Carcass - Necroticism - Descanting the InsalubriousFew bands in extreme metal history are as respected and revered as Liverpool’s legendary Carcass. The trailblazing innovators and genre pioneers began their career in humble fashion as a scraggly trio of youths hell-bent on creating the most disgusting and reviled music the world had ever experienced. Carcass achieved this almost immediately with the pioneering grindcore/goregrind of 1988’s sewerage coated debut, Reek of Putrefaction. Though Reek will always go down as a pivotal release in the embryonic stages of grind, the terrible production, and sloppy performances reduce it to mere novelty status, a snapshot in time. 1989’s quick-fire follow-up Symphonies of Sickness was a different kettle of fish altogether, firmly cementing Carcass as the real fucking deal. The grisly grind of Reek was noticeably refined due to superior songwriting, improved production and the rapid rise of the individuals as musicians of merit. However, the band’s evolution hit overdrive on 1991’s Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious album, announcing Carcass as true innovators and legends in the making.

Stripping away the rabid grind of their roots, Necroticism found Carcass largely deconstructing their sound, moving in a far more technical, melodic and musically dynamic direction while continuing to embrace their trademark viciousness and medical journal inspired tales of gore. Although Necroticism was drastically refined and better produced than previous efforts, Carcass ensured things remained gritty and aggressive. Hefty dollops of groove, soulful harmonies, and classy solos were counterbalanced with bone sawing death riffs, uncompromising dual vocals and the creative, no-frills drumming of Ken Owen. Jeff Walker also developed into a more distinctive vocalist, honing what would become his signature mid-ranged rasp, with guitarist Bill Steer contributing brutal low growls for good measure.

What continues to astound 25 years since the initial release of Necroticism is just how rapid the Carcass evolution came about. Merely three years separate the amateurish gutter grind of Reek and the sophisticated death metal beast of Necroticism, a surefire testament to the band’s commitment to their craft, sharpening their tools of the trade and advancing their songwriting skills rapidly. Steer stamped his authority as a unique and skilled player, ingraining his refined chops and improved technique with his own distinctive style, melodic flair, and oodles of natural talent. The addition of second guitarist Michael Amott helped the band’s cause, bolstering the line-up significantly. Fresh from playing a key role in the development of the burgeoning Swedish death metal scene with Carnage, Amott was crucial in tightening the band’s sound and ramping up the melody factor. Constantly a source of  inspiration, the dual guitar work throughout Necroticism was incredible, with Amott’s timely arrival allowing Steer the freedom to unleash his enormous talents.

Another shining example of Necroticism’s strength lies in the pivotal context of its year of release. 1991 was a mammoth year for death metal, particularly in famed regions such as Florida, Stockholm, and New York. The year gave birth to numerous albums fondly considered classics, such as Human, Unquestionable Presence, Like an Everflowing Stream, Clandestine, Dawn of Possession and Butchered at Birth just to name a small handful. Not to be outdone, fellow Brits Bolt Thrower dropped their formidable War Master album. Despite the stiff competition, Carcass stood tall with Necroticism’s unique and easily distinguishable brand of death dancing to its own tune. Vicious, catchy and delightfully riff-driven, Necroticism was a brutish machine defined by delicious guitar work and endearing choice cuts like the classic “Corporal Jigsaw Quandary,” the ridiculously groovy, blunt force trauma of “Incarnated Solvent Abuse” and the soulful licks and bulldozing swagger of  “Lavaging Expectorate of Lysergide Composition.”

Carcass 1991

There’s nary a weak moment in sight; the songs are consistently strong, distinctive and memorable, impeccably played and arranged. Meanwhile, the stellar production by Colin Richardson thankfully separated itself from the Morrisound and Sunlight Studio sounds dominating the globe and was an excellent sounding album of the era. But if you really want to hear the album in all its timeless slicing and dicing glory, you need to pick up the outstanding full dynamic range edition of Necroticism, released by Earache in 2013 and boasting a superbly detailed and dynamic sound, clocking in at DR11.

