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Symphonies Of Sickness

Carcass - Symphonies Of Sickness ©1989 Earache
1. Reek Of Putrefaction
2. Exhume To Consume
3. Excoriating Abdominal Emanation
4. Ruptured In Purulence
5. Empathological Necroticism
6. Embryonic Necropsy And Devourment
7. Swarming Vulgar Mass Of Infected Virulency
8. Cadaveric Incubator Of Endoparasites
9. Slash Dementia
10. Crepitating Bowel Erosion

Imagine a butcher in Sickville. A hideous, demented man who exumes dead bodies. He ritually desecrates graves, takes the putrified remains of freshly buried carcasses and cuts them up into slabs of raw human meat. This posthumous surgery is performed with his rusty old cleaver and is sold to vicious cannibals of his own abominable race of subhumans. Now imagine all this in an aural (and lyrical) context and you'll have a pretty good idea of what early Carcass is like. The butchering starts with the production, which is abysmal. Which also makes it just right for this CD! Our butcher wouldn't distribute rotten corpses in ribbon-clad velvet-coated jewelery boxes, now would he? Muddy production makes the hideous delivery that much more evil. The guitars keep churning out insanely brutal powerchords - impossible to discern most of the time, but then who wants to? They're like the slabs of meat - just too heavy and extreme to actually make any difference in terms of minute details. Jeff Walker sounds like the mad butcher after you with his cleaver swinging in the air and a twisted grin on his face. His rasps are coupled with Bill Steer's low grunts, which is the sound of the butcher letting out occasional burps (after having consumed his own art, no doubt!); interesting "duets" are "sung" in this way. The entire effect is like having a drill operating right next to your ear - though it is a relentless wall of sound, it is very interestingly done, and the riffs and spooky little "interludes" ensure that no track gets boring. "Reek of Putrefaction", "Exume to Consume" and "Ruptured in Purulence" are standouts; "Ruptured in Purulence" has one of my favourite intros of all time. All instruments are rather "imprecisely" played - the drumming is incredibly fast and keeps time well, but isnt exactly the Trym Torson or Mike Smith (i.e. precise-to-the-millisecond) type. This, of course, is a part of this album's charm. A very unique atmosphere is created - one of sickness, no doubt, but also of deliberate humour.

Of course, how can I not mention the lyrics? They are sicker than Cannibal Corpses' - too sick to be offensive (to females or whoever) or to be taken seriously. Besides, they consist of words incompherensible to non-psychopathic non-doctors. The fact that all band members vegetarians makes it even funnier and more ironic.

This is sick, ugly music - no one claims otherwise. But I enjoy it, as do many others I know. It is basically a matter of getting used to the sheer brutality and finding the meaning in the mass of sounds. There is plenty of meaning to be found - it is a matter of actively seeking it as opposed to it drawing you in the form of catchy one-liners (Mmm-bop!!!). And that, precisely, is what makes it so much more rewarding.

Review by Rahul Joshi

Review date: 02/1999

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Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious

Carcass - Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious ©1991 Earache
1. Inpropagation
2. Corporal Jigsore Quandary
3. Symposium of Sickness
4. Pedigree Butchery
5. Incarnated Solvent Abuse
6. Carneous Cacoffiny
7. Lavaging Expectorate of Lysergide Composition
8. Forensic Clinicism / The Sanguine Article

As everyone most likely knows, Carcass spent their formative years playing a form of utterly grotesque quasi grindcore while grunting and/or belching about medical terminology. Their first pair of releases are both rather infamous for this approach, though admittedly when I first heard a track from Symphonies of Sickness back in 1990 or so, I mostly giggled at the effort. The result of this initial experience (and a general lack of interest in death metal as it emerged) means I never really kept close tabs on Carcass from that point forwards. Oh sure, I heard Heartwork, like just about everyone else in the 90s, but I never investigated much of their discography.

Necroticisim: Descanting the Insalubrious seems to be a point in the band's career where they actually put forth some effort to unmuddy their sound, introduce clarity and even offer up a bit more traditional sort of riffing. This did coincide with the arrival of one of the finer guitarists in all of death metal, Michael Amott. His contribution as a second guitarist very obviously opened up some new musical doors for the band. Necroticism veers away from the grind world and firmly plants it in a more ambitious and occasional technical type of death metal. The band's trademark lyrical matter was still intact as well as Jeff Walker's vocal approach, but the album no longer gives listeners the impression Carcass was a bit of a novelty act who spent more time looking up medical jargon than practicing their instruments.

That said, Necroticism still falls a bit short as often it wanders into the pitfalls of cramming a number of riffs together without really becoming a song that sticks in my head. One should naturally account for my general lack of enthusiasm for the death metal style, but to me this album still falls short a bit of being truly impressive beyond the actual growth in their musical abilities. In my opinion, their finer days were still to come.

As is the tradition for metal albums, Necroticism has been reissued a couple of times, tacking on somes from the Tools of the Trade EP that came out in 1992. Later reissues also include a DVD side, so if you have the urge to purchase more platters of plastic, these newer versions do exist.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2013

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Carcass - Heartwork ©1994 Earache/Columbia
1. Buried Dreams
2. Carnal Forge
3. No Love Lost
4. Heartwork
5. Embodiment
6. This Mortal Coil
7. Arbeit Macht Fleisch
8. Blind Bleeding The Blind
9. Doctrinal Expletives
10. Death Certificate

Grindcore legends turned death-rock, this album heralds the beginning of their end. Mid-paced rocky (catchy!) thrash that only obscurely hints to their earlier brutality, but is still a somewhat enjoyable listen.

It's Jeff Walker doing the vocals exclusively, and he has one of the most powerful voices in death metal today. Not the gutteral growl typified by Benton or Mullen, but a part black-metal rasp with a slightly nasal delivery. He creates some really great patterns and his natural lilt is specially suited to this sort of vocals. As a pleasant sub-consequence, we're saved from hearing Steer's terrible belches and farts that he somehow manages to make with his throat. Lyrics are no longer the sick and technical gore anthems; instead, we get observations on society and some interesting insights into aesthetics and religion - expressed quite eloquently, I must say. The drums are precise as ever, Owen being one of the great single-foot blasters from the early days of grind. The bass drums have a slightly "clicky" sound to them, and the production in general is not too bass-heavy.

The juxtaposition of brutal grind-like rhythms and open, accessible melody is best exemplified by the title track, where the band goes from a great harmonised melody to a blast+power-chord bowel-churn. Riffs are mostly thrashy heavy metal riffs with definite rock and blues influences. Excellent use of pinch harmonics on this CD and very interesting arrangements all over the place. The solos are inserted in generous amounts at just the right places. These too, interestingly, borrow from two seemingly diametrically opposed schools: bluesy bends and slides, and then sudden flurries of sweeps unmistakably neoclassical. And, mind you, this is no aimless vacillation or identity crisis: these guys are technically gifted and know just what to do with a guitar. Too bad they're not as interesting as they once were.

This is not as terrible as some fanatic early-Carcass worshippers might lead you to believe, but don't listen to that Slaughter of the Soul and Dusk...and Her Embrace fan either. It is a moderately enjoyable album, but prepare to be severely disappointed if you are a grind fan. In fact, in that case, don't bother with this at all. I guess in the name of "progression", other bands that we used to love have committed far worse musical atrocities, so this is an ironic redemption from Carcass from my point of view. But if you've never heard this band before, definitely pick this up. It might not be representative of their career, but is Carcass at their most accessible.

Review by Rahul Joshi

Review date: 04/1999

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Carcass - Swansong ©1995 Earache
1. Keep On Rotting In The Free World
2. Tomorrow Belongs To Nobody
3. Black Star
4. Cross My Heart
5. Child's Play
6. Room 101
7. Polarized
8. Generation Hexed
9. Firm Hand
10. R**k The Vote
11. Don't Believe A Word
12. Go To Hell

Sometimes I think bands deliberately release albums to see exactly how many people are listening to the music rather than feed external expectations of what fans think the band is supposed to be doing. In Carcass' case, their swing from extreme gurgle to actual rock-n-roll context songs baffled and alienated a huge portion of their fanbase. And yet at the same time, did people actually listen to the music? Sure, this is basically rock influenced riff o rama with the only remaining thread to their roots being the death vocals, but it's pretty darned good. The riffs just ooze catchiness and quality, the same way all good rock bands can make guitar riffs speak so loudly. A song like "Keep On Rotting in the Free World" (not a take on Neil Young) is so well written that you will remember it and you will enjoy it. Carcass proves that you don't have to always push the envelope to ridiculous extremes simply to be worthy. Chances are if this album had been released under a different band name, people would not have criticized it one iota. Just another example of how fan prejudice can be destructive.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/1999

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