Carcass – Torn Arteries (Album Review)

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A more artful display of surgical precision emerges.

Having sliced and diced their way into the annals of death metal’s rich and extensive history since 1986, Liverpool’s own Carcass could be described as just about anything within the spectrum of said sub-genre’s many offshoots. Indeed, their comparatively small yet stylistically extensive body of work since their raw, uncompromising 1988 grindcore-infused debut “Reek Of Putrefaction” has seen them embody every variant save a wholly traditional one, though the concept itself is something of a misnomer when recounting the massive differences that separated seminal classics such as “Leprosy,” “Slowly We Rot” and “Altars Of Madness.” No matter which way the blade cuts, this now veteran quartet has prided themselves on an unconventional approach to song creation that merges a methodical and even tuneful sense of melodic contour with a wildly spontaneous approach to structure that could almost be considered avant-garde if it didn’t contain so many echoes of older metallic elements.

In like fashion, this outfit’s latest excursion into the world of sonic brutality with an infectious edge dubbed “Torn Arteries” presents an assortment of asymmetrically structured assaults on the ear drum that are as aggressive as they are difficult to categorize. Leading the charge is the dueling guttural barks and growls of bassist Jeff Walker and guitarist Bill Steer, each co-founders of this trailblazing brand, showcasing the same balance of rawness and vitality that typified the vocal work of their much lauded 1993 breakthrough melodeath venture “Heartwork.” Indeed, the overall tone and tenor of these songs is something of a finely tuned hybrid of the latter day 90s work of this outfit’s first run, often employing old school heavy and thrash metal elements that seem to run contrary to the album’s cover theme of a heart made of vegetables decaying on a plate, a homage to the Japanese Kusozu concept of a corpse decaying in 9 stages per the band’s own testimony.

Despite being of a technically involved and almost progressive nature, the presentation that emerges from one song to the next is fairly succinct. Swift-paced and punchy thrashers such as the opening title number “Torn Arteries” and the biting yet almost comically named “Eleanor Rigor Mortis” come off as this band’s version of a banger, clocking in at around four minutes in length and balancing a high octane, riff happy assault with frequent groovy breaks that recall the mid-90s stylings of Entombed with a bit more of a flashy edge to the guitar work. Both Bill Steer and one-time Savage Messiah guitarist-turned Carcass affiliated shredder Tom Draper turn in some truly intricate lead guitar work on the Mid-Eastern tinged crusher “The Devil Rides Out”, balancing a lingering sense of melodic melancholy that’s akin to a wailing vocal line with a series of impressive technical gymnastics during the blast beat dominated closing moments.

Indeed, the lion’s share of this album’s highly involved songwriting sessions come in smaller packages, and often draw into question just how so many good ideas could be crammed into a sub-4 minute package. Soaring speed thrashers with gobs of flashy guitar work like “Kelly’s Meat Emporium” and driving yet more measured cruisers like “In God We Trust” sport some highly abrupt yet seamless shifts in feel, rivaling even the most jarring tempo changes that one would associate with the more experimental period of death metal’s first run in the mid-90s. Even when things stick mostly to mid-paced groove territory as on the chunky rocking thuds of “Dance Of IXTAB” and the occasionally chaotic but mostly controlled “Under The Scalpel Blade”, the modus operandi at work here is well outside a typical verse to chorus formula. But as is often the case, the song that really throws things for a loop and showcases this outfit’s ability to mix things up is the massive 9 minute epic “Flesh Ripping Torment Limited”, which can be best described as a highly progressive journey that encompasses just about every outside influence that has ever been incorporated into the death metal paradigm.

As is often the case with a band that has been exploring the fringes of extreme metal since the early days of the concept even existing, Carcass has their eyes firmly fixed on the future, opting for the road of progression and growth rather than attempting to relive the past. Though they have clearly not forgotten where they were back during their ascent to commercial viability in the mid-90s and the stylings behind this highly developed version of their sound will ring familiar for most, “Torn Arteries” is far from a throwback to said era. Much like their de facto Swedish rivals Hypocrisy and At The Gates, this band has not shied away from the trappings of modern production practices and have merged their signature sound to a highly polished and meaty medium, though they have opted to keep the arrangement more stripped down and to the point. It’s maybe a tad shy of matching the greatness that was achieved with “Heartwork,” but it’s definitely the closest they’ve gotten since.

Released By: Nuclear Blast Records
Released On: September 17th, 2021
Genre: Death Metal

Musicians:

  • Bill Steer | Guitar, Vocals
  • Jeff Walker | Bass, Lead Vocals
  • Daniel Wilding | Drums
  • Tom Draper | Guitars

“Torn Arteries” track listing:

 1. Torn Arteries
 2. Dance of Ixtab (Psychopomp & Circumstances March No. 1)
 3. Eleanor Rigor Mortis
 4. Under The Scalpel Blade
 5. The Devil Rides Out
 6. Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited
 7. Kelly’s Meat Emporium
 8. In God We Trust
 9. Wake Up And Smell The Carcass / Caveat Emptor
10. The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing

8.8 Excellent

Continuing on their quest to stretch the borders of death metal to their absolute limit, U.K. born pioneers of goregrind turned melodic death metal extraordinaire outfit Carcass unleash a potpourri of brutal variations on their seventh studio LP

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 9
  • Production 8.5
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