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Album Reviews : Carcass – Surgical Steel

By on September 11, 2013

Carcass - Surgical Steel The last few years has seen a host of classic thrash bands reuniting and touring on the back of the success of their hey-day. Bands like At The Gates and more recently Emperor are giving the old fans as well as people that missed them the first time around a chance to see these bands in a live setting. As welcomed as this has been the one thing that has often been missing is new music from these legendary bands….enter Carcass

When the latest incarnation of the band toured these shores in 2008 they laid waste to Australia audience and there were musing that this is more than just a reformation, maybe there was an album on the horizon. Well, five years later and after many delays in the process (most of which were out of the bands control) and 17 years after the last studio album it is finally here….Surgical Steel

Right off the bat, this is pure Carcass and harkens back to some of their finest work. Stylistically it melds all the elements that made “Heartwork” and “Swansong” such classic albums. If anything Surgical Steel is a little more like the latter but when you are talking about 2 classics of the genre that is not a bad thing.

Opener “1985” is a short instrumental number (think Hellion done Carcass style) and serves as an introduction to “Thrashers Abattoir”. This opening salvo is an inspired choice as they retain the classic Carcass sound perfectly updating it with modern production. These opening tracks are very, sharp, sharp and to the point. Very little time is wasted setting the theme for this album.

A hesitation I had before listening to this album was that with one of the integral founding members of the band not being a part of this record would it still stack up as a Carcass record. Tim Owens is such a huge art of the classic Carcass sound but Daniel Wilding has stepped in and it sounds as if Owens had never left. “Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System” really brings this point home and is the first “real” (in terms of length) song on this album. Jeff Walker’s unique snarls spat with such venomous fury are built around some excellent Bill Steer guitar work on this track. Something that Carcass seen to do so well which has often been imitated but never really quite matched is that they have an uncanny knack of introducing a very bluesy and melodic feel to a lot of their music. Steer’s guitar solo on this track is a prime example of this.

“A Congealed Clot of Blood” chugs along at a steady pace and is very reminiscent of some of the best that mid-paced Slayer would ever have to offer. One thing that is clear by this point of the album is that this is a “proper” Carcass album in that the band is not really playing it safe and just re-hashing what they have done in the past. Whilst this is still Carcass, it is Carcass with a slightly new bent. The slower, doomy riffing on this track is not something that we are used to hearing from Carcass yet it works surprisingly very well here.

The band’s grindcore roots are very much prominent during a lot of this album, and never moreso than on “The Master Butcher’s Apron” which has a great neck-snapping breakdown that is sure to get the listener’s head moving and fists in the air. If ever there was a Carcass song destined to be a mosh-pit favorite, this could be it from this album.

One of the albums best tracks is “Noncompliance to ASTM F899-12 Standard”. This is a frantic rocker and is pure Carcass through and through featuring many of their signature licks, tremolo picking, and very melodic guitar work by Steer. This is quite possibly the best song that Arch Enemy never recorded. Speaking of which listening to a Carcass album really drives home how much of an influence they have had on bands like Arch Enemy and At The Gates so with that in mind it’s a joy to hear something new from this seminal band.

The second half of the album sees Carcass at some of their finest. “Heartwork” has long regarded as the seminal Carcass album by many fans and the second half on offer here sees “Surgical Steel” become Heartwork Pt 2. That’s not a criticism, in fact it’s quite the opposite. What the band has done from here on in is take the best of Heartwork and produced a set of songs that are more refined and in that style. “316 L Grade Surgical Steel”, “Unfit for Human Consumption”, and lead single “Captive Bolt Pistol” are all riff-fests of the highest order that can easily sit amongst some of the best tracks in the Carcass catalogue. Whilst the heaviness is still there on these songs it should be noted that it is never to the detriment of the melodic nature that we see with modern-day Carcass. Riffs abound and there is some very stellar drum and rhythm work on offer here. Just check out the breakdown and solo section of Unfit for Human Consumption” for an example of the bluesiest death metal you’ll ever hear.

Closer “Mount of Execution” is the perfect bookend for this album. It really does take all the best bits of this album and presents them all in one epic 8-minute track. This song really is a journey from start to finish. This song also shows the bands diversity opening with a soft acoustic guitar before segueing into some very melodic riffing. Just when you think this might be a ballad the heaviness of the riffs is lifted tenfold and its pure Carcass awesomeness from there. Even when you think the song is over they come back with a few more riffs and solos just to round out the album as perfectly as it began.

Overall, this is a very stellar Carcass album and one of (if not the finest) pieces of melodic death metal you are going to hear in 2013. One can be forgiven for thinking this is a band half their age as the band sounds so very fresh and inspired on “Surgical Steel” from start to finish. This is clearly a band that is not cashing in on their legacy as every song is meticulously crafted and there is something new on offer here. Make no mistake, while comparisons with “Heartwork” and “Swansong” are bound to be made these are not recycled songs. This is a band and an album where one listen is all it takes to notice that they have not compromised at all on the songwriting process. Unlike many other newer bands (or bands that Carcass has directly influenced) this album is all about the songs on offer and not showing off trying to be the heaviest or fastest. This is really a band playing to their strengths and being true to themselves and their music which is all the listener could ever really hope for,

If someone had told me at the beginning of 2013 that the new Carcass album would be half as good as this actually is I would gladly have taken that, instead in 2013 Carcass have released a definite contender for “album of the year”.

Seriously this album belongs in any death metal collection, just file it right between “Heartwork” and “Swansong” which is exactly where it rightfully belongs!

Reviewers rating: 9/10

Band: Carcass
Album: Surgical Steel
Year: 2013
Genre: Extreme Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast
Origin: United Kingdom

Track listing:
1. 1985
2. Thrasher’s Abattoir
3. Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System
4. A Congealed Clot of Blood
5. The Master Butcher’s Apron
6. Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard
7. The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills
8. Unfit for Human Consumption
9. 316 L Grade Surgical Steel
10. Captive Bolt Pistol
11. Mount of Execution


Nick is a dedicated and lifelong metal / rock fan ever since he heard Kiss Alive when it first came out. His tastes extend from anything and everything from AOR, to power metal, to thrash, to death, to progressive rock / metal, to melodic rock. Chances are if the band exists....Nick knows of them! (some might say he's metal obsessed).