When discussing the Carcass legacy the general consensus is that it’s a two-way battle for the title of the best album: Necroticism vs. Heartwork, with astonishing comeback platter Surgical Steel a worthy competitor. I would probably give the sleek melodic death brilliance of Heartwork the slightest edge, but Necroticism remains an undisputed and highly original death metal classic that goes toe-to-toe with just about any other death metal album released during the genre’s golden era. Now while we’re on the subject, who’s ready to tackle Swansong in an Indefensible Positions rant?


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  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    1991 was a painfully good year for metal. Damn these articles bring the hype. Incredible album and my favorite release from the band!

    • pafg

      yeah dude 1991 was awesome!
      Metallica – Metallica
      Death – Human
      Paradise Lost – Gothic
      Morbid Angel – Blessed Are The Sick
      Sepultura – Arise
      Cathedral – Forest Of Equilibrium
      Atheist – Unquestionable Presence
      Iced Earth – Night Of The Stormrider
      Autopsy – Mental Funeral
      Dismember – Like An Ever Flowing Stream
      Suffocation – Effigy Of The Forgotten
      Running Wild – Blazon Stone
      Bolt Thrower – War Master
      Morgoth – Cursed
      Malevolent Creation – The Ten Commandments
      Unleashed – Where No Life Dwells
      Solitude Aeturnus – Into The Depths Of Sorrow
      Coroner – Mental Vortex
      Skyclad – The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth

      • Zac Melvin-McNutt

        Entombed – Clandestine
        Grave – Into The Grave
        Convulse – World Without God
        Gorguts – Considered Dead

        Stellar year, no doubt!

      • Michiel van Eerd

        Looking at your list made me realize 1991 was – at least for me – the year many bands started to decline, because their previous albums were superior:
        Metallica – AJFA
        Death – Okay this one is valid :-)
        Paradise Lost – Lost Paradise
        Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness
        Sepultura – Beneath the Remains
        Atheist – Piece of Time
        Autopsy – Severed Survival
        Bolt Thrower – Realm of Chaos
        Entombed – Left Hand Path
        Carcass – Symphonies of Sickness

  • AngryMetalBird

    I’d listened into their debut and didn’t think much of Carcass back then. I remember how my jaw dropped when I heard this one! Rapid evolution indeed

  • flashgordon

    I didn’t new about the FDR version, just discovered that Earache released Warmaster also. Thanks!
    Edit: f*ck! the difference is brutal!

    • Check out our coverage of other FDR releases too!

  • Luciano

    Having come from the “melodic side of the Force” to the harshest expressions in metal, I prefer Heartwork to Necroticism, but the latter has gained my attention through time.
    As for Swansong, I like it. A lot. (“Shame….shame” [bells ringing]). But then again, I love Host and, to a (slightly) lesser extent, 34.788 …complete.

  • johnhelvete

    I have vivid memories of seeing Carcass before this album came out (at least here in the US) on the Death/Pestilence/Carcass tour and I did not know that they had added a second guitarist. Necroticism would make my top 5 death metal albums.

  • Dudeguy Jones

    Im going to see Carcass tonite and Im so freaking stoked. Ive been a fan since their hey day, yet never have seen them live.

    So finally, on the brink of 40, I get to see Carcass. (With Inter Arma!!)

    • At the Emporium? Madam X and myself are going tonight as well.

      • Dudeguy Jones

        Yeah!

      • Dudeguy Jones

        :D!!

        I have a salt and pepper beard and a black hat. Say hi if you see me!

        • Like a pirate? I’ll keep an eye out.

          • Dudeguy Jones

            I’ve got a False shirt on.

          • Hey man, didn’t see this til it was too late to find you. Hope you enjoyed the show!

          • Dudeguy Jones

            Yeah!! It was fucking superb. That place is a good venue. Really enjoyed Inter Arma, but missed some of their set due to them opening early. We were only 10 mins late and they were halfway through the set.

            Deafheaven impressed way more than I imagined, but it was also a bit corny. I like his conviction on stage, but its also a thin line.

