Carcass - Surgical SteelWhat time is it? It’s motherfucking Carcass time, people. If you’re anything like me, you felt cheated by their “final” album Swansong back in ’96, and the legions of Heartwork-inspired posers failed miserably to fill the void. You may have given up hope on any kind of closure, until the band’s return to live work in 2007. Since then, it’s been a waiting game, a simple “will they or won’t they” concerning new music. And now, after a 17-year wait, the answer comes in the form of the brilliantly-titled Surgical Steel, one of the most impressive comeback records in metal history.

After the classic-metal intro “1985,” Carcass immediately begin kicking you in the gonads with the self-explanatory “Thrasher’s Abbatoir.” Then, on “Cadaver Pouch Conveyer System,” everything finally comes together — the harmony guitars, the blast beats, the ridiculously academic lyrics. It’s the first true “fuck yeah” moment from an album that has an absurdly high concentration of them.

If the song titles are any indication, vocalist Jeff Walker has avoided the band’s legendary medically-inspired lyrics, writing instead about animal rights issues with an approach that is every bit as technical, disconnected, and gory. Carcass always had a subtle pro-animal/vegetarian slant, but a song titled “Captive Bolt Pistol” leaves little room for interpretation (Google it). Cattle Decapitation, eat your heart out. Original drummer Ken Owen may be sidelined, but new guy Dan Wilding does a fantastic job behind the kit. He is able to channel the key elements of his predecessor’s style, although with a slightly more technical approach at times (see: “The Master Butcher’s Apron”). And for what it’s worth, Owen himself makes a guest appearance on vocals. A nice touch.

Carcass - 2013I’d also like to say a few words about one of my favorite human beings: the prettiest man in death metal, Mr. William G. Steer. Everything great about Carcass‘ guitar style is taken to a whole new level here — the first 60 seconds of “Non Compliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard,” for instance, contain several of the coolest things they’ve ever done. The riffs that anchor these songs are both catchy and vicious, and Steer’s lead work is even tastier than it was back in the ’90s. Even when he busts out the acoustic guitar for epic closer “Mount of Execution,” it doesn’t seem ballady or out of place. This record is a concentrated dose of everything that makes Bill Steer awesome, and listening to it will ruin you for other metal guitarists forever. If you were concerned that he lost his edge, or that Mike Amott was necessary to the equation in any way, rest assured that this is not the case. (And yes, Steer does handle some vocals as well. Kick ass.)

Against impossible odds, Surgical Steel is somehow about as good as Heartwork or Necroticism. It kicks the living shit out of 1996’s Swansong and it makes the last 15 years of imitators laughably obsolete. Fans of Carcass‘ earlier, grindier years will find little to enjoy here, but they can fuck off (or listen to General Surgery). I typically have little faith in “comeback” albums, and I was fully prepared for this album to take a hot steamy dump all over the legacy of one of my favorite bands. But somehow, Surgical Steel capably channels the classic Carcass sound and upgrades it for modern-day warfare. Walker and Steer have mentioned in recent interviews that their only goals were to match previous career highs Necroticism and Heartwork, and to reclaim their sound from their many imitators. Mission fucking accomplished, gentlemen.

Rating: 5.0/5.0 — More like Crackus.
Label: Nuclear Blast [ EU | US ]
Release Dates: 
EU: 2013.09.13 | UK: 2013.09.16 | US: 09.17.2013

Share →
  • I have a single complaint about this record: what the fuck is with the peaking? This doesn’t need to be mastered to the point where there is audible peaking. How about backing off a bit?

    Other than that, brilliant record.

    • That does seem odd given that a “Full Dynamic Range” Heartwork CD has just been released – and it sounds bloody great.

      • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

        Harry – is this new version better than the re-mastered “Heartwork” from a few years ago that sounded like ass?

        • I haven’t heard the re-mastered version so I can’t compare it to that. But it certainly sounds better than the CD I bought a decade ago. This new version is also available for download too.

          When Heartwork was released I bought it on cassette of all things. Madness.

          • mike gager

            i had heartwork on cassette as well!

    • thedizzle

      uhhh… First, you’re listening to a leaked bootleg… Second, you’re listening to a leaked bootleg MP3… Third, how do you know that what you think you’re hearing was done in mastering? It could have just as easily been done in tracking, in mixing, or even intentionally. I think the version that’s out sounds AMAZING and doesn’t detract AT ALL from the music/songs.

      • We always receive legal copies and we only review legal copies. If you used monitors or high def equipment you’d hear the peaking.

      • Why would you assume we use leaked bootlegs?

        • Realkman666

          Idiocy and assumptions. They go hand in hand.

          • Kim Sørensen

            I’m done with albums mastered like this.. i just can’t stand it no matter how good the music is

            So many albums that are actually recorded and mixed just fine have already been butchered by the brickwall mastering

          • Realkman666

            Is there a list somewhere of good quality modern metal albums?

          • Kim Sørensen

            Not as far as i know

      • soopermouse

        it’s Sneaped.

  • Michael Imbornoni

    Oh great, another album I’ll have to get. Hope it lives up to the hype.

    Good review.

  • Excentric_1307

    Damn. I have to wait until the 17th to buy this?

  • MeatWolf

    Is this the first record rated 5.0 on AMG?

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      There’s been a few, but it’s rare.

    • First in a long time. Though, certainly, this Carcass is no White Wizzard.

      • >: (

        I still stand by my perfect score for that new White Wizzard album. I’m still listening to it every now and then and thoroughly enjoying the first half of the album. Second half of the album seems less catchy than before now, but still enjoyable nonetheless.

