As you might recall, nearly every metal writer’s Top 10 lists last year was dominated by Liverpool’s other Fab Four…that’s right, Carcass. Surgical Steel, their first album in 17 years, was an unfuckwithable slab of near-perfection that easily held its own against their ’90s classics. So when I heard that an EP of outtakes from those sessions was being released, I was justifiably pumped. Carcass has excelled at the EP format before, and given the high quality of the source material, I had high expectations for Surgical Remission/Surplus Steel.
The first thing that stands out to me about these Surplus songs is the general lack of speed. All of these tracks fall into a comfortable mid-tempo/groove metal tempo, with nary a blast beat to be found. Luckily, Carcass does mid-tempo groove well, as evidenced by opening cut “Wraith In The Apparatus.” This track sports a fairly technical harmonized riff that would not be out of place on Necroticism, and features Bill Steer’s always-welcome backing vocals.
The pulse drops even further for “Intensive Battery Brooding,” a slow-motion crusher that switches abruptly into thrasher mode for its final 45 seconds or so. Those of you who still actually buy CD’s might already know this song from the digipak version of Surgical Steel. The mid-tempo assault continues with “Zochrot” (originally on one of those Decibel flexi-discs apparently), a decent track that suffers only from sounding very similar to the two previous ones.
Sadly, “Livestock Marketplace” is one of those rare moments where Carcass loses the plot completely. Jeff Walker is in Dave Mustaine spoken-word mode here, trying way too hard to be catchy, and…is that clean singing I hear in the background of the chorus? While even a shitty Carcass track is something most bands should aspire to, this one would’ve definitely brought Surgical Steel’s momentum to a halt, and I’m grateful that it was left on the cutting room floor. The EP closes with an extended cut of Steel’s now-infamous intro “1985,” which, as far as I can tell, is identical to the original version except longer.
So, Surgical Remission is hardly the mind-blowing Carcass EP I hoped for, but it is an interesting glimpse into their editing process. I get the impression that the band initially wrote a whole shitload of songs, chose the best and brightest among them for Surgical Steel, and then rightfully demoted the remainders to b-side status. If anything, Surplus Steel shows that these guys know where their strengths lie, and for that I commend them.