The thought of an album of country covers by Carcass main man Jeff Walker should be completely ludicrous. After all, there’s not a trace of country music influence anywhere in Carcass’ music anywhere. And this album has a cover drawn by Larry Welz, creator of adult comic “Cherry”. Had Jeff Walker gone out of his tiny mind?
So what happens when you start listening to it? Well, it’s all a bit weird. Walker croaks the lyrics of these mouldy oldies over a soundtrack of sustained guitar chords which wouldn’t sound too far out of place in a Godflesh song, and simplistic, plodding drumming. There’s what possibly could be violins or maybe synths, a few samples, and some other odd noises too. Yep, there’s little sign of blast beats, death growls, or double kick drums anywhere. For someone who has spent his singing career trying to sound as guttural as possible, singing melodically sounds both a bit foreign and a bit of a relief. Walker is never going to win any prizes for his singing voice, which is often a bit flat. Guests on the album include Billy Gould, Ville Valo, Anathema’s Danny Cavanagh and Carcass members Bill Steer and Ken Owen, but really, there’s not much of any musician’s own identity here.
But then when you mash all these disparate elements together, it comes together in an oddly compelling way. It’s not metal, and it’s not country, but it is engaging. It’s like reading a textbook of medical procedure pictures. You know you shouldn’t want to see the next picture, but you can’t help turning pages, even though each one makes you mildly nauseous, while simultaneously expanding your mind.
Highlights? Well, it depends what you think of the originals. If you’re not a country fan, this is probably good for a laugh. If you are a country fan… There shouldn’t be a problem. Country fans don’t know Carcass exists.
Listening to Jeff Walker gargle through the German lyrics of Pussycat’s “Mississippi” is quite amusing. The doom laden rendition Kenny Rogers’ “I Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” is far more interesting than Children Of Bodom’s speeded up, soulless cover. Hank Williams Snr’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, already a sad song, is dragged back to funeral dirge place, and is so loose it barely holds together in its abject misery. On John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High”, the croak disappears for a wobbly falsetto, and the song sounds like the musicians may have been indulging in some other kind of high.
Probably the only original version of any song here of interest to metal fans is Neil Young’s “Keep On Rocking In The Free World”, and is the only one which even approaches a metal song, with big, chunky riffing, al la Heartwork era Carcass, just not as heavy or fast. Young’s distortion soaked outro is reproduced fairly faithfully, if slightly less chaotic than the original.
While this might sound a lot like a fun novelty album, with little to recommend repeated listens, it is actually kind of compelling. It’s not the sort of thing to put on high rotation, but it’s pretty much the perfect hangover album.