ALBUM: Carcass – “Surgical Steel”
LABEL: Nuclear Blast
GENRE: Death Metal
RATING: 6.0 / 10
I love Carcass. I really do. They’re one of the most important bands in death metal history. I still spin the classics like “Heartwork” and the grossly underrated “Swansong” and of course “Necrotism”, but for whatever reason, something about this “Surgical Steel” album that should have made it one of 2013’s finest records is just not there. And I have my suspicions about what it may be.
First of all, the musicianship is fantastic. There are enough cool leads and solos throughout this record to satiate your needs for that kind of thing for an entire year’s worth of releases. Bill Steer has always known what to do with the guitar in his hands, and he does his thing very well on this one too. Though the leads aren’t as instantly catchy or groovy as the aforementioned masterpieces from the ‘90s, they’re all still fun to hear if you have any desire in your heart to hear finely performed guitar licks.
Much like the guitar work, everything Jeff Walker does is ace as usual as well. His growl has not aged a bit in over a decade. He still rips and tears through the lyrics’ flowery vocabulary with precision and excellent enunciation. The bass is even noticeable and sounds pretty groovy too.
However, despite all that, the album does contain a few glaring weaknesses that ultimately kill it, at least for me. The drumming, courtesy of Daniel Wilding, includes a multitude of blastbeats that really just don’t compliment this band’s strengths. I’m sure there are many out there who love it, but for me, I just don’t hear the fit. Don’t get me wrong. I love blastbeats. Most of the time, I can’t get enough of them. But for a band with such an ability to find a more traditional groove and with songs on their resume like “Black Star” and “No Love Lost”, the introduction of a plethora of blasting just seems a little counterintuitive.
The songwriting itself falls a little flat for me as well. When I first discovered Carcass, I was hooked within minutes of hearing them. There were songs that I’d listen to time and time again. There were tracks I wanted to learn on guitar. There were tracks I wanted to let friends hear. With “Surgical Steel”, that feeling just isn’t there. I feel like I’m left willing myself to want to like it because it’s Carcass, but I just can’t. Maybe I’ve just grown up, and my expectations for an old band’s new releases are unreasonably high. Maybe the band members themselves have just changed. I don’t know.
All I can tell you is that I’ve heard this album a few times all the way through now, and I can’t for the life of me mention any moment of any song that I thought was cool enough to remember. And that’s sad. This is Carcass. THE Carcass. Maybe they should’ve stayed away and stayed legendary.
Review by: BH