Surgical Steel

Much like my compadre Nick E’s review of this year’s other mega high profile, reunion release in Gorguts‘s Colored Sands, one has to wonder if there is really a need for a review of a release of this magnitude? Arguably the inventors of melodic death metal and a legendary band with 4 certifiably classic, game changing releases to their name, Carcass need no introduction or fanfare, especially as fans have been waiting 17 years to erase the bad taste of Swansong.

So here are original members Jeff Walker, who delivers almost all of the vocals with bright eyed rasp and vigor, and Bill Steer resurrecting Carcass almost 20 years later in arguably the most anticipated reunion/comeback release not just this year, but ever in metal (the Gorguts is close mind you). And with the aid of drummer Daniel Wilding (The Soulless, ex Aborted, ex Aosoth) and relative unknown Ben Ash on guitars, the comeback is an unmitigated success.

Even with only 2 original members, Walker and Steer have ensured foremost that Surgical Steel is instantly recognizable as a Carcass record. That being said, I should clarify and cement this is not Reek of Putrefaction or Symphonies Carcass but rather a sound that’s forged somewhere between Necroticism and heavily rooted in Heartwork. In fact, I’m comfortable stating that Surgical Steel would have been a perfect bridge release either between those two landmark releases or even served as the band’s real swansong back in 1996. This is melodic, catchy and free from the gurgle gore grind of the band’s early career (though more Bill Steer vocals would have been cool). This is polished, precise Carcass, so if you were one of the folks that was up in arms when Heartwork was released, (as I initially was but have since warmed up to it), you might be a little let down by this comeback. However, those that hold Heartwork in high esteem will be blown away as too how good and nostalgic Surgical Steel is over twenty years after Heartwork divided fans.

Colin Richardson, who produced the band’s landmark releases, was called in to twiddle the knobs and thusly it sounds a lot like Heartwork in the production department, even with Andy Sneap jumping in to finish mixing and mastering. But it’s Steer and Walker’s songwriting and lyrics (still medical but not gore filled) that steals the show, as I mentioned, culling mostly from Necroticism and Heartwork, though the album’s latter quarter seems to dip into more melodic, dare I say Swansong realms (especially the last tune “Mount of Execution”, unquestionably the album’s weakest cut) after a pretty aggressive first 3/4.

Opening instrumental “1985” heralds the band’s return with a short but glorious intro into the short, sharp burst of “Thrasher’s Abattoir” which could have come from Necroticism, as the band seemed to intentionally deliver something aggressive as heck right out of the gate to satiate old school fans. But then the album settles into it’s more melodic tone with “Conveyor Pouch Cadaver System” with an unmistakeably Carcass-ian melodic refrain and the album is truly set in motion as the band deliver some of their best material ever, especially the stunning duo of “Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard”, “The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills”, the album’s two best cuts. But other than the aforementioned meandering closer, every track is classic melodic Carcass, from the throb and groove of “A Clot of Congealed Blood”, the hack and slash and even blast beats of “The Master Butcher’s Apron” and “Unfit for Human Consumption” which could have literally been a lost track from the Heartwork sessions. “316 Surgical Grade Steel” is where the Swansong (which again I warmed up to a little bit in preparing for this review) vibe creeps in, but is catchy as heck before the album’s first single “Captive Bolt Pistol”, delivers a bit of an noncommittal if energetic mix of styles. It’s a shame the album ends on the 8 minute “Mount of Execution” as it’s a bit of a yawner and the only blight on an otherwise brilliant album, exhuming a Swansong stench that most fans really wanted to forget. But it’s a small misstep on an otherwise stunning comeback.

Carcass can thank the likes of Exhumed, Aborted, General Surgery, The County Medical Examiners for keeping the Carcass worship alive over the last 17 years, but the masters have returned to claim their throne and somehow returned better than ever. Whether this a one time reunion and real swansong or a new chapter in a storied legacy, Surgical Steel is sure to divide fans yet again, and have the same impact as the band did 20 years ago.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
September 2nd, 2013


  1. Commented by: Staylow

    Excellent, spot on review man. One of my favorites so far this year, and probably the best “comeback” album I’ve ever heard.

  2. Commented by: Luke_22

    This is better than I could have imagined it would be. Probably my album of the year so far. Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard and The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills are definite standouts but it smokes from start to finish. The last track is a bit of a detour and a tad too long, but i actually dig it quite a bit. Also, Steer’s solos are top notch. Great write-up.

  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    fuuuuuuck I need to hear this, the two tracks I’ve found streaming online blew me away.

  4. Commented by: Juan Manuel Pinto

    Only two original members? Out of three? Not bad, I’m not complaining about that. And don’t forget to also thank Impaled for keeping Carcass worship alive

  5. Commented by: E. Thomas

    Fuck- i cant believe i forgot to mention Impaled- and i LOVE Impaled

  6. Commented by: vugelnox

    It’s a strong comeback no doubt but with Necroticism and Heartwork being so timeless one has to wonder if it’s really necessary. I’m having a difficult time answering that question.

  7. Commented by: Johnny

    mount of execution is a fucking masterpiece…great comeback album, amazing to have them back. seeing them soon in glasgow too with amon amarth.

  8. Commented by: Guilliame

    Kicks ass.

    Yeah, don’t forget Impaled!

  9. Commented by: bdomijan

    and i shall second and third the whole IMPALED vote as well…….”The Dead Shall Dead Remain!!!!!”…..\m/\m/

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