Album Review – Carcass / Heartwork (1993)

Wake up and listen to this Melodic Death Metal wonder.

Rating3

carcass_heartworkWhen a band or artist changes their musical direction towards something more commercial or mainstream, in order to become more famous and consequently make more money without worrying about their morality or principles, their old diehard fans start calling them a sellout. We have seen this type of thing happening hundreds of times with different bands from a wide range of musical styles, especially in Heavy Metal which always tends to be a more conservative genre than any other. Who doesn’t remember all the negative reaction of the fans and the specialized media to Metallica’s Load or Judas Priest’s Turbo? However, sometimes this change is for better, and that’s exactly what happened to Liverpool’s Extreme Metal masters Carcass when they “abandoned” their old Splatter/Grindcore to show the world a more polished material with the album Heartwork, released in 1993, becoming the pioneers of what we call today as Melodic Death Metal.

Although Heartwork was considered a radical change by lots of their old fans, and as I mentioned before a sellout by many, the album is far from sounding commercial or any shit like that. This is a milestone in the world of extreme music, quickly becoming the source of inspiration for hundreds of bands all over the world due to the quality and complexity of its music. The first track, Buried Dreams, already shows a much “cleaner” Carcass than ever before, but it’s still very extreme and violent. That new Carcass, a lot more melodic, offer us then Carnal Forge, which is pure Melodic Death Metal with amazing vocals, especially the initial scream, and beautiful solos by both Bill Steer and Michael Amott.

Can we call the unique No Love Lost a Melodic Death Metal ballad? This song is a classic with its perfect riffs and lyrics (“Without emotion you heartstring’s played / Strummed and severed to the tune of a tragic serenade”), and as one of the album’s singles it got a pretty cool video too. Then comes the best song of all, the title-track Heartwork,  a heavy music masterpiece with incredibly fast riffs, awesome solos, an addictive chorus (“A canvas to paint, to degenerate / Dark reflections – degeneration / A canvas to paint, to denigrate / Dark reflections, of dark foul light”), and Jeff Walker being absolutely fantastic on vocals, sounding like an (extremely) evil version of Dave Mustaine. This is a Death Metal anthem with flawless synchronicity of all band members, and a mandatory track in any music selection for a heavy workout at the gym.

carcassAfter an impeccable start, the album loses a little momentum with Embodiment, which is not as amazing as all previous tracks. Moreover, this song reminds me a lot of what Arch Enemy do today, clearly due to Michael Amott’s influence, but not as cohesive. This Mortal Coil is an excellent song with awesome guitars, making it one of the best in the album and a great song for any live performances. The next song is fantastic too, albeit it has a very weird name: Arbeit Macht Fleisch is a derivation of “arbeit macht frei”, the famous German phrase found over the main gates of many Nazi concentration camps during World War II (including Auschwitz I) that means “work makes (you) free”. In this case, the meaning would be “work makes (you) meat”, a more suitable expression for the gruesome heavy music played by Carcass.

The last part of Heartwork begins with Blind Bleeding the Blind, a very technical song with lots of groove and electricity, followed by Doctrinal Expletives, which is a more straightforward, traditional metal song. The last track of the album, Death Certificate, has an amazing start and very interesting lyrics, but in my opinion it’s its fast and heavy rhythm what makes it so great. This is the end of an outstanding album, with Bill Steer and Michael Amott kickin’ ass from start to finish (what those two guys did with their guitars together in Heartwork was glorious) and Jeff Walker adding a creepy touch to it with his guttural, raspy voice. In addition, we can see here one of the most extraordinary front covers in the history of heavy music, called “Life Support 1993”, designed by the deceased Swiss artist H. R. Giger.

The band released Swansong in 1996, and 17 years later they got back with the amazing Surgical Steel, in 2013, but Heartwork is still their biggest work so far and something quite impossible to be beaten (and if I were you, I would definitely go for the Full Dynamic Range Edition with its four amazing bonus tracks). Carcass might have changed their musicality, with an almost complete shift in their vocal style and more diversity in their music and lyrics, but instead of a sellout they became a reference in Melodic Extreme Metal. If you love truly heavy, violent music with a solid melody in the background and insanely gory words, well, let’s just say that you must “wake up and smell the carcass”.

Best moments of the album: No Love Lost, Heartwork, This Mortal Coil and Arbeit Macht Fleisch.

Worst moments of the album: Embodiment.

Released in 1993 Earache Records

Track listing
1. Buried Dreams 3:58
2. Carnal Forge 3:54
3. No Love Lost 3:22
4. Heartwork 4:33
5. Embodiment 5:36
6. This Mortal Coil 3:49
7. Arbeit Macht Fleisch 4:21
8. Blind Bleeding the Blind 4:57
9. Doctrinal Expletives 3:39
10. Death Certificate 3:38

Full Dynamic Range Edition bonus tracks
11. This Is Your Life 4:09
12. Rot ‘n’ Roll 3:51
13. Carnal Forge (live in Tokyo) 4:25
14. Heartwork (live in Tokyo) 5:01

Band members
Jeff Walker – vocals, bass guitar
Bill Steer – lead guitar
Michael Amott – lead guitar
Ken Owen – drums

Advertisements

Album Review – Carcass / Surgical Remission/Surplus Steel EP (2014)

Is this really a “surplus” of Surgical Steel, or maybe just a pile of uninspired “leftovers”?

Rating9

CoverI love Carcass, it doesn’t matter if it’s their gruesomeness from their beginnings, as the undisputed pioneers of Grindcore, or their more polished musicality adopted during the 90’s when they became a Melodic Death Metal band. For instance, Heartwork is in my opinion one of the most incredible extreme metal albums of all time, an album that was even capable of making it to MTV without sounding commercial, and Surgical Steel was a more than awesome comeback by those British metalheads. However, their new EP entitled Surgical Remission/Surplus Steel sounds a lot more like “leftovers” than actually a “surplus”.

And what’s the problem with the EP if it’s the same band that launched one year ago one of the best metal albums of 2013? To begin with, there’s a huge lack of inspiration and motivation, as if they just released it for (more) money, which I refuse to believe coming from a band so cool as they are. Let’s face it, there isn’t a single song in Surgical Remission/Surplus Steel that gets close to the awesome destruction found in Surgical Steel, or is anyone going to say anything in this EP is better than the excellent “Thrasher’s Abattoir”, “Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System”, “The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills” or “Captive Bolt Pistol”?

The first track in Surgical Remission/Surplus Steel, A Wraith in the Apparatus, is relatively decent, groovy and with less gory and more political/religious lyrics, a little different than what Carcass usually offer us (“Harmless or nefrarious / A gilded new church / A false god to worship / Blind acceptance with no repentence / A jaded new church / A false deity to service”). However, it’s nothing really special or outstanding, just a good song that if it had been included in Surgical Steel it would probably be one of its worst moments.

CarcassAlthough I enjoyed the guitar riff in Intensive Battery Brooding, that’s another song that doesn’t provide us anything memorable. It pretty much sounds like a lazy version of Megadeth or a failed attempt to sound more Sludge or Southern Metal, with its drums being as boring as possible. The last part of the song, a lot faster and more Carcass-ish, is kind of interesting, but again, that’s it. Zochrot showcases another good guitar work, but it sounds like one more “leftover” from the full-length album than something fresh and unique as a B-side is supposed to be.

Finally, we have Livestock Marketplace, which despite it’s extremely fun lyrics (“Fiscal sexuality for we are all whores & prostitutes / Life’s a celebration at the cattle market / The frigid and recycling death disco / Bestial passion at the cattle market”) doesn’t have the energy we love in the music by Carcass, it’s just like if they were jamming without any commitment to the final result. And I’m not sure why there’s a “reprise” to the intro of their latest album as an outro, named 1985 (Reprise): it doesn’t really make any sense, unless their goal with this was to inspire the fans to go listen to Surgical Steel, an album worth our money, unlike this EP.

It truly breaks my heart to acknowledge Carcass have tremendously failed in Surgical Remission/Surplus Steel, but at least it’s just an EP with mediocre tracks that didn’t make it to Surgical Steel. Anyway, I’m sure whenever they launch a new full-length album it will be brutally amazing, with all those sick riffs and diabolical lyrics we all love from those metal icons from the UK. Until then, please go listen to Surgical Steel, Heartwork, Swansong, Reek of Putrefaction, the superb compilation Wake Up and Smell the… Carcass, or anything else but this disappointing jumble of leftovers.

Best moments of the album: A Wraith in the Apparatus is acceptable, especially compared to the other songs in Surgical Remission/Surplus Steel.

Worst moments of the album: Unfortunately, almost everything found in the EP sounds really lazy and uninspired.

Released in 2014 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. A Wraith in the Apparatus 3:31
2. Intensive Battery Brooding 4:44
3. Zochrot 3:22
4. Livestock Marketplace 4:15
5. 1985 (Reprise) 1:48

Band members
Jeff Walker – bass, vocals
Bill Steer – guitars
Ben Ash – guitars
Daniel Wilding – drums