        • I’m sorry to hear that. I can’t think of any standard by which White Wizzard was a perfect record. Competent and enjoyable, sure. Perfect? Never.

          • RU63

            I’m going to take a shot in the dark here . . . I think White Wizzard getting a 5.0 on your site makes you angry.

          • You guessed right.

        • Eryops

          I would have found your reply more sincere if you had actually named _The Devil’s Cut_ in your reply, rather than referring to it as ‘…that new White Wizzard album.’ I also think it kicks all sorts of ass, but maybe not quire five stars worth.

          • “More sincere”?

          • Eryops

            As in, “It was such a memorable 5/5 that I actually know the name of the album and I’m not afraid to use it.” Of course, context does not translate well over the internet, even if everyone’s speaking the same language.

        • RU63

          Storm Chaser is on the second half and my kids love it; thus I have to listen to it almost every day (multiple times) and I’m not sick of it.

  • thedizzle

    I love the positive review, but I have to say that if you weren’t saying “fuck yeah” right off the bat with “Thrasher’s Abbatoir”, then you’ve missed something, my friend.

  • hubcapiv

    This makes me very happy. For me, 2013 has been a year of “it’s OK…I guess” follow-up albums. So I couldn’t be more pleased that the new Carcass lives up to the old Carcass. Renews my faith in humanity.

  • Sui

    Thanks for the review. But explaining a bit more why it’s 5/5 would be welcome for relatively newcomers and laymen like myself.

    I get that this album will bring up nostalgia for many (sadly I’m not one of them, joining the party late), and Carcass is a legendary name. But does re-making the classic sound really quantify it’s perfec score? Is it really heads and shoulders above other dm albums this year? These might be stupid questions, but classic sounds can be dated and unappealing for some. Saying that, I like the song posted though.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Fair question, Sui. If I thought this album was just a nostalgia trip, I would not have given it a perfect score. (I think we gave the new Black Sabbath a 3.5 or something.) I don’t feel that this album is a remake of anything in particular, and I don’t think it’s dated whatsoever. Yeah, it’ll sound great to the old school fans, but it does manage to expand on the Carcass sound as well. And musically, it’s a flawless fucking victory.

      (Seeing as how you’ve heard just the one song — trust me on this one.)

      • Sui

        Good to know that. I got the impression of ‘remaking’ because of the Heartwork comparison. I finally heard that album like one year ago and I quite liked it. But I got really pumped for some of the newest sounds, like Sophicide. But yeah, definitely will give it a serious spin after it comes out.

    • Knobber Jobbler

      Its not really remaking it, its not a carbon copy of any previous album but it unmistakably a Carcass album and a good one at that.

      Its not a 90’s melo-death nostalgia record either, its genuinely that good on its own merits. With the exception of one album by a certain Swedish band its probably the best melo-death album to come out since Heartwork.

      • Sui

        Copying previous album is definitely not what I meant. The sound, e.g., riff, songwriting, production, I referred to those elements.

        I didn’t conclude this is a bad album (and nostalgic album can be very good, Just Before Dawn comes to mind). I expect it to be good. The skeptic I have is whether it is a perfect album (or whether will be for me, haven’t heard the entire album), which I believe is reasonable. Not rant, just after-reading thoughts.

        • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

          Well, it obviously sounds like it was written by the same band, and they have a right to sound like themselves. It’s not a deliberate rehash of the old stuff though. As far as being a “perfect album”…well, that’s pretty subjective. Ha!

          • Sui

            Of course. I’d happy if it is as good as heartwork.

        • Full marks doesn’t necessarily mean perfect. It is merely the highest score an album can receive. Don’t get hung-up on the score, the text of the review is more important.

          • Sui

            Fair enough.

  • I don’t think this is a perfect album, but I pre-ordered it together with the shirt anyway. I think Heartwork is still Carcass’s best melo-death album to date!

  • Thanks for the great review and the 5/5 rating. Carcass rules and this album is awesome, with ingenious riffing and lovable vocals. By the way, I loved Swansong to bits, one of my favourite albums ever. So groovy!

  • Francesco Bordoni

    Oh look! AMG just dropped new Carcass’ review! Before reading it let’s take a look at the ratOH CHRIST 5.0 OH CHRIST OH CHRIST THE RECORD I’M PAINFULLY LONGING TO LISTEN SINCE JUNE ALSO GOT A 5.0 AT AMG 17TH SEPTEMBER WILL ALWAYS BE TOO LATE

    Ahem. Anyway, great review and thanks again for making this a painful yet awesome day!

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      You’re welcome!

    • Amelia

      I’m glad I’m not the only one for whom the only possible response to the prospect of a new Carcass album is squealing and exciting flailing

      • Francesco Bordoni

        You really should have seen me and a friend of mine listening for the first time to Captive Bolt Pistol together ahahahah

  • André Snyde Lopes

    …and I guess I’m still the only guy who liked Swansong…

    • metalborioso

      I actually enjoyed Swansong very much. Reek, now I couldnt get into it no matter how much I tried. And Reek was the first Carcass album I heard.

  • RU63

    Great review! I’m so hyped for this CD.
    And . . . I get to see them live in 2 weeks m/.

  • Oldschool Death

    Good review, mate. Cheers!

  • Richard Saunders

    OMG!!! This is a mother-fucker of a stellar DM album. And the first time I have heard Carcass!!!

  • hawkmoon666

    Fucking monster of an album. Record of the year because fuck you, that’s why.