Album: Surgical Steel
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
How do you live up to the expectations of having one of Metal's most important albums in your back catalogue? "Surgical Steel" is how
Many a Metal critique, and in fact journalists of a broader persuasion, would emphasize the importance of Liverpudlian Death Metallers Carcass' 1993 album "Heartwork" and the impact that it had, not only on the band but on the Death metal scene itself, and rightly so. A savagely bitter record written in the throes of time in which relationships within the band were beginning to deteriorate, it's furiously heavy, brilliantly melodic and all tied together by a sense of extravagant purpose that didn't oblige by the ideas of the natural DM sound at the time. And the fact of the matter is that bands like At The Gates, Exhumed and In Flames wouldn't have made most of their records were it not for the imprint left by "Heartwork", a record that showed DM didn't have to be all about lyrical and mechanical savagery (an idea imposed by bands like Cannibal Corpse and Deicide).
"Surgical Steel" is the band's first album since the universally panned "Swansong" in 1996 and their subsequent disbandment. Back with a revised line- up, it's clear that original members Jeff Walker and Bill Steer have almost everything to prove. "Surgical Steel", however, does not have the word "disappointing" enlisted in its vocabulary, and thankfully so; the truth of the matter is that it's nothing short of absolutely barn- storming.
"Thrasher's Abbatoir" (the album's first track proper after the soaring highs of the short- lived instrumental "1985") wastes no time in proving that Carcass are back, and as unbreakable as always. It's monstrously heavy, as well as groove- orientated, and wastes no time in proving they've lost none of their taste for aural assault. "Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System", one of many quizzically titled songs here. A huge dollop of furious harmonized riffing leads into more blisteringly fast destruction, exposing frightening levels of skill that rarely deviate from such throughout the whole record (Bill Steer's shredding, in particular, is often nothing short of astonishing). "A Congealed Clot of Blood" is a resolutely evil, mid- paced gallop and sees Walker's lyrics indulge into something more conscious than most of his wordplay on the record; "Nothing is true but infinite human conflict," he growls.
"Surgical" is the key word here; surgical musicianship, terrifying lyrics preserving images of surgical, meticulously murder and torture. "Non- Compliance to ASTM F 899- 12 Standard" taps in to the clued up, supposedly scientific theme in terms of its title, but it's also a blindingly melodic, soaring and gloriously constructed performance, the "surgical" element adhering to the absolute precision with which the band play. "The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills" and "Unfit For Human Consumption" are both thrilling, rollicking pieces of Megadeth- esque rifforama. The latter explodes into a furious storm of blast beats and sinister, low- tuned DM crawling before resurfacing and ending on a rip- roaring close.
"Mount of Execution" is maybe one of the most epic 8 and a half minutes of Metal you'll hear in 2013. Harmonic, soaring guitars ring clear and echo throughout the grandiose atmosphere before descending into a fest of equally as catchy rocking. "A dark mobilisation... The war unrestrained... Reign of Terror" snarls Walker over a hard hitting, epically catchy chord progression and groove. They manage to pack one final stonking riff into the last two minutes and go out sounding just as vital as they did at the beginning of the record.
"Surgical Steel" is a piece that rings with conviction, incredible precision, great riffs and the kind of determination that Carcass have always exuded, and that same kind that has always been absent from many a band who go through the things they've experienced. It's not "Heartwork" or "Necrotism", but on its own merits it deserves to be hailed as a fantastic piece of work, and well worthy of a place next to the classics the band have previously churned out. Welcome back, riff- masters!
Key Tracks: Mount of Execution, Noncompliance to ASTM F 899- 12 Standard, Unfit For Human Consumption
For fans of: At The Gates, Megadeth, Exhumed