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2020: The Year In Metal

Jesus fucking christ, guys. You know what kind of year this was. And if somehow you forgot what 2020 was, consider this: over the past 12 months, I have only managed to audition 52 new albums, or 1 per week. That’s something like 40% my usual workload. Do you have albums that I missed?

Carcass -- Despicable
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CarcassDespicable

★★★☆ Let me just get this off my chest: THIS IS BARELY AN EP, DAMMIT. Still, you know I can’t deny Carcass. And I gotta say, this four-song collection feels just like the goregrind-defining material on Necroticism, the band’s 1991 objective masterpiece. And yet, these four tracks do a great job illustrating the breadth of Carcass’ influence on both grindcore and melodic death metal.

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Re: Band Of The Week: Carcass

Thanks for this. Having revisited these albums with the “Pathologist’s Report” reissues a few years back, I can say I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment.

As for Surgical Steel, although for nostalgic reasons alone I also would not rate it above Necroticism or Heartwork, I encourage you to give it more time.

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Surgical Steel

To the moment we’ve all been waiting for! Surgical Steel. In a way, my plan for the week backfired a bit, since my brain is thoroughly Carcass-addled after my immersion in their oeuvre. It’s very likely I looked like an idiot, or possibly a madman, as I was incessantly humming riffs sotto voce in the hospital halls this weekend in between (and even sometimes while—I couldn’t stop) examining patients.

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Heartwork

Heartwork is a 41 minute, 10 track masterclass in heavy metal songwriting that should be required listening by all new bands before they try to record an album. “You think you’ve got the goods? Listen to this and then get back to me!” Where as in the prior album Carcass expanded their sound and style to the highest degree, with complicated, almost progressive arrangements, long songs, and baroque lyrics and solo titles, everything about this album is about economy (well, except what it cost to record it, methinks).

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Tools of the Trade E.P.

This is a nice little nugget, presumably recorded during the Necroticism sessions given the consistent sound. Like what was to be found on the Heartwork E.P., the title track of this one is as good or better than some of the album tracks, but something about it (maybe the somewhat comical lists in the verses) kept it from quite fitting with the whole of the album.

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Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious

Now we’re talking. Does heavy metal get any better than this? I can still remember a little chill up my spine when I heard the first little Maidenesque harmony guitar fill, popping up like magic out of the detuned background. To me, this said: expect the unexpected–”sure, we’ve got the murder scene photos on the cover, the ridiculously pretentious title, and the faux med school lyrics, but we’ve also got this, so stick with us.”

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Reek Of Putrefaction

OK, so on to grindgore classic Reek of Putrefaction! I can remember first hearing bits of this album freshman year in college from an early (and decidedly nonmetal) hipster on vinyl, looking at the cover, and thinking: “what is this shit?!?” It was just too much for me at the time–what can you do?

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Symphonies Of Sickness

Is there any metal band that has progressed more from one album to the next than Carcass between their first two releases? Here is where the pieces start to come together, though they are not quite complete. With SoS, their new ambition and scope becomes evident with longer, more intricate compositions, a few solos and melodies that are clearly more thought out than on RoP.