A lot of bands do comebacks for various reasons. Some seemingly for the money. Reunions are still in boom and there’s no doubt some people who view them cynically. I don’t believe you can say that of Carcass. Now in the sixth year of their reunion, which originally focused solely on reviving the classics, ‘Surgical Steel‘ is how comeback albums should be. It’s not been rushed. It’s refused to be drawn on whatever has gone by in metal since 1996. And in many aspects, for a band that spent their career hopping from one style joint to another, not too much has changed. And that is a blessing.
Crucially, the core duo of Jeff Walker and Bill Steer remain, and if they could pull from any era of their genre hopping history, they couldn’t have done any better than call predominantly on the spirit of their early 90’s era. ‘Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious‘ and ‘Heartwork‘ are stone cold death metal classics, and while ‘Surgical Steel‘ doesn’t quite reach those stratospheric heights, it does make for one of the best comeback records to come from this reunion frenzy of the last few years. Initially, it begins a bit with an instrumental, the short ‘1985’ which could easily fit on, say, one of WASP’s albums – it’s a bit too overture for me, but at least they soon get down to business with ‘Thrasher’s Abattoir’. The first few tracks seem to breeze past, until ‘A Congealed Clot of Blood’ introduces back into the death-groove that Carcass worked so well in 1993. And it’s from that point on that the album gets better as it progresses – for me, always the hallmark of what sets apart the great and the good. ‘The Master Butcher’s Apron’ is part blast either side of a body-slamming mid-section that if played live might yet result in the destruction of a venue or two. ‘Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard’ is six minutes of masterful soloing, precision blastwork and classic groove rolled into one, while ‘The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills is sheer excellence from start to finish. The only let-up is the introduction to the closing ‘Mount of Execution’, which goes from acoustic to another savage dialysis to a suitably riffed outro.
Carcass – Captive Bolt Pistol (official lyric video)
While it's always a shame that original drummer Ken Owen, still paralysed from his brain haemorrhage in 1999, can't be ://here for this glorious reunification in his original role, though he does contribute guest vocals on a couple of the tracks, It's excellent to see that Walker and Steer recognised the future, and in Dan Wilding, the sticksman for Trigger the Bloodshed, they got themselves a diamond. He pushes and pulls at times with effortless ease, dictating the tempo and providing furious roles and some excellent groove patterns. Walker and Steer meanwhile pull extensively from each period of their history. Whatever your favourite period of Carcass, be it the swagger of 'Swansong‘ – which makes fleeting appearance in bits of ‘The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills’, and in which ‘316 L Grade Surgical Steel’ – or ‘Necroticism’, particularly on ‘A Congealed Clot of Blood’; or whichever era of Carcass you continue to hotly debate with fellow worshippers as the best. Fact is, what makes Carcass great is that they create on their terms, their rules. They know what clicks, and few do the tempo shifts and the groove breakdowns better than they have done over their career.
True, it’s significantly more polished than anything from the original Carcass era, but otherwise it’s pretty much everything any Carcass, indeed any metal fan could dream of. They didn’t tinker too much with the dynamics. They didn’t do this for the money. They put the time, the effort, and indeed, their collective experience behind this release, and the collective trust of any respecting fan who was old enough to experience the band’s original career arc has surely been paid back handsomely, and with as much in proverbial blood and guts as before they laid in near-cadaverous state.