Album of the Week 38-2013: Carcass – Surgical Steel


Comeback records are usually either a stain on a band’s discography or a brilliant revival of the band. Very seldom are comeback records what ‘Surgical Steel’ is: the logical next step in a band’s carreer. Although it’s been twenty years since ‘Heartwork’ came out, it won’t take long to realize the same band is working here. In fact, Colin Richardson’s production job makes the ‘Heartwork’ references even stronger. But even without seeing this as the logical successor to that album, ‘Surgical Steel’ is a highly enjoyable album. Much to my surprise, actually, being a little sceptical if the band was still able to pull off some magic.

Style-wise, ‘Surgical Steel’ probably lies somewhere between Carcass’ last two studio albums ‘Heartwork’ and ‘Swansong’. Even though some of the vicious aggression of parts of ‘Heartwork’ is missing (only opening track ‘Thrasher’s Abattoir’ fittingly contains such aggression), I like the more melodic approach of the band that is especially present on the second half of the record. New kid Dan Wilding – who wasn’t even born yet when Carcass was founded – does an impressive job replacing Ken Owen with a technically more proficient – if less remarkable – performance.

The album’s true hero, however, is Bill Steer. The band’s founding guitarist is all over the album with awesome riffs, fantastic and memorable guitar solos and – always a delight to yours truly – mind-blowing twin guitar leads. And with him being the only guitarist on the album, he even does the unthinkable with recording two vastly different kinds of guitar solos. The bluesy feel that in the past had generally been Michael Amott’s contribution to the lead parts is represented by Steer just as well as the more classically inspired Metal solos. A brilliant move that contributes to some amazing solo duels Steer engages in with himself.

As I’ve said before, ‘Surgical Steel’ is enjoyable in its first half, but really shines on the latter half. The melodic sensibilities and slightly more inventive songwriting accounts for the album’s most enjoyable moments and possibly the best sequence of four songs in Carcass history with ‘Noncompliance To ASTM F 889-12 Standard’, ‘The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills’, album highlight ‘Unfit For Human Consumption’ and ‘316L Grade Surgical Steel’. Don’t look at me, I didn’t make up these titles. All brilliantly written songs with fantastic melody lines, awesome Metal riffs and breathtaking leadwork. And isn’t that why we all like Metal in the first place?

My expectations for ‘Surgical Steel’ weren’t that high, but I think they may have surpassed the expectations of many who did have good hope for it as well. ‘Surgical Steel’ is a festival of great riffing and lead work first and foremost, but Jeff Walker hasn’t sacrificed any of his power and Wilding does a more than commendable job. And with the melodic Death Metal market being far, far beyond the point of saturation, why not have a listen to the people who originated the scene. And then again: listen to the intro track ‘1985’ and tell me that’s not melodic Metal bliss!

Recommended tracks: ‘Unfit For Human Consumption’, ‘Noncompliance To ASTM F 889-12 Standard’, ‘316L Grade Surgical Steel’, ‘1985’

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