Estimated reading time: 8 minute(s)
So, in anticipation of the most eagerly awaited release of the year, Surgical Steel, I decided to award the mighty Carcass the honors this week. While I have heard Necroticism and Heartwork so often they are imprinted in my DNA, I have only heard Symphonies of Sickness once or twice, and have actually never listened to Reek of Putrefaction in its entirety. Because their discography is a bit short for the week (not counting Wake Up and Smell the…Carcass), I decided to throw in Jeff Walker’s debut on Napalm Death’s debut, Scum (which I’ve also never heard—my buddies and I never really got into grindcore, and my first ND album was actually their recent classic Time Waits for No Slave). I opted against including Jeff Walker’s solo turdburger, Welcome to Carcass Cuntry, for obvious reasons. Since Surgical Steel was being released on Tuesday, I would have several days to build up my anticipation for that first listen. (Given that everything is available immediately these days, some self imposed discipline is needed to heighten the excitement, a la JaPaBo’s refusal to unwrap newly purchased CDs until we arrived home, whereas I would immediately tear off the cellophane the minute we hit the subway station).
So here we go! Now I must say, these albums are all being enjoyed while behind the wheel of an automobile, in this case my brand spanking new Nissan Leaf, which actually has a killer Bose stereo and is quiet as hell even on the highway. Therefore, I have no lyrics or liner notes while listening, and the albums are broken up in at least two segments of driving, so some limitations apply.
Initial impressions: no surprise, this is one fucking brutal album! While even now it provides a kick in the teeth, I can see how it stirred up such a ruckus when it came out in 1987. After the intro sound effects, it’s a nonstop shitstorm of blast beats, with a whirlwind of half intelligible riffs and completely unintelligible, but unmistakably angry barking coming at you from anywhere in bursts from 1.316 seconds to the relatively epic length 2:38, with barely a break to breathe. I was surprised at how decent the production actually is for such a primitive affair, and also at how fully formed their sound actually was at the time; hell, this tracks could easily fit in with their new stuff stylistically despite the total lineup change and 25 years of maturity. (I don’t mean that in a bad way—they’re a band that knows who they are and does it as well as possible, with enough tweaks to keep it interesting.) Also, the songs are suprisingly diverse given their reputation—nice protobreakdown slow sections to cleanse the palate amidst the chaos.
Sorry to Bill Steer that I like every single aspect of the first half more than the second half—the songwriting, production, guitar playing, vocal style—all of it. The full connection of his ND heritage with the later Carcass stuff was not completely clear to me on first listen, until my immersion in RoP. More tomorrow.