Carcass – Surgical Steel

Carcass-Surgical-Steel Return of the titans has never had such an apt meaning than when applied to Carcass; if there’s a band that needs no introduction, it’s them. Propelled into the spotlight with Heartwork, they have enjoyed a virtually unparalleled place at the head of death metal since the early 90’s, despite their last release being seventeen years back. Now returning with fresh material in 2013, it’s hard not to be apprehensive. Replacing both Amott and Owen for fresher blood, they are virtually a different band.

Any fears though would be misplaced. This record is through and through Carcass from beginning to end. From the second opening track ‘1985’ kicks in, guitarists Steer and Ash pull out precision riffs that could make even the most hardened guitarists fingers bleed. Equaling this, Walker has taken it up a notch vocally for this record, harsh and unrelenting, but simultaneously controlled and rhythmic.

Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast) is a completely different beast to the older albums. Still running in the same aggressive melodic death metal, the album is sharper, sleeker and more cutting. Gone is the rusty juvenile butchery of the late 80s, replaced by a cleaner, modern sound. The whole record screams of control and precision. For fans of the pre-Heartwork era, this record is going to seem overproduced though, and perhaps everything is a little too tight. Carcass have lost their sense of danger; less chaos and more red tape, but with it has come progression and maturity of musical ideas.

Behind all the modernization, the album still has a definitely nod to older Carcass. Pulling up one of their first original compositions from the Flesh-Ripping Sonic Torment Demo, ‘Thrasher’s Abattoir’ appears revived from the rehearsal room tapes in a new polished form. Keeping the song faithful to the original sound, it races along, with each element seemingly barely keeping in time. The gruesomely complex medically themed titles have also been resurrected, with increasingly catchy song names such as ‘Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard’ and ‘316 L Grade Surgical Steel’.

Perhaps they’re not the young, angry band they were back in early days, but this album proves they’ve still got what it takes to produce an organ crushingly heavy record. Choosing not to copy their original sound is a bold move for the band, and although many original fans may be disappointed by the lack of grind Surgical Steel still packs the same aggressive force they always have. The bodies may have changed but the instrumentation is just as damaging.


Caitlin Smith

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