade” from Tools of the Trade EP (1992, Earache)
This was released to coincide with the legendary Gods of Grind tour with Entombed, Cathedral, and Confessor. Three of the four tracks were later compiled on Wake Up and Smell the…Carcass.
“Corporal Jigsore Quandary” from Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious (1991, Earache)
This was the first album to feature guitarist Michael Amott, though Steer had written 95% of the guitar parts already. Amott contributed one riff plus leads. Again produced by Richardson, Necroticism was definitely death-metal but very progressive for the time. Along with Death’s Human (also released in 1991), Necroticism is still one of the shining gems in Carcass’ metal crown.
“Exhume to Consume” from Symphonies of Sickness (1989, Earache)
Their sophomore album found the band moving away from the grind sound and more toward the pure death-metal sound of the time: longer songs with varied tempos. Symphonies was the first time that Colin Richardson produced the band. Carnage guitarist Michael Amott joined the band during the touring cycle. The band recorded their second Peel Sessions EP, later included on 2004’s Choice Cuts compilation.
“Maggot Colony” from Reek of Putrefaction (1988, Earache)
Bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker quit crust-punk band Electro Hippies to form Carcass. Bill Steer replaced guitarist Justin Broadrick in Napalm Death and recorded Side Two of Napalm’s Scum album in 1986. With its frenetic density and medical terminology-laden lyrics, Reek of Putrefaction made Carcass pioneers of the grindcore movement, and the famous Grindcrusher tour (with Napalm Death, Morbid Angel, Bolt Thrower) solidified their stance in the genre. Though the band was displeased with the production on Reek, John Peel, the famous Radio 1 DJ, loved it and promoted Carcass as one of his favorite bands. They recorded their first Peel Sessions EP in 1989, later included on the 2004 Choice Cuts compilation.
Carcass continue to tour, most recently headlining the Decibel Magazine Tour with Gorguts. With Surgical Steel hailed a grand return to form, who knows what the future holds for Carcass?