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
Something hideous has come back to life in the state of Maryland. After disappearing below ground for almost three years (save for one transitory single released last year), two founding members of Baltimore Death/Grind/Hardcore/Thrash act Noisem have clawed their way slowly back up through the dank, fetid earth to vomit their third full length(ish) album all over our faces.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
Fresh off of their appearance at Bloodstock Open Air 2018, Bloodbath has announced the release of a new album, their fifth overall, coming this fall via Peaceville Records. The delightfully evil sounding The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn will release on October 26th. The kvlt supergroup is comprised of members of Paradise Lost, Katatonia, Opeth and Craft. The album also features guest vocals from Carcass’ Jeff Walker, Bolt Thrower/Memoriam singer Karl Willetts and Cancer’s John Walker.Continue reading
Carcass is currently working on the follow up to 2013’s Surgical Steel, and today we have an exciting update from Jeff Walker. 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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Sometimes, perspective and a second chance can make all the difference. When the world was first introduced to Babymetal (Sony Music) in 2014, those parts of it that are likely to use the phrase “true Metal warrior” non-ironically exploded in a whirlwind of tears and finger-pointing, accusing the band and their fans of essentially betraying Metal in one of the most hysterical displays of Heavy Metal siege-mentality since… well, the last one. Even on the internet tantrums die down quickly, however, and with the benefit of a year’s distance and the vocal support of respected Metal figures like Kerry King and Jeff Walker, the hysterical crying has settled enough to allow us to ignore the controversy and look at the actual music.
Which is fortunate, because as it turns out the music on Babymetal is fantastic.
This is an unashamed Pop album that draws on elements of diverse Metal subgenres to create its own sound – it does not sound like To Mega Therion (Noise), and it would be foolish to expect it to. The argument that it is “not Metal” is equally silly, though – there is a solid core of accessible, polished, radio-friendly but still very “real” Metal running all the way through these songs. Big, tuneful and frequently very heavy riffs reference Melodic Death Metal, European Power Metal and the catchier side of Thrash with the confidence of musicians who very clearly understand those genres, and growled/screamed vocals interplay effectively with the three teenage singers.
Like all fusions, Pop-Metal only works if both elements are understood equally, and the triumph of Babymetal is that it marries the riffs and breakdowns of its Metal side with a flawless knack for how to write a Pop song. After the playfully pretentious intro, songs are paced with ruthless efficiency, structured around breathless choruses and cheeky key-changes lifted perfectly from the J-Pop side of their family tree. They’re also full to capacity with the quality that both Metal and Western Pop forget about too readily – joy. The elements of reggae, hip-hop and dance music (all translated through a J-Pop filter) are lacking the pretentious “wackiness” that such things often have, and feel like nothing less than the band having fun.
Looking back at Babymetal with the advantage of time and distance, most of the criticisms levelled at it are completely irrelevant. Critics made a big deal of the band’s “manufactured” nature, but while it is true that the band and their music were assembled by a professional agency, this collection of almost perfect songs – played by skilled musicians who can replicate the results live and are clearly into what they’re doing – make it hard to remember why it was supposed to be a bad thing that they didn’t meet backstage at a Bathtub Shitter gig.
Equally pointless but far more sinister was the “Paedo-Metal” accusation that’s still bandied around by some of the nastier online critics. In a genre which has always struggled with the representation of women probably the best non-musical thing about Babymetal is how entirely unsexualised the girls are, and how innocent the pleasure they’re obviously taking in their job is. If you think that the presence of young Japanese girls makes something inherently sexual that’s your prerogative, of course, but you might want to ask yourself some serious questions about why.
Babymetal is, all hyperbole and controversy aside, a brilliant Pop Metal album. It’s not for everyone – a quality that it shares with all “true Metal” – but it achieves what it sets out to do perfectly, and adds something truly worthwhile to the vocabulary of Metal.
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
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