Michael Schenker once said that when punks finally learned to play their instruments, the music would be called metal. Whether he was being facetious or remarkably astute, he was correct. Carcass, with roots firmly planted in the fledgling mid-80s grindcore scene, created ‘Necroticism: Descanting The Insalubrious’, an album widely hailed as one of the all-time greats in death metal. The progress in the years since the release of the bloody pulp of ‘Symphonies Of Sickness’ and the indecipherable white noise of ‘Reek Of Putrefaction’ was remarkable. The punks had indeed learned to play their instruments. Because the band approached the music from a different background to traditional death metal bands, Carcass were not constrained by its invisible but impenetrable boundaries, and “Necroticism…” is not strictly a pure death metal album, but contains a grindcore component. Carcass’ 1987 debut album ‘Reek Of Putrefaction’ was a balls-out one-riff-per-song blast, with only one song passing the three minute mark, while many were considerably shorter, as was the old grindcore tradition. Fast forward to 1992 and the band’s songwriting and composition skills had developed to the point where songs were now six or seven minutes. Riff after riff was strung together, like a DNA double helix. Carcass adapted many songwriting conventions, like introductions, and rudimentary choruses, but part of the charm of this album is the delight they took in throwing in an unexpected blast passage or discordant solo. Ken Owen’s drumming in particular had matured from frenzied flailing, where he seemed to hit as many drums as possible as rapidly as he could, to a powerful, fluid and accurate sound, part death, part grind.
Part of the problem (or part of the appeal, depending on how you look at it) with Carcass’ first two albums was the indistinct guitar sound. It was loud and blurred, and so poorly defined it is near on impossible to hear what Bill Steer was playing, but was probably true to the band’s live sound at the time. However, producer Colin Richardson reassembled Carcass’ wall of noise on this album, brick by brick, so the riffs and solos shared and traded by Steer and new boy Michael Amott are crisp and clear, yet heavy and menacing. The opening passage of “Lavaging Expectorate Of Lysergide Composition” bounces along like an Iron Maiden riff on steroids.
Many bands missed the point of Carcass’ lyrics and copied the gore theme while trying to be as offensive as possible. Jeff Walker’s lyrics have a hidden depth to them. Yes, there are horrific gory passages, which are designed to shock. Behind the medical dictionary verbosity though, lies a witty, satirical sense of humour. Each song has a story to tell. Opener “Inpropagation” is a tale of using human remains as fertiliser. “Incarnated Solvent Abuse” is a recipe for creating glue from rendered down corpses, while “Lavaging Expectorate Of Lysergide Composition” explains how to get high from chemicals created by decaying bodies. Perhaps most repugnant is “Pedigree Butchery”, in which human babies are processed as dog food, with wonderful lines like “Rheological, twisted nursery chymes/The fluxing of the defleshed/Paedophilosophical, carnage knowledge/As the illegitimate to the domesticated is fed”. The lyrics are still completely indecipherable without a lyric sheet, while Walker took on a bulk of the vocal duties, rather than the three way sharing of the previous albums.
The overall sound of this album was far removed from Carcass’ early albums, and quite a distance from most death metal bands of the time, except perhaps Bolt Thrower. Before ‘Necroticism: Descanting The Insalubrious’, Carcass had been a bit of a cult band in death metal circles, too chaotic to gain wide acceptance, but their perverse lyrical bent was much appreciated. After this album’s release however, all things gory and grindy in the underground were loudly professing their love for Carcass. So imposing is this album that few bands have ever tried to imitate it’s sound, and none have ever succeeded, not even Carcass.