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Review: Carcass - Surgical Steel
Surgical Steel

Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Year released: 2013
Duration: 47:02
Tracks: 11
Genre: Death Metal

Rating: 4/5

Review online: August 15, 2013
Reviewed by: Christopher Foley
Readers Rating
Surgical Steel

Rated 4.18/5 (83.64%) (33 Votes)

I think I can happily skip a lot of the pleasantries here, by now I think anyone reading should know who Carcass is. It's kind of bizarre listening to the finished product, as for a lot of people (myself included) Surgical Steel is something that didn't seem possible a few years back.

With the announcement of a new album, waves of questions were sent spiraling through any Carcass fan's mind: "Is this going to continue along the Swansong path? Are they going to incorporate any of their old grind? Can Bill, Jeff and the lads still cut it?" and so on so forth, although I think the most important question, and one I'll answer straight off the bat would be "will it be/is it any good?"

The answer is a big fat yes, and on many levels too, although it isn't as godly as some might want you to believe. As a "reunion" album this is about as good as it gets, Carcass pick up right where Heartwork left off and across the board Surgical Steel sounds like a Carcass album. It's all here: Jeff Walkers' snarls, Bill Steers' jaw-smashing riffs, Colin Richardson's superb production, and most impressively drummer Daniel Wilding's channeling of Ken Owens spirit. I've heard a lot of people describe Surgical Steel as a cross between Heartwork and Necroticism, which is something I want to address. I've been listening to the aforementioned releases in conjunction with Surgical Steel over the last few days, and I've got to say I just don't hear it; Heartwork, you fucking bet, Necroticism, nah. I will say there is a definite increase in blast beats when compared with Heartwork, although that's about as close as I feel they come to recapturing any semblance of the Necroticism sound; so seriously, don't go in expecting any of the riffing style, or atmosphere of said release. In fact I'd say there was more Swansong in here than Necroticism.

Getting back to the new album then, like I've said, it definitely takes a leaf out of the Heartwork book; in fact this could have easily been the album they released after it. The whole album follows the molds of tracks such as "This Mortal Coil" and "Embodiment" which I've found particularly evident in Surgical Steel tracks such as "A Congealed Clot Of Blood", "The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills", "Noncompliance to ASTM F899-12 Standard" and "Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System". Oh yeah, if you hadn't given a look over the track list by now you'll see it's Carcass through and through. In some parts I've come to be reminded of Arch Enemy, which might ruffle a few feathers, although it's merely an observation. I've found these aspects highlighted in some of the weaker portion of tracks such as "316L Grade Surgical Steel" or even the aforementioned "A Congealed Clot Of Blood". Kind of weird considering a certain Mr. Amott wasn't involved with the album, it makes me wonder how similar in style him and Bill really were.

Speaking of weaker moments, whilst Surgical Steel stands as an excellent return, it certainly isn't without its flaws. For one, I think some of the songwriting feels a little stuck on autopilot in certain places, especially around the middle of the album where some variation could have helped. I also feel that Jeff's vocals, whilst still sounding great, are slightly lacking in conviction; he doesn't sound as pissed off as he used to. Also, whilst the production itself is spot on, I think the mix is maybe a little too clean, wiping away some of that Carcass grime I was hoping to be covered in after my first listen.

I've ended up going on quite a bit, but to be fair, a new Carcass album is a fucking big deal, and there were certainly a few things I wanted to get across. When Surgical Steel is good it really kicks your teeth in, and even when it feels as though they're going through the motions the album never becomes trite or boring. Tracks such as "Thrasher's Abattoir", "Noncompliance to ASTM F899-12 Standard", "Captive Bolt Pistol" and the majestic "Mount Of Execution" are what I'd count amongst the highlights here, and prove Carcass still have the chops to be relevant over ten years after their last full-length. It's bloody great to have them back!

Other related information on the site
Review: Despicable (reviewed by Michel Renaud)
Review: Heartwork (reviewed by Christopher Foley)
Review: Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious (reviewed by Lars Christiansen)
Review: Symphonies of Sickness (reviewed by Scott Murray)
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