It’s been over thirty years since Liverpudlian grindcore bastards Carcass left people gagging to the gloriously gory cover of debut album Reek of Putrefaction (Earache) and reeling to the twenty-two charmingly immature blasts of vomitous noise dripping inside. Symphonies of Sickness delivered improved musicianship and longer songs, Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious and its divisive follow up, Heartwork, continued that trend but the run ended in 1996 with the rather lacklustre Swansong. Rebooted and reinvigorated (but sadly minus drummer Ken Owen due to health issues), Carcass returned with a bang in 2013 with Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast Records) and now, after a gap of eight years, they’re back. Again.
Over thirty years ago, England’s own Carcass came to the scene and shared their glorification of grind and gore. The unhinged and manic sound they conjured found an audience and quickly gained popularity, along with their contemporaries Napalm Death and Godflesh. The surge of the extreme had its time in the sun, but after their 10 year hiatus, Carcass came back in a slightly different mood. In 2013, the group took their well-known viciousness and molded it in with more melody on their sixth full-length, Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast). They married Grindcore and Melodic Death Metal on that record which got a lot of attention and reminded everyone why these guys are such an original act. After seven years, the band is back again with their EP, Despicable (Nuclear Blast). In just four songs, Carcass takes their significant union of sounds and exemplifies them with new levels of pandemonium. Continue reading
Carcass didn’t invent death metal, but they helped perfect it. The didn’t ascend to the pantheon of the death and goregrind genres overnight either. Their earlier work, especially their debut Reek of Putrefaction, Symphonies of Sickness, and Tools of The Trade and a few EP’s were all growers. The band had a penchant of shifting genres and styles within songs and albums, owing to their talent, but displeasing some of the more ardent fans. They likely didn’t think about this or even discuss it, just musically going wherever the evil spirits guided at the time. This kept their growing fan base agitated, but interested to see what the band would do next in the burgeoning underground scene. So when Heartwork was unleashed on the world (Earache) in 1993, it seemed like all of these elements coalesced. Continue reading
For most Metal fans, the 2016 Slayer, Testament, and Carcass tour may just “reign” as one of the year’s greatest, as the month-long North American excursion not only includes two Thrash Metal titans, but also marks the first outing in many years for the legendary Carcass.
Since 1985, Carcass’ raw-edged aural assault has ignited Metal fans and influenced scores of bands. With six albums under the band’s belt, the most recent being 2013’s critically acclaimed Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast), Carcass are set to shred with stateside performances starting on February 22.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with Carcass’ lead guitarist Bill Steer about the tour, as well as Carcass’ musical legacy, and he was kind enough to share some details.
First I’d like to talk your upcoming Slayer and Testament tour – how did this all come about and why tour now?
“Well, it’s probably surprising to learn the tour was initiated by agents talking to each other! The word reached us that there was a possibility we could play on this tour, and we couldn’t say no—if it was anybody else, we would have said no, but Slayer was the one band in our minds in this area of Metal music that we feel we could tour with without upsetting the audience!”
“We’ve seen Testament several times live, and have done festivals with them, but the touring thing has not happened before, so it’s going to be interesting for us—we’re not sure how accepting audiences will be of us, but it will be quite fresh for us as well.”
Can we expect a follow-up to Surgical Steel any time soon? And if so, how will the music differ from that album or other previously recorded efforts?
“Hmm, interesting question, really, because the new music will have to differ from the previous record to a degree, because you have to feel like the music going forward. With Surgical Steel, we had the advantage where people didn’t know we were working on an album until it came out, and expectations were low, which was great, because when the album came out, it was actually great, and it was surprising to many people.
When [Carcass vocalist and bassist] Jeff Walker and I get together and write music through, we’re going to have to walk a tight rope— writing music that’s identifiable, as well as breaking new ground.
We do have a couple of songs tucked away—the momentum just picked up, and at the start of last year, we got together and worked on a handful of tunes, and we’re excited with some of the things we were working on. When we have a quiet time this year, in 2016, we’ll look into the stuff more carefully. “
Quite honestly, Carcass are legendary and helped shape and hone a sound—do you ever think about the influence you’ve had on other Metal and Grind bands?
