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Carcass - "Surgical Steel" (CD)

Carcass - "Surgical Steel" CD cover image

"Surgical Steel" track listing:

1. 1985 (1:15)
2. Thrasher's Abbatoir (1:50)
3. Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System (4:02)
4. A Congealed Clot of Blood (4:14)
5. The Master Butcher's Apron (4:01)
6. Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard (6:07)
7. The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills (4:10)
8. Unfit for Human Consumption (4:25)
9. 316 L Grade Surgical Steel (5:20)
10. Captive Bolt Pistol (3:17)
11. Mount of Execution (8:25)

Reviewed by on September 3, 2013

"...it feels a little more like transplanting a 'Heartwork' into the larger body of 'Necrotism,' even if that heart is pumping hard."

Carcass is a band that has cut a very unique scar into the face of metal. Weaving its way throughout England's 90s scene, the band stood on a knife edge between grind and death metal before launching into both technical feats of medicinal horror in the epic "Necroticism" and pioneering melodic metal in the now orthodox "Heartwork." But to most metal fans, 1995's "Swansong" was a premature burial for this Carcass. We needed more. And now I have for you neatly packaged in the vicious strike of "Surgical Steel" an album that melds the classic mid-era Carcass with a few years of stylistic freedom on either side of '93.

As a reviewer I normally avoid play by plays as bad from, but in this case I'm going to make somewhat of an exception as it's a) just a pleasure to describe this album and b) a comeback worthy of some discussion. The opener "1985" is a slow, slick and emotional guitar intro, a tasty melodic minute sized morsel given to the listener before the butchery begins, one that reminds us just what kind of melodic and more mainstream death metal turn Carcass made in the 90s. But as it gently closes a far more grievous wound opens; "Thrashers Abattoir" explodes into a gory outburst of classic Carcass with a two minute rampage into chorusless riffing. Musically this track is also the closest thing you're going to get to early Carcass on the album so lap it up while you can.

"Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System" follows on with this theme of frightening high speed thrashing except now it finally feels like we've sliced through to the meat of the album as we're greeted with melodic whirlings and plenty of guitar wizardry. Immediately it's worth noticing that this is not "Symphonies of Sickness," the production on this album is as slick as blood and even snappier and more crisp than Heartwork. Daniel Wilding's frantic and mechanical drumming brings a new technical urgency to the band so that it feels a little more like transplanting a "Heartwork" into the larger body of "Necrotism," even if that heart is pumping hard. And for fans like myself, the most heartwarming surprise is that Jeff Walker's vocals are still absolutely vicious. 15 years have changed very little in his style and the effective use of production tightens things further even if there aren't many pitch shifted brutalities.

"A Congealed Clot of Blood" opens with an ominous homage to Slayer before jumping quickly into a rollicking metal gallop, showing off the same balanced and executed songwriting that permeated mid era Carcass. While I think Carcass is at its weakest going at slow speed (of which "Mount of Execution" is guilty of), other tracks here display an effort to create a balanced album with a little bit for everyone on display.

Once we get to "The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills" we've reached the point of no return in accepting the fulfilling bloody feast of "Surgical Steel." As if forcibly injected with the soul of every Iron Maiden album for one highly entertaining moment, the songs chorus chant of "6-0-2-6-9-6-1" is going to stick in your head faster than a rusty sawblade. I'm not quite sure of the significance of the numbers, but like the other fantastic lyrics on the album it's sure to be a clever violent meat processing pun, far better than anything I've been pulling in this review.

"Unfit For Human Consumption" comes dangerously close to Megadeth's "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due," and yet still you will care not. At this point they could be playing Megadeth covers and I'd still give this album a pass. The single "Captive Bolt Pistol" steals the show however, a vicious indictment of everything I imagined modern Carcass might be, with a fresh technical twist. This track is sick.

When popular metal bands return to the public sphere, there are always going to be a split camp between those old school fans pining for basically re-writing demo material and those who just want the band to not deface its legacy and embarrass itself. While Carcass definitively chose to avoid throwing a spanner in the works by writing anything that sounds like "Reek of Putrefaction," the band over-delivered on the second promise. "Surgical Steel" is every bit as enjoyable as "Heartwork," and it's crisp face and quirky technical flairs combine with a breadth of songwriting to provide your fix for both clinical death thrash and catchy melodic death metal. A fun, well-produced, and well-written album that exudes everything that fans of the band love: welcome back to the slaughter Carcass.

Highs: "Captive Bolt Pistol" and "The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills" are the standouts, but the individuality packed into every track ensures this is an all over success.

Lows: Slower "Swansong" moments like "Mount of Execution" won't please all the band's fans, who probably wouldn't be pleased with anything other than death/grind anyway.

Bottom line: A fun, well-produced, and well-written album that exudes everything that fans of the band love: welcome back to the slaughter Carcass!

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)