Would you like to know what’s one of my favorite aspects of metal? It’s that it’s too goddam stubborn to ever go away. As long as there is breath in a metalhead’s lungs they’re going to find ways to tune lower or crank in even more blast beats into a song. As To The End (Reaper Entertainment) roared from my car’s stereo is when I realized that Memoriam is Karl Willets’ latest musical endeavor despite already having a hall of fame run with Bolt Thrower. Bless that man.
Legendary British Death Metal band Carcass will release a brand new single next month, on November 4th, 2019. The track ‘Under The Scalpel Blade’ will be heard first by Decibel Magazine subscribers and to get the track, you will need an active deluxe Decibel subscription by Monday, November 4 at 12 p.m. EST. The song will be the first new music from the upcoming new Carcass album, their seventh, due out in early 2020 via Nuclear Blast. The disc will be the follow-up to their widely loved comeback album, Surgical Steel, which arrived in 2013. The band will perform ‘Under The Scalpel Blade’ live when it headlines the closing night of this year’s Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest: Los Angeles2 at the Observatory. Tickets for the fest on December 13-14. Continue reading →
A little off the beaten path compared to L.A. and San Francisco, Bakersfield resides in in the California suburbs. The town is actually more well known for its legacy of punk rock more than a hotbed of metal, so it was a little surprising to see the major tour of metal legends Slayer, the well—loved thrashers Testament and death metal leaders Carcass planned a tour stop here. No doubt many resident has driven the traffic heavy, palm-tree lined highways of the 101 and I5 for glimpse of these bands in other towns. But tonight all you had to do if you were a fan of classic metal bands of the last 30-plus years, would be to roll downtown and get a ticket to the big show.
Carcass, by Meg Loyal Photography
Slayer and Testament are regulars on the annual touring circuit, rarely taking time off to record these days. UK bred Carcass is still on the road supporting 2014’s Surgical Steel album (Editor’s Note: The Ghost Cult Album of the Year for 2014), and have been regular visitors to the USA since their return. You never know these days the way this year has gone if the next time you see a band will be your last, so it was good to see a lot heads in the house early. Carcass ripped through a short set of “hits” the fans seemed to lap it up’ Jeff Walker was seated for the show due to a broken foot, but it made little difference to him. The band is talking about having a new album out in 2017, so hopefully we will see Carcass again sooner than later back on our shores.
Testament, by Meg Loyal Photography
Testament, by Meg Loyal Photography
Testament themselves are well-known road warriors. Bay-Area bred thrash metal titans, the band serves as a great opener to Slayer. You would be hard-pressed to find a fan in the building that didn’t like both the headliner and this band, and maybe some preferred the former. Testament has been busy working on their new album, but we heard no new songs tonight. They played their set with an energy and a hostility of the much younger, hungrier band. They slammed through their songs, ran around the stage, and basically had a great time. Led by hulking front man Chuck Billy, his voice is the only thing bigger on stage than his form. Testament knows how to put on a show worthy of the top spot on any bill, not just this one.
Slayer, by Meg Loyal Photography
Slayer, by Meg Loyal Photography
Considering that Slayer has toured so much, the crowd here tonight was decidedly pumped up, again owing to the choice of market too. The band as masters at setting the pre-show mood with their mysterious 30-foot tall curtain. When the lights go down the crowd gets pumped as the only soft part of a Slayer show; the intro music and the lights against the curtain, right before the first notes take hold. Once the curtain drops it’s pure madness as the band opened with the title track from their most recent album, Repentless (Nuclear Blast). The band played a good number of tracks from that recent album, but ultimately leaned on older songs. That is what the crowd wants from Slayer: the classics, every time. It’s not really a Slayer show without hearing ‘Mandatory Suicide’, ‘Seasons In The Abyss’, ‘Dead Skin Mask’, ‘South of Heaven’, and ‘Chemical Warfare’, is it?
Slayer, by Meg Loyal Photography
The band still get high marks for showmanship, especially Kerry King and Tom Araya. With the three year anniversary of the passing of founding member Jeff Hanneman near, the band pays tribute to him nightly, not just with his music, but with a huge banner draped in hiss honor. Closing of course with ‘Raining Blood’ and ‘Angel of Death’, Slayer continues to be a thrash metal institution. I can’t wait for them to come back!
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. “
Carcass, by Hillarie Jason
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.”
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 is the winner! Out of 220 albums voted on by the Global Staff of Ghost Cult, Surgical Steel is #1!
5. The Ocean – Pelagial (Metal Blade)
Increasingly dark and claustrophobic Post-metal broodings
“It’s far too often these days that albums are referred to as ‘a journey’, but in the case of Pelagial, it’s an epithet that’s more than justified. Featuring more twists and turns than a F1 racing track, and an abundance of melodic intuition and stellar songwriting chops, this is a more than worthy follow-up to previous material and a record that deserves to be explored and cherished.” Read the full review
4. Clutch – Earth Rocker (Weathermaker)
Quirky rock anthems are evident throughout Clutch’s tenth, and perhaps best, release
Focusing on delivering a leaner, rockier album, while retaining their idiosyncracies, Clutch have hit the jackpot. Full of bravado, swagger, and high-octane charges, Maryland’s finest trim the fat and turn in a belter.
3. Ghost – Infestissuman (Loma Vista)
Surf-rock meets Hammer Horror, creating Simple Satanic lullabyes with hooks literally to die for
“A graceful and grandiose affair which pushes their esoteric agenda together with sweeping and timeless melodies. A deliciously tuneful black-hearted affair, this sophomore effort shall see Ghost welcome many new parishioners to join their faithful congregation.” Read the full review
2. Cult of Luna – Vertikal(Indie)
New leaders of the post-metal field show their class
Issue 4: JANUARY ALBUM OF THE MONTH “Classic dystopian monstrosity… Records like Vertikal are why musicians continue to create – to grab the brass ring of meaningful art that endures like a scene from a memory. Cult of Luna have finally created a masterpiece.”
1. Carcass – Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast)
British greats return after 17 years without skipping a beat with an amalgamation of all the best bits of their past. Kicking off with ‘Hellion’ tribute ‘1985’, ‘Surgical Steel’ then delves into the kind of grinding riffs that made Carcass one of the best groups to vomit forth from the UK. As the album progresses, it mirrors their career, moving from faster, sinewy, grind material at the outset to breathing, muscular riffage and quality melodic death metal songs, sitting somewhere between ‘Necroticism’ and ‘Heartwork’ this a truly special selection of pure, unadulterated Carcass, with a slew of new riffs, grooves and grinds to assuage even the most sceptical of beasts.
Issue 11: “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 Surgical Steel still packs the same aggressive force they always have. The bodies may have changed but the instrumentation is just as damaging.” Read the full review
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 →
One of the most anticipated releases of this year is Surgical Steel by legendary death metal outfit Carcass. Ghost Cult caught up with bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker to see what’s going on in Carcass country…Continue reading →