“I’d rather just “grind” on with what we do, because thinking too hard about your place in the scheme of things…. that’s just confusing and a distraction—and, you can’t really stop being self-critical. In my view, if you get self-satisfied, it leads to complacency. That’s not good for anyone in any genre. “
“Occasionally, people are very nice to say those things to us—about being legendary—and that’s good to hear, but you’re only as good as your last gig and your last album.”
Are there any Carcass albums or songs you’re particularly proud of?
“From the initial phase of the band, I’d have to pick the obvious, which is Heartwork. I remember quite clearly feeling really delighted with the sound we got on the album, as it was the first time we got anything we were looking for in the studio that coincided with really good writing. The music on that record…that’s the most pleasing stuff we did at that time. “
“I’m quite fond of the two song songs on Heartwork EP—they were bashed out pretty quickly. We had a couple of B-sides, and I’m quite fond of those. As for other stuff, well, I’m still pleased with Surgical Steel. I can critique it, but it feels like a big achievement since we had so much stacked against us—doing something most people wouldn’t like—but we overcame the obstacles, and I just like the stuff on the record—it’s a hell of an album.”
On the forthcoming Slayer tour, will your set list focus on newer Carcass music, or include some of the older stuff as well?
“I would say this is a different situation for us than when we were a headlining act, where a large chunk of the audience is familiar with our music. On a tour like this one with Slayer, there’s going to be so many people every night who don’t know anything about us, so we need to comprise a 30-minute set that is hard hitting…we’ll be chewing that one over. But, the set is probably going to lean more towards the middle period of the band and music from Surgical Steel.”
How do you feel Carcass has evolved musically and lyrically from album to album?
“The lyrics remain Jeff [Walker]’s 100 percent from my perspective—he gets very focused on something, and I think the lyrics he came up with on Surgical Steel were brilliant—easily the best to date.”
“The music thing is definitely more organic—I just have bunch of riffs, and we take them into the rehearsal space. Surgical Steel was quite straight forward. We hadn’t worked on Carcass material for so long, but we decided the music was going to have styles from all eras of the band. I was hearing some stuff that harkened back to the very early Carcass days, and it wasn’t out of place. It was a cool thing to do because looking back it made sense, it was quite harmonious, but any music we write now has got to move forward.”
Anything else Carcass fans can expect from the band this year?
“We’ve got a few festivals in the diary—I’d like to keep up our live chops, which means playing from time to time. I’d like to have a large chunk of rehearsal space time—if we’re going to make a new record, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.”
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Founded in 2003, British rock outfit Gentleman’s Pistols are probably – and somewhat unfairly – best known as “that band Bill Steer joined after Carcass broke up.” This is a shame, because their new album is actually pretty good.
Hustlers Row is the band’s third album and first on Nuclear Blast after nearly a decade on Rise Above. Its 10 tracks play out like a walking tour of rock’s 70s heydays. Track by track you get a who’s who of classic rock influences shining though; Led Zeppelin (‘The Searcher’), Lynyrd Skynyrd (‘Stress and Confusion’) and Deep Purple (‘Personal Fantasy Wonderland’) are all present, and clearly Steer & Co know how to emulate their heroes’ boogie and jive. They’ve also got a good sense melody, and it’s easy to hear the likes of The Beatles (‘Lady Teaser’), CSNY (‘Hustler’s Row’) and Cream (‘Time Wasters’) shine through on the lighter moments.
This, however, is probably its biggest problem it’s a very good rock album without an identity of its own. Where, for example, Clutch’s new record Psychic Warfare sounds like a hard rock album only they could have made, Gentleman’s Pistols and Hustler’s Row sounds like a lot of (albeit very good) different bands without settling on their own distinct sound.
The late one-two of ‘Dazzle Drizzler’ and ‘Coz of You’ are probably the best example of the band getting into a groove without overtly playing tribute, and they’re probably the best moments on the album. There’s nothing wrong with Hustler’s Row; the vocals are great, the riffs and solos top-notch, and the song-writing more than solid. Even the production gives the whole thing a warm authentic sound that makes it feel like a genuine gem from 40 years ago.