            Carcass were perfect. I wish their sound was as keyed in as Inter Armas, but it was still fucking amazing to see them blasting through those classics, both new and old.

          • Yep, Carcass was a lot of fun. I didn’t like Deafheaven at all though and found most of their music sounded like the soundtrack to Friday Night Lights. Inter Arma was pretty solid though.

            It’s a pretty decent venue. Good size, decent bar, etc.

    • Shrümpelstiltskin

      I had to work, so I can’t go to that show. Fortunately, I’m going to Cleveland for Thanksgiving and will be able to catch them there. I’m psyched!

    • Reese Burns

      You lucky fuck!

    • The Unicorn

      Jelly!

    • Jason

      I’m going to see Carcass this Wednesday night. I’ve never seen them before, so I’m definitely looking forward to it.

      • Dudeguy Jones

        Enjoy it man!! If you like Inter Arma, make sure to get there early to see them.

        • Jason

          I’m actually not familiar with Inter Arma. Should I get there early to see them?

          • Dudeguy Jones

            Check em on bandcamp. If you like it then definitely see them.
            They’re a mix of metal genres, but primarily focused around doom, death and black. In that order probably.

            One of my faves of the year.

  • Alexandre Barata

    Symphonies is my favorite one, hands down. Necroticism is pretty great too, but there was always something about how it sounded as a whole that made me not like it as much as Symphonies. Heartwork is not my cup of tea, although I recognize it as probably the most fundamental album in Carcass discog.

    • Phil Daly

      Another vote for Symphonies here. As amazing as Necroticism is, it just feels that little bit too controlled for me, whereas Symphonies has that undercurrent of threatening to spin out of control at any moment. Best grind album ever?

  • The Unicorn

    I quite like Swansong. I know the backstory, but it has some good tracks. Nectoticism, Rust In Peace and Legion are the only 3x tapes I ever actually wore out to the point where they just hissed…

    • Reese Burns

      Swansong’s pretty alright, I’ll never get why it’s so disliked.

    • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

      I could go to bat for Swansong too. The only real problem I have with it is that some of it’s a little too streamlined – some songs are just one or two verses, a chorus, and a coda. I love the death metal/dad rock hybrid sound though, even when I was a kid.

      • The Unicorn

        Totally. Good rock sensibility with the Carcass soul.

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    I remember Necroticism being the first death metal album where the leads really captivated me. Other than Death, a bit of Obituary and Dismember, Carcass were one of the few early death metal bands whose guitar solos can be considered as classics.

    Also, RIFFS.

  • David Christian Dalton

    Thank you so much for including the link to the Full Dynamic Range edition. Had no idea. Bought the original CD in 1992, had to replace it eight to ten years ago and got the “remastered” version. Kinda liked how loud it was…it’s Carcass…but kinda hated how harsh it was too, especially when included on iTunes playlists with other music from the same period, music that had not been crushed to death in the remastering process. Awesome! And my horrible old “Tools of the Trade” is there with the redux job too! YES!!!!!

  • Steve Critchley

    I had a pre production demo of some of these songs and it was the best thing they ever did. Was slightly disappointed by the final release version but it is has grown on me over the years.

  • Excellent review.

    Necroticism is the best death metal album of the 90s, which makes it possibly the best death metal album ever.

    Swansong can go die in a fire though. It’s not bad, but from the band that produced Symphonies, Necroticism, Heartwork and later Surgical Steel, it’s diabolical..

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I agree that the best Death Metal album of the 90s is possibly the Best Death metal album ever.
      But the competition for best Death Metal album of the 90s is REALLY hard and I wouldn’t call Necroticism the winner.

      • Name’s Dalton

        Which one would you call the winner? My favorite album of the ’90s is probably Ride the Fader by Chavez, which probably makes it the best indie album of all time. (I wasn’t into metal until 2012 or so, so…). Ride the Fader has some heavy fucking riffs, amazing production, and the songs are dynamic and epic while remaining concise. Brilliant stuff that still stands the test of time. But I digress…

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          I didn’t know there was a band called Chavez… as a decent Venezuelan, I’m repