Carcass: Surgical Steel

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Carcass: Surgical Steel
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Carcass: Surgical Steel
Melodic Death Metal
Nuclear Blast Records
September 13th, 2013
Release length: 47:06
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It’s been a long time overdue, but Carcass has finally returned with new material. Surgical Steel marks the first new album in about seventeen years, and has become one of the most anticipated new releases for 2013. Given the band’s growth from legends of the Goregrind style, to pioneers of the Melodic Death Metal world, then helping to establish the Death ‘n Roll genre, it was impossible to guess what the entire album would be, even after the début of the band’s lead single, “Captive Bolt Killer.” Has Carcass returned to their roots, something later, or is this a wild mash-up of all things Metal that is too varied for its own good?

Surgical Steel starts off in a manner that shows Michael Amott’s influence in the song writing despite not being involved since 2012, and that’s with the guitar solo introduction “1985,” a nod to the band’s initial formation under the name Disattack. Surprisingly, it’s pretty boring, but has a glorious, and much louder approach that reeks of Arch Enemy before fading into the Grindcore-laced “Thrasher’s Abattoir.” A huge contrast to “1985,” this song is laced with fast paced double bass kicks and blast beats, slightly technical riffs that are simply abusive and work well with the signature harsher vocals. This carries well into “Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System,” showing hints of the early Goregrind sound with plenty of melodic hooks and enthusiasm that leads to mandatory and involuntary headbanging at times.

“The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills” sounds as though it were torn straight from Swansong and slapped on as a re-recorded track, but still manages to have some solid hooks and tight changes to the timing that give it enough of a unique modern touch. “Unfit for Human Consumption” hammers away at the listener with a superb mixture of Melodic Death Metal hooks and Grindcore, giving this one a good deal of aggression that is simply impossible to ignore. Some of the technicality in the guitars really stand out to the band’s strongest of periods, and makes you want to pound your fist in the air right along. But, like many others, these aren’t that original for the band, and even suffer from a highly polished audio quality that just takes away the impact the songs carry.

“A Congealed Clot of Blood” is a slower offering with a good deal of catchy areas, but the crisp audio with simpler riffs removes some of the bite. Even the guitar solo suffers, catering more towards an atmosphere that doesn’t work with the lyrical content or established environments, and going on much longer than it should have. “The Master Butcher’s Apron” has a little complexity to the riffs, as well as solid drumming during the faster areas early on. When it slows down, the groove and deeper sound to the guitars really gives it some additional authority, but again finds the song dulling until the climax returns to the start of the song. Even “Captive Bolt Pistol” comes off a bit restrained outside of the Grindcore sections, though definitely one of the better later tracks thanks to some additional technicality in the chords.

It’s great to have Carcass back, and there’s simply no denying this. Unfortunately, Surgical Steel just ends up being really difficult to talk about thanks to Carcass taking this opportunity to revisit every stage of their career, including the short lived two years prior to the shift that became a legendary and highly influential Metal group. In many ways it works, and is commendable. Surgical Steel leaves the listener feeling as though this material may have been sitting around unused for years in each musical shift the band underwent. Given “1985,” and the existence of the song “Thrasher’s Abattoir” from the Disattack-era, this is highly plausible. But, at the same time, it does lead to a good deal of songs that sound similar to one another, come off as rehashed versions of fan favorites, and sometimes oddly generic for a band that helped pioneer these specific sounds. Couple that with the crisp audio quality, and you have a catchy album lacking bite and truly memorable experiences.

Surgical Steel isn’t anything new or impressive, nor does it pick up where the band left off. Instead, it comes off more like an identity crisis with some songs that sound as though they may have been left on the cutting room floor for years for a reason. All in all, this is a pretty standard recordin, even when you compare it to the band’s iconic five full-length albums prior, and, to be perfectly honest, it actually ends up a major let down. Hopefully these faults were just the band shaking off the rust by reintroducing themselves, and the somewhat sterile audio is more a mastering glitch than Colin Richardson’s production, as it sounds like he did a solid job otherwise. In the end, it’s been about seventeen years, and Surgical Steel hardly satisfies.

01. 1985 – 1:15
02. Thrasher’s Abattoir – 1:50
03. Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System – 4:02
04. A Congealed Clot of Blood – 4:14
05. The Master Butcher’s Apron – 4:01
06. Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard – 6:07
07. The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills – 4:10
07. Unfit for Human Consumption – 4:25
09. 316 L Grade Surgical Steel – 5:20
10. Captive Bolt Pisol – 3:17
11. Mount of Execution – 8:25
Initial Pressing Score: 5.5/10

Carcass
Carcass

Digital review copy of this release provided by Nuclear Blast Records.