Carcass – Surgical Steel


By Ola Mazzuca

In the autopsy room, there’s an abundance of pins and needles. In Surgical Steel, you won’t hear them drop. The return of Carcass is far from quiet, transcending their love affair of all things necro. It is more than an analysis of material released to date. Quite like a final autopsy report, Carcass produced a cumulative account of a connection between band members. Regardless of lyricism and track titles, the blood is audible. And it’s overflowing.

The opulent sound of “1985” introduces Surgical Steel like it is British Royalty. With Colin Richardson’s caliber of production and Andy Sneap behind the mixing board, this progressive track hits all the right notes in every single squeal. The next plunge is inevitable and sharp. A relentless Jeff Walker welcomes listeners to the “Thrasher’s Abbatoir.” It’s a skid’s slaughterhouse wet dream.

There’s a sense of the band saying, “Everybody ready? Yes? Good. No? Too bad,” as they plug along into the technical vortex of tracks to follow. It’s no wonder Carcass has been trying to move away from a grindcore tag, as standard elements of death metal shine. The percussion of new guy Dan Wilding on “A Concealed Clot of Blood” orders a moderate pace before Bill Steer does a bar dive on a graceful interlude.

As we wipe our hands on “The Master Butcher’s Apron,” the dissection isn’t over. “The sun never sets, the blood never dies…Lest we forget,” Walker rasps. It’s homage to those serving the operating table, presumably in times of war, hence the reference to a “West African squadron.”

Intricacy is explosive on “Unit for Human Consumption.” In all its cannibalistic glory, this track embodies the genuine musicianship of Carcass as a whole.

Speed? Check. Blastbeats? Check. A blender of vocal chords versed in growl, rasp and guttural? Of course! Solos bursting like blisters on a dead body? Don’t even ask. It’s a given on the album, and continues on the mega catchy, sing-along worthy “316I Grade Surgical Steel.” With clever lyrics (“exile on maim street”) and ultra melodic, moshpit riffs, refrain from comparing the track to an early Big Four thrash epic. A love song, begging for mercy at the price of Steer’s solo, arteries going through purulence – the discharging of pus – a message rings true in “love is a bitch it maims to please, I’ll see you again once more down on your knees.”

As the record nears closure, the blades never become dull. The gorgeous recess of “Mount of Execution” tones it down a notch in pace rather than consistency. It’s a multi-layered piece that conceptualizes the Sante Muerte, the Spanish Saint of Death, through words of religion, worship and journey. This storytelling session adds great depth, as Carcass examines a cultural symbol from their perspective.

In the track, “Intensive Battery Brooding,” you get what the pathologist ordered – nothing but Carcass. Here, they draft up a final report for Exhibit C, Section 2013: Surgical Steel. A record of solidarity between chaps from Liverpool who sharpened their skills in ’88 to explore what rotting flesh would sound like, to persevere through the age of Grunge before taking a break from the operating room. You could say this band is in a state of post-mortem, but the founding spirit of Carcass is very much alive.

(Nuclear Blast)

9 / 10

Sean is the founder/publisher of; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.