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Album Reviews : Carcass – Despicable

By on November 14, 2020

Few bands can claim to have had the impact on metal music that Carcass have had. Pioneering grindcore alongside the likes of Napalm Death (in which Carcass guitarist Bill Steer played for a few years) before changing tack a few albums in to produce the genre-defining melodic death metal album Heartwork (1993). Though the band had effectively disbanded by 1996 in spite of their massive success, a dedicated fanbase persisted leading to Carcass’ reformation in 2008, eventually being followed by a stellar comeback album Surgical Steel in 2013. A seventh album, titled Torn Arteries had been planned for release in August of 2020, but thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic around the world the release of this album has been pushed back to an indefinite time in 2021. In the meantime, the band have released a four-track EP titled Despicable to tide fans over until the release of the album.

Fans who enjoyed Heartwork and Surgical Steel will no doubt enjoy the songs on offer in the new EP. Returning from Surgical Steel is the clean production with bring and clear harmonised leads hovering over dense melodeath riffing, rounded out by Jeff Walker’s signature sneering snarl delivering their trademark gory lyrics. Opening track ‘The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue’ gets things off to a suitably epic start with a slow lead line gradually giving way to some chugging riffage for the verse. Each of the riffs in this song is a killer, with some truly twisted and dissonant riffing on show from the guitar duo of Steer and ‘new’ guitarist Tom Draper, but the connective tissue between each of the riffs isn’t always clear. In some ways, the song is a musical example of ‘the living dead’ with riffs sewn together at random in a twisted, lurching, mess. Some will no doubt enjoy the frenetic changes in pace, but for me it was off-putting and felt as though the song randomly shifted just as I was getting, into the groove of each riff. Thankfully, the following track ‘The Long and Winding Bier Road’ does not live up to its name and instead delivers a punchy and catchy riff-fest. The lead line that sits over the introduction and chorus fits perfectly while the palm-muted verse riff offers a nice contrast.

Third track ‘Under the Scalpel Blade’ delivers a similar song, with some rapid palm-muted gallops leading into a slower and groovy chorus, whose sense of rhythm persists through much of the track. A particularly catchy bridge riff leads into one of the few engaging solos on the EP; although it’s nothing too dazzling technique-wise, the leads and harmonies are effective and catchy without taking up too much of the song’s time. ‘Slaughtered in Soho’ closes out the album with another catchy harmonised intro and is arguably the strongest song on the album. Mid-paced and almost ballad-like (well, as ballad-like as Carcass are likely to get), it provides a good example of the more mellow style that Carcass experimented within their post-Heartwork days.

Despicable was intended as a hold-over release and it achieves that goal well. It is always difficult to achieve the full range of an album release with an EP, and if Despicable has one core weakness as a release it is a lack of depth and variety. The songs present are perfectly functional and enjoyable but do little to fully excite the listener, feeling like B-sides from the eventual release of Torn Arteries (which I suspect they are). Good value for the Carcass super fan, but for the more casual fan of the band, I would recommend waiting for the full album when it eventually drops.

Band: Carcass
Album: Despicable
Year: 2020
Genre: Heavy Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Origin: United Kingdom


Ben is a metalhead originally from Sydney, who has now moved to Hobart to pursue a PhD in Australian extreme metal. When not studying, writing about or playing metal, he can be found playing video games, browsing Reddit, knitting, fending off his cat or helping out at his local church.