Surgical Steel

Written by: EW on 30/09/2013 23:09:26

Of the countless extreme metal bands in recent years to have spun the reformation cycle, bringing their 80s and 90s material to younger generations, one name has always stood out against the rest: Carcass. Feted as goregrind, death metal and melodic death progenitors and immeasurably influential on thousands of bands there was an air of inevitability about their rebirth and subsequent new album, but knowing as we all do the sense of disappointment that tends to greet new releases from old legends, who could've foreseen a release like "Surgical Steel" which has been gathering positive reviews like a rotting corpse does maggots?

Rather than simply striking lucky there are permeating reasons for why "Surgical Steel" stands up against the Carcass discography. Their genre-defining classics of "Necroticism" and "Heartwork" were not mere blasters as their ability to blend melody, groove and even humour into subject matters of the grotesque and ghastly has ensured the longevity of the name. In Bill Steer they possess one of the most inventive guitarists in death metal this side of Chuck Schuldiner, a man who has filled his Carcass downtime in a variety of blues rock bands and it takes just one listen to tracks like "Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System" and "Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard" to notice what a difference his fluid style of playing brings against all the straight-up testosterone fueled bands of today. Steer is ably abetted by the skills of new sticksman Daniel Wilding, while in Jeff Walker, and more specifically his lyrics, here is a man who growls and spews out tales of death and decay with a knowing smile on his face and a rare sense of personality, as if only he knows this is a form of entertainment and not some sermon to be blindly endured and regurgitated.

Intro piece "1985" brings the first sign of dual guitar interplay (all courtesy of Steer) before "Thrasher's Abattoir" is harks back to the early days of the band, listing meticulous ways of passing through the void in a forceful two-minute blast. "Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System" throws some thrashy rhythm playing into the mix as we see Carcass settle into their more melodic groove for the first time, with the resulting solos in the song's latter half recalling the glory days of Megadeth's frequent lead battles. It is worth noting through into "A Congealed Clot of Blood" and "The Master Butcher's Apron" how each song sound different from one another - for all the countless Exhumed's and Impaled's out there thriving off the Carcass legacy they have never been able to inject such variety into their album as is heard here.

"Noncompliance..." - the winner of this year's 'Most specific song subject' award - flies off the line with some brilliant lead work and follows this up with a fine example of how to execute a drop in pace mid-way through without resorting to neanderthal, palm-muted chugging (all deathcore bands take note). Highlight track of the piece "The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills" is based around a riff as good as in "Keep On Rotting in the Free World", a track which more than any other in their back catalogue is responsible for the melodic death wave which followed while "Unfit for Human Consumption" and "316 L Grade Surgical Steel" follow suit earning the album's closing half the merit of bearing more classic material than earlier on. For what "Surgical Steel" may lack in the brutal directness, which makes "Necroticism" so essential to the genre, as an overall collection of songs this rivals the best these Liverpudlian legends have to offer. Should they never record another album "Surgical Steel" will sit much more comfortably as a closing chapter than "Swansong" has done for the past 17 years.

Download: Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard, The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills
For The Fans Of: Death Metal bands from Arch Enemy through to Exhumed
Listen: Facebook

Release date: 13.09.2013
Nuclear Blast Records

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