Despite the lack of an identifiable “Gentleman’s Pistol” sound, Hustler’s Row is still a decent listen, and an album youngsters who’ve just discovered the likes Deep Purple and oldies who were there originally can enjoy together.
Released twelve years ago, Albert Mudrian’s anthology of Death Metal has stood the test of time; an engaging read taking you on a loose zig-zag through the birth and, um, death of Death Metal. Unveiled through the eyes of its’ progenitors, there is method to the tale that begins in England, moves to Tampa, takes in Entombed and Scandinavia and reserves a special mention for the oft overlooked Dutch input of Gorefest and Pestilence.
Undertaking a task as complicated as trying to find the true source of the Nile (Karl Sanders – badoom tish!), Mudrian begins his tale by trying to uncover the birth of what became known as Death Metal, settling on Napalm Death and their 1985 era hybrid (Siege meets Discharge meets Celtic Frost) of hardcore punk, thrash and a desire to be harder, faster, sicker than everyone else. The book then focuses on the influence of their Scum release (Earache) on other vital artists, like Morbid Angel (via Pete Sandoval, then in Terrorizer) and the incestuous, small nature of the scene where, due to tape trading and pen palling, most of Death Metal’s predominant protagonists all knew and inspired each other.
As the tales unfurl, you find yourself swept up and wanting to revisiting all the classic albums that are mentioned – Possessed ‘s Seven Churches (Combat), Pestilence Consvming Impvlse (Roadrunner), Massacre From Beyond (the story of Massacre’s signing to Earache being another fun aside revealed in the book) and Master Master (Displeased) forming part of my own soundtrack while reading.
The re-issue picks things up as the roots of recovery were just sprouting through the top soil at the tail end of the 90’s, highlighting the rise of a new DM general in Nile. After touching on the diversification of Death Metal of this millennium, including the mind-sucking brilliance of Portal and their focus on eldritch, dark atmospheres, Mudrian covers the popularity of technical Death Metal (a section that introduced me to Necrophagist and Obscura as you can’t help but be enthused to check all the recommends as you go) over the last decade. The tome now concludes by covering the return to the scene of the apex predators with Carcass, At The Gates, Death (DTA) and others reforming to reap the benefits of their respective legacies and the rewards of the now lucrative and high profile festival market, and to satisfy an urge that, in the case of Bill Steer, they didn’t even know they had. If you read the original, the added content is an agreeable appendix.
Peppered with short anecdotes, but above all an informative and enjoyable potted history of Death Metal, all imparted with the enthusiastic love that a doting parent has for a child, Choosing Death is an affectionate, if whistlestop, walk through of the story of Death Metal to date. In the authors’ own words, he is “Just a fan. Just like you.” He just happens to be a damn good writer who has written The Improbable History of Death Metal & Grindcore. And updated it.
Carcass’ return to the metal arena has been an unbridled success, with their comeback album Surgical Steel earning plaudits by the entrails-filled bucket load, including, Ghost Cult’s own Album of the Year for 2013. Released due to demand from fans not in a position to purchase the multiple formats of the Surgical Steel release (and to be fair, no matter how good it is, why would you just for a couple of tracks), and comprising of the bonus tracks of the various formats from last years’ release, Surgical Remission/Surplus Steel (Nuclear Blast) is an EP to close the first, but hopefully by no means last, chapter of the return of Liverpool’s true best band.
I have an issue with bonus tracks. Not quite as big an issue as I have with spoilers, but a problem at least the size of the riff at the end of ‘Mount of Execution’. If a band doesn’t consider a song good enough to feature on the album proper, then why release it at all? And …Remission is clearly the poorer, unwelcome black sheep of the family of Surgical Steel. Whereas Steel has bite, purpose and intensity, even in its’ more melodic moments, with the exception of the thrashing and grinding last minute of ‘Intensive Battery Brooding’, an excellent shot in the arm of a section, Remission is ponderous.
‘A Wraith In The Apparatus’ starts well enough, with a trademark Bill Steer riff and Jeff Walker’s acidic delivery, but whereas Surgical Steel was scalpel sharp, ‘Wraith…’, ‘Battery’ and ‘Zochrot’ are, by comparison, like trying to cut through flesh and bone with a blunt butter knife. Decent enough songs, and distinctively Carcass, but pedestrian, lacking the pace, drive and quality of the album, and falling short of the very high standards Death Metal’s finest have set and live up to. ‘Livestock Marketplace’ is uninspired, with Walker’s normal venom neutered and distilled into a Dave Mustaine-esque whine, before a re-working of ‘Hellion’ tribute ‘1985’ concludes matters.
There’s nothing to worry about here, though, as the quality control process happened in the studio as these were the songs not graded sufficient pedigree butchery meat for the surgeons table, but this collection of leftovers makes for an EP that is surely for collectors only
There can’t be many people who don’t agree with the assertion that a band name is important. Our collective musical history is littered with band names that are brilliantly evocative (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Emperor) as well as those where, if truth be known, they didn’t really try at all: Panic! At the Disco, Texas is the Reason, Cute is What We Aim For [and my personal favourite We Butter The Bread With Butter – Reviews Ed] all need to see me after school for a chat.
Of late, band names tend to give you an almost intuitive sense of what the music is going to sound like, and, let’s be fair, you know already that Sodomized Cadaver are going to be a death metal band, don’t you? Yes, you do and yes, they are. Sodomized Cadaver hail from Ebbw Vale in the South Wales valleys. Ebbw Vale is probably best known for two things – its steel and mining heritage and a tough and uncompromising rugby union team (famously known as The Steelmen after the town’s industrial history). Ebbw Vale is but one of many South Wales valleys towns where there often isn’t a lot to do, so forming a band can be a creative and positive outlet for many. What Messrs Gavin Davies and Raymond Packer have created with this five track EP is straight out of the death metal box, albeit one dripping in gore and generally unpleasant themes.
Calling your EP after a sexual predilection that fantasises you or your partner being eaten alive gives you a sense on where these valley boys are coming from and with song titles like ‘Cannibal Butcher’, ‘Torture’, and ‘Weapons of Mass Decomposition’ there might not be much room for creative manoeuvring, but at least you know where you stand and they know, rather all too well, what gets their audience salivating.
With influences that range across the often diverse palette of extreme music, there’s plenty of Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse dripping through the grooves as well as bits of Bolt Thrower and The Black Dahlia Murder. Someone is clearly in awe of Bill Steer’s guitar playing on Carcass records, too.
At one level you could be critical at the cartoon like imagery conjured up by Vorarephilia (SWEM) and wonder whether it is all a bit juvenile – we have been there and done this all before. However, another part of me wants to give these boys the benefit of the doubt as I sense a pretty black sense of humour running through all of this. For all the bludgeon and dismemberment, under all that flesh, gore and mutilated body parts I can’t shake the sense that there’s also a glint in their collective eye, a sense that they also know this is not for real and we should just go with the energetic and pulverizing flow that they have created. I bet they love their mums, too.
Visceral and intense, as these things need to be.
Easily the most anticipated tour in the USA this year, practically everyone I know that is a fan of metal was going to attend the 2014 Decibel Magazine sponsored tour to see Carcass. Oddly enough I know people who straight out dislike anything resembling death metal, but were still going to attend on the strength of the Carcass name alone. I know some scoff at the near mythological amount of praise heaped on Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast), even though it was the Ghost Cult 2013 album of the year (*cough cough*). Any way you slice it (bad pun intended), it is good to have them back, kicking ass, and going strong. The Paradise isn’t really a venue fit for metal on so many levels: from the awkward layout of the place, the inexperienced staff more used to indie rock fans, and clearly not ready drunk moshers, and stage divers. Most venues in Boston ignore the city-wide ban on moshing (WTF Boston!?!), but these guards were intimidated, overly cautious, and sometimes hapless. I felt a little bad for them, until they treated my friend and occasional Ghost Cult photog Hillarie Jason, and all the other photogs badly too. Sad that a club with the kind of history it has can’t rise up and better.
Nosiem: holy shit! They opened a can of whoopass on the entire Paradise. I really only listened to their Agony Defined (A389) album once or twice, and boy was I regretting it during their show. They were young and full of energy and immediately had the early crowd feeling wide open and angry. Lead screamer Tyler was mad impressive, running all over the cluttered stage. They were a loud unruly bunch, glorious young noise-makers who totally pumped up the already excited crowd. If I was under 20 again, they would be my favorite band.
Gorguts was up next and the Boston nerd-musician-Jazz hands kids quotient in the room rose significantly while the sperm count dipped to dangerous levels. Luc Lemay’s current incarnation of the band includes Colin Marston and Kevin Hufnagel from Dysrhythmia, with Patrice Hamelin on drums. It’s always like going to guitar school watching Luc play his mighty axe, and he sports his glasses on stage now, rocking a very professor-type feel to his demeanor. They did focus their short set list predominantly on the moody Colored Sands (Season of Mist) material, which left me a little flat. Thankfully they did an encore of their classic ‘Obscura’ which saved the day for me. Enjoyable, sure. But Gorguts is a band I really need to see play a longer, or headline set for me to really sink my teeth into.
Always a fun time, The Black Dahlia Murder, just hit the stage already seemingly full of sweat and smiles. As per usual Trevor Strnad just flew all over the place, raging hard and high—fiving everyone. He is one of my favorite performers to watch. Similar to Gorguts, they were short on time. However they did a nice job touching on some hits and a few cuts from last years’ Everblack (Metal Blade) album. The band sounded as tight as ever, and despite how much TBDM has toured the New England area, the room seemed to be enraptured by their set. They almost have an arena rock bigness to their shows, which seems unbelievable until you see them live. Ryan Knight in particular was amazing on guitar with a few sick solos, but the entire band continues to be exceptional and consistent year after year.
Despite their comeback US tour in 2009, I was surprised at how many people were seeing Carcass for the first time ever. It guess it owes as much to the latest generation of death metal fans coming up of late. There was a weird energy in the room like anything could happen, in a good way. Rather than watch the show from the crowd, I snagged a spot from the balcony so I could soak in the madness. There was already moshing and a few surfers testing the jumpy security before the first note was played. When the lights went down a roar went up like you wouldn’t believe. I will likely never forget the beautiful insanity of this crowd when ‘Buried Dreams’ from Heartwork kicked in. The miniscule Jeff Walker is like a living Chucky doll, since he is so small and evil. I kind of want to scoop him up and give him big a hug. Dan Wilding was immediately impressive at how perectly crushed on the drums. The early set mixed in Surgical Steel tracks with classic ones perfectly. The material certainly meshed well with the oldies, and since everybody and their mother had the new album, it was cool to hear many folks growling along.
Jeff is still quite the showman after 30 years in the business. Hilariously funny, with a wry sense of humor that is just a little too smart for most Americans, if I may disparage my own country for second. Still, everybody laughed when Jeff singled out a super- tall guy for blocking the view of a short-statured girl. Too funny for words. Of course a lot of people still grump about the absence of Michael Amott, who is no longer in the band, but I have to wonder why? Bill Steer was terrific and new guitarist Ben Ash was more than capable of creating the bands’ signature sound. Steer possesses on of the best guitar tones ever in metal. Naturally the band was flawless in its execution of their classic songs, like ‘Reek of Putrefaction’ and ‘Corporeal Jigsaw Quandary’. It was a pretty amazing night and a good time, leaving everyone satisfied and feeling like we just saw the best concert we will see in 2014.
Carcass Set List:
Incarnated Solvent Abuse
Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System
Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard
No Love Lost
The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills
This Mortal Coil
Reek of Putrefaction
Unfit for Human Consumption
Pyosisified (Rotten to the Gore)
Exhume to Consume
Captive Bolt Pistol
Corporal Jigsore Quandary
Keep On Rotting in the Free World
Words by Keith Chachkes
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.Continue reading