"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.