With the bloody good news of a new Carcass album on the horizon, it reminded me of the Liverpudlian grind band’s distinct influence on heavy metal – and their listeners as well. I reminded me why I distinctly recall how much the title track to their 1994 album Heartwork showed me how melody and brutality could be blended so perfectly together. While the band had tamed down their earlier brutality – as shown on Reek of Putrefaction - it’s an album that should not go unnoticed by newbies to the band, especially since this, their 1989 sophomore effort Symphonies Of Sickness, had its fair share of influence on it – but the band had developed some great musical chops by the time this rolled around.
Following their debut and the full length, songs and medical malpractice-themed fare would continue to garner plenty of praise, including from from erstwhile BBC DJ John Peel. As we look forward to the band’s newest effort, we must also take a look back some 24 years and examine the still-fresh corpse of yore.
The opening attack “Reek Of Putrefaction” shows the band taking a step away from the earlier grindcore sound and making death metal the focal point, although Bill Steer and Jeff Walker’s putrid mouths spew lyrics like bile throughout. Steer’s vocal work was a forgotten piece of the band, as by the time Heartwork came around he was a guitarist and nothing more; but oddly enough, most goregrind bands take a greater influence from the especially low and haunting growls of Steer. The pummeling drums of Ken Owen were also a nut well-tightened for this release, with the band now focusing their musical melee into a more cohesive attack. The most recognizable song on the album has the iconic name “Exhume to Consume” - the zombie theme well and truly put out there with lyrics as filthy as “I’m sickly obsessed (with the badly decomposed) // Rotten remains I eat.” The guitar solo towards the end hints at the gradual shift towards more melody, although you’d have to sift through plenty of discarded organs to find them here.
The medical journals continue to be ripped to shreds with dictionary-bothering titles like “Excoritating Abdominal Emanation” showing up. Battery man Ken Owen practically destroys his kit during this song; his impressive blast beats making a more than ample footing for Steer to exercise his muscle, and the song sees Walker taking more of the vocal duties with his more high-pitched vocals that would be further strengthened later on in the band’s career and become even more recognizable.
The drums and bass during the intro of “Ruptured In Purulence” make for a frightening experience, and combined with the modified vocals they make for an an absolutely horrific sound; this is surely the sound of erupting boils chock full of pus. The song grinds its way through the sounds of old as this might well be the most Reek Of Putrefaction song on the entire album.
“Empathological Necroticism” grinds along to the accompanying duo of Steer and Walker on vocals before another blast beat session. Towards the end of the song there is a catchy section that is nearly as slow as the band would play on this album, and shows more of the interludes that we would see on Necroticism: Descanting The Insalabrious. A small guitar solo introduces “Embryonic Necropsy And Devourment” with plenty of the deathgrind buzz blaring from Bill Steer’s axe. For the sake of being totally gross, the lyrics “Suck cess on a plate, lick its pus from a spoon // Gnaw at rashes on a dish, munch on the expelled womb…” were included, making for a song through which you’d better not eat while listening. More future melodic solos help to close this track out, with the band truly rounding into form here.
“Swarming Vulgar Mass Of Infected Virulency” is a max speed sprint through the medical journal, picking the scabs from your body as it goes. As the vocal style becomes more and more evil, so to do the riffs, which have plenty of hooks; something targeted at those who would prefer to find beauty between all the chaos. Ending the analysis is perhaps the most simply titled song here:“Slash Dementia”. Lyrically, however, it is still as vile as can be, with “Veins are stripped and flayed // Of haemorrhage, bile and sweat” a particular “highlight”. The band was quite excellent in combining the right music with the perfect lyrics to back up their malpractice and disrespect for human bodies; a superb combination and one that would be tough to top for any band – yet Carcass was able to continue plenty strong afterwards.
Carcass would go on to evolve into a death metal and eventually a melodic death metal band with the three albums that followed. This eventually led to their break-up, as future guitarist Mike Amott would leave to form the band Arch Enemy with his brother Chris. Drummer Ken Owen suffered a major setback in 1999 while with his new band Blackstar as he suffered a brain haemorrhage which left him in a coma for ten months and robbed him of his maximum drumming potential.
Despite all of this, the band was able to reform in 2007 with Owen in more of an ambassador role now, and the band performing live. As much as I love Necroticism and Heartwork, none of that would be possible without albums like this, and we are eternally grateful for it too. Feel free to drop me a comment about a band you’d like to see covered, or just leave one as a sign of good faith. For what I’m currently listening to you can always check out my Last.fm page. Enjoy plenty of splatter and bloodshed after this. Until next week.