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4.12 | 25 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 2013


1. 1985 (1:15)
2. Thrasher's Abbatoir (1:50)
3. Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System (4:02)
4. A Congealed Clot of Blood (4:14)
5. The Master Butcher’s Apron (4:01)
6. Noncompliance to ASTM F899-12 Standard (6:07)
7. The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills (4:10)
8. Unfit for Human Consumption (4:25)
9. 316L Grade Surgical Steel (5:20)
10. Captive Bolt Pistol (3:17)
11. Mount of Execution (8:25)

Total time 47:06


- Jeff Walker / bass, vocals
- Bill Steer / guitars, vocals
- Daniel Wilding / drums
- Ken Owen / additional vocals

About this release

Release date: September 13, 2013
Label: Nuclear Blast.

Thanks to Time Signature for the addition and adg211288, diamondblack for the updates


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Carcass' comeback album sports cover art reminiscent of the old Tools of the Trade EP which served as the prelude to Heartwork, and it's the melodic death metal style of Heartwork they return to here, backing away from the death 'n' roll direction they had flirted with on the (now inaccurately named) Swansong.

Of course, Carcass producing a new take on the Heartwork sound isn't going to be as groundbreaking today as Heartwork was in 1993, but they've nonetheless produced a solid comeback album that offers more of the same and isn't an embarrassment to their discography - a rarity in itself. Carcass spent a while gigging live - years, in fact - after their reunion before they dared consider producing a new album, which I suspect is the secret of its success; rather than going through the motions and squeezing out a mediocre album for duty's sake, Carcass have waited for inspiration to strike before producing new material, and that's a lesson more reunited bands could afford to learn.
Kev Rowland
Carcass was originally formed by guitarist Bill Steer and drummer Ken Owen in 1985 under the name Disattack. After releasing one demo the bassist and singer left to be replaced by vocalist Sanjiv and bassist Jeff Walker. They changed their name to Carcass and in April 1987, recorded the ‘Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment’ demo, after which vocalist Sanjiv departed leaving the core of Walker, Steer and Owen. They shared the vocal duties, and after just four days the classic ‘Reek of Putrefaction’ was completed. The band, with additional guitarists, released some incredible albums with ‘Necrotiscm – Decanting the Insalubrious’ being probably the highlight, but in 1995 they called it a day.

At the end of the Nineties Ken Owen suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, which meant that when a version of the band reformed in 2007 he could not be involved, so Daniel Erlandsson took his place while Michael Amott, Bill Steer and Jeff Walker played some festivals. So why all the ancient history? Well, it’s important to put into context just how significant this band was in the development of extreme music, and just how great it is to have them back again. Bill Steer and Jeff Walker have brought in drummer Daniel Wilding as Ken is still not well enough to play, and have taken ‘Necroticism’ as a starting point, cranked it up, and then blasted through any preconceived ideas.

This is crushing, crunching, dynamic stuff. The wonderful song titles are still there (“Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System” or “Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard”) for example, but to be honest this is all about complex and complicated metal with guitar runs to die for. Metal really doesn’t get much better than this, with the only question being why on earth has it taken so long for these guys to get back into the studio. Two production heavyweights, Colin Richardson and Andy Sneap, have ensured that every nuance and every ounce of brutality has been captured on what has to be one of the most incredible comeback albums ever. It really is as if these guys have never been away, and anyone who has ever nodded a bonce to their work in the past is going to incredibly pleased with what has been delivered here. Let’s hope that they don’t wait quite so long for the next one.

With this Carcass have proved that they are back with a vengeance – stunning metal that deserves to be played at 11.
"Surgical Steel" is the 6th full-length studio album by UK death metal act Carcass. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in September 2013. It´s been 17 years since the release of their last album "Swansong (1996)", so "Surgical Steel" can rightfully be called a comeback album.

Since it was learned that Carcass would record and release a new album there have been plenty of speculations about the style of music the album would feature. All five predecessors are very different sounding releases. From the goregrind of the early releases, to the death metal of the mid-era releases to the death´n´roll of "Swansong (1996)". Different sounding indeed but all still unmistakably the sound of Carcass. On "Surgical Steel" the band have opted for a sound that is reminischent of their arguably most popular period in the early nineties and the two albums "Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious (1991)" and "Heartwork (1993)". It´s especially the latter that "Surgical Steel" takes it´s cues from, but there are nods toward the more gore oriented death metal style of the former too and also a few nods toward the melodic death´n´roll style of "Swansong (1996)".

Carcass always consisted of the nucleus of Bill Steer (Guitars, vocals), Jeff Walker (vocals, bass) and Ken Owen (drums) (with changing second guitarists), but on this album Ken Owen is replaced by Daniel Wilding (who does a great job). Ken Owen suffered a brain haemorrhage in 1999 and hasn´t been able to join Carcass full time again since. He does deliver some backing vocals on "Surgical Steel" though. Even though the music relies heavily on two guitars, Carcass have opted not to include a second guitarist in the lineup for the recording of "Surgical Steel", so Bill Steer handles all guitars on the album. The vocals by Jeff Walker are snarling, aggressive, and as distinct sounding as ever.

"Surgical Steel" is well produced, powerful, and not too polished sounding. I always felt that "Heartwork (1993)" (which is the album that "Surgical Steel" reminds me the most about) suffered from a cold and sterile sound production, but that´s fortunately not the case with "Surgical Steel". It´s not exactly organic sounding either, but the sound production suits the music perfectly.

The material are generally of high quality and we´re treated to both shorter blasting parts, death/thrashy riffing, melodic solos, and nice harmonies. There is a good balance between the raw and the melodic, and as a consequence the tracks are for the most part catchy and memorable. It´s almost unfair to mention specific tracks as they are all great, but "Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System" and the two closing tracks "Captive Bolt Pistol" (which is the track on the album that is most reminiscent of the material on "Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious (1991)") and "Mount of Execution" are some of the standout tracks on the album.

"Surgical Steel" is upon conslusion a high quality comeback for Carcass and it´s not audible for a second that they have been gone from the scene for so many years (or that they are not twenty anymore). The songwriting is top notch and the delivery is convincing and passionate. "Surgical Steel" won´t revolutionize the world of metal like most of it´s predecessors did, but it´ll most likely greatly please fans of the band and hopefully earn them new ones in the process. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is warranted.
Time Signature
Noncompliance to any standard...

Genre: thrash/melodeath/classic metal

For my money one of the most interesting contributors to the extreme metal scene. The invention of goregrind and melodeath is rightfully attributed to Carcass with their release of “Reek of Putrefaction” and “Heartwork” respectively. But “Symphonies of Sickness” was, I would say, an important contribution to the development of the deathgrind hybrid genre, while “Necroticism...” - one of my all-time favorite albums – was an original technical death metal piece drawing on complex and progressive song structures and juxtaposition of midtempo solid riffage and ferocious blastbeats. Much underrated, “Swansong” is as important a contribution to the development of death 'n' roll as Entombed's “Wolverine Blues” and Gorefest's “Soul Survivor”. Sadly, the band broke up after the release of “Swansong” and was struck by tragedy when founding member and drummer Ken Owen was suffered from a brain hemorrhage and ended up in a coma, causing the post-Carcass project Blackstar (which explored further the traditional heavy metal direction that Carcass had taken on “Swansong”) to dissolve.

Having reunited a couple of times for gigs and festivals, Carcass eventually was reestablished as a band proper and released the much expected “Surgical Steel” in 2013. And, boy, this must be among the most kick-ass comebacks of any rock band in the history of music.

After a hyper-melodic intro in the form of '1985' and its rich Iron Maiden-esque twin guitar harmonies, the album explodes into the aptly titled 'Thrasher's Abbatoir' which combines thrashy riffage (some of which has the same compact quality as Exodus' trademark riffs had back in the day), brief and explosive blastbeats, and old school death metal riffage as well as some more hardcorish elements. The uptempo 'Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System' features both thrashy drums and twin guitar harmonies and is overall a pretty catchy and very memorable track, while 'A Congealed Clot of Blood' is a heavier affair and treats the listener to both doom-laden heaviness and midtempo near-galloping riffs. This song is naturally in an interesting contrast with the blastbeat-based grindcore opening of the following track 'The Master Butcher’s Apron', which in itself is an extremely affair, offering heaviness, thrashiness, melody, and grinding madness as well as crust-inspired guitar leads. 'Noncompliance to ASTM F899-12 Standard' (one of the best song titles from Carcass, by the way) likewise takes the listener through a landscape of blastbeats, classic metal riffage, melodic guitar solos, and uptempo thrash metal, and in all honesty, it's a fucking great track! 'The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills' opens up with a dark but melodic guitar harmony-based intro before a catchy and melodic guitar riff sits in. Exploring primarily melodic and classic metal in this track, Carcass sets up a linkage of sorts between “Heartwork” and “Swansong” with this track, which also features the most rock 'n' roll guitar solo from Carcass to date (perhaps the fruits of Steer's work with the blues rock act Firebird). Also leaning towards “Swansong”, 'Unfit for Human Consumption' rocks hard and is groovy as hell (really the guitar riff in the chorus has a slight Led-Zep-on-speed feel to it), and this track also features a thrashy bridge with a super intense grindcore section as well. A title track of sorts '316L Grade Surgical Steel' is another heavy rocker, while 'Captive Bolt Pistol' draws on “Heartwork”-era thrashy riffage and the grindcore-inspired parts that were used on “Necroticism...”. Perhaps the grand opus of the album 'Mount of Execution' opens with an acoustic intro and then seamlessly combines heavy thrash metal, groovy riffage, and melodic hard rock and classic metal into a sublime melodeath affair.

The Japanese version – which I have – features two additional tracks in the form of 'A Wraith in the Apparatus' and 'Intensive Battery Brooding'. The former is a heavy and groovy midtempo affair which is slightly reminiscent of the songs on “Necroticism...” albeit less complex in structure and more melodic. The latter is even heavier and even groovier, and both tracks go well together with the album proper, as it were.

The production is super well defined, and the guitars are both razor sharp and heavy-sounding (perhaps the bass could be more audible – but it is the in the background, providing an important bottom). Performance-wise, there is nothing at all to criticize about the album which displays a very high degree of musicianship across the board. Jeff Walker's sneering vocals have not changed since “Swansong” and suit the thrash-rock-melodeath style on this album perfectly.

“Surgical Steel” has more in common with “Heartwork” and “Swansong” than with the two first albums, and there is also a slight feel of “Necroticism...” here, too. This will probably disappoint those few people who were hoping for some “Reek of Putrefaction”-styled grindcore madness. Since I prefer “Necroticism...”, “Heartwork” and “Swansong” to the two first albums, I have absolutely nothing at all against “Surgical Steel” - on the contrary, I think it's a brilliant album. Now, do not think that we are dealing with a completely retrospective album here. It is true that there are many pointers to the previous three albums on “Surgical Steel”, but Carcass are known to reinvent themselves on every album they have released, and “Surgical Steel” also brings something new to the Carcass sound. For instance, they use guitar harmonies to a larger extent than on any previous album, and they sound thrashier than ever on “Surgical Steel”, too.

In any case, we are dealing with an excellent metal album here showcasing Carcass' ability to seamlessly combine elements from various metal genres into one well-integrated sound which is characterized by melody, flow, and aggression.
Whether you like their evolution as a band or not, there’s not much debate regarding the huge impact that Carcass has made on the extreme metal landscape - after all, how many other groups can you think of that pioneered the grindcore style before leading their country’s death metal scene and eventually helping create melodic death metal? With that in mind, it’s no surprise that 2013’s Surgical Steel (their first album in seventeen years) was met with high expectations, and whilst it may be a letdown to folks hoping for Symphonies of Sickness Part Two, Surgical Steel is a fine example of a comeback album done right. The lyrics are as gore-soaked as ever, the musicianship is as professional as it gets, and the songwriting is powerful as hell, but most importantly, this feels like a Carcass album. The band’s ability to make utterly brutal metal that still sounds memorable has not faltered even after years of silence, and that’s what ultimately makes Surgical Steel a monumental death metal opus.

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