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

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Album Review – Triptykon / Melana Chasmata (2014)

Gothic, Black and especially Doom Metal as grandiose as they can be.

Rating2

Triptykon-Melana-ChasmataOne of the most expected albums of 2014 from one of today’s darkest and heaviest bands has finally arrived: Melana Chasmata, or Μελανά Χασματα (in the Greek alphabet), which can be translated as “black, deep depressions”, from Swiss Gothic/Doom Metal band Triptykon, has everything it takes to be one of the most acclaimed albums of the year, and undoubtedly the best in terms of extreme music.

This Zurich-based Doom Metal “dream team” founded by Heavy Metal icon Tom G. Warrior (Hellhammer, Celtic Frost) is as cohesive and effective as possible, and of course, totally wicked. There isn’t a single song on this album that can be considered filler or commercial: quite the contrary, Triptykon offer us a masterpiece of darkness, with lots of melancholy, pain and hopelessness, perfect for people who hate all those disposable pop songs made for that annoying and fake sense of “collective joy”.

Tom & Co. open the album with a pure Black Metal track called Tree Of Suffocating Souls, with a fuckin’ heavy instrumental, especially bass and drums, which sound simply amazing together. Moreover, the lyrics are also very intelligent and controversial, making the whole song even better. And what can I say about the Gothic/Doom Metal work-of-art Boleskine House? Its low resonant bass and the female vocals give me the shivers, and make me want to literally feel this song at a Triptykon concert. It’s a flawless brilliant composition, the best song of the album, and the lyrics are those things we feel grateful for being able to enjoy (“Your eyes that once / Have gazed the waves / Have long been closed / Become enslaved / Within these walls”).

Altar Of Deceit continues with the greatness in Melana Chasmata with its dark intro, Tony Iommi-ish demonic riffs, desperate vocals, and a very nice solo at the end, while Breathing, another extremely dark track with a depressive and at the same time beautiful intro, suddenly accelerates to an awesome mix of Death and Black Metal and ends in a very good “old school Slayer” way. What else do we need in a song, right?

The following two tracks are the epitome of evil: Aurorae is a dreary song, tailored for people who enjoy “suffering” alone while savoring the most obscure tunes a band can produce, and its guitar solo gives it an extra touch of fineness; and Demon Pact sounds like if its riffs, vocals, drums, bass and everything else were actually recorded in hell. Based on the name of the song I wasn’t expecting anything less evil, making it one of my favorite tracks by far.

triptykonIn The Sleep Of Death, a very atmospheric and eerie low-paced song, has some more desperate vocals, followed by the longest track of the album, Black Snow, a lesson in Doom Metal with over 12 minutes of obscurity and awesomeness. Tom proves here he’s the beast incarnate, and it’s impossible not to scream together with him “Black snow! Black snow!”. And to close this stunning album in a majestic way, we have Waiting, with its delicate rhythm and mesmerizing female vocals. It’s a very gothic and beautiful song, and I’m sure lots of fans will consider it one of the highlights of the whole album.

The album art, once again created by Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger, who has already worked with music icons such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Carcass, Celtic Frost and Danzig, perfectly represents all the density in the music in Melana Chasmata. Besides that, one thing I need to say is that, although all musicians are amazing and Tom G. Warrior is a genius, the badass bass lines are my favorite part of all songs. Vanja Slajh is a Doom Metal Goddess, no doubt about that.

Tom always says that only Death is real. However, he forgot to say the same about his band Triptykon, and now about Melana Chasmata, an album we’re more than glad it’s a reality. Eparistera Daimones was already a great album, but this time Triptykon took Doom Metal to such a level of grandiosity it’s hard to find words to describe it. When music is able to reach our souls like what’s found in Melana Chasmata, we know there’s something special about it. And if Triptykon go to your town for a live performance, don’t miss it by any chance: it’s going to be a unique and thrilling experience that very few bands can provide you nowadays.

Best moments of the album: Boleskine House, Breathing, Aurorae, Demon Pact and Black Snow. As a matter of fact, I should say that the whole album is amazing.

Worst moments of the album: It’s difficult to find a weak song in Melana Chasmata, but if I really had to choose one I would say In The Sleep Of Death.

Released in 2014 Prowling Death Records/Century Media Records

Track listing
1. Tree Of Suffocating Souls 7:55
2. Boleskine House 7:12
3. Altar Of Deceit 7:32
4. Breathing 5:50
5. Aurorae 6:17
6. Demon Pact 6:07
7. In The Sleep Of Death 8:10
8. Black Snow 12:24
9. Waiting 5:55

Band members
Tom G. Warrior – guitar, vocals
V. Santura – guitar, vocals
Vanja Slajh – bass, vocals
Norman Lonhard – drums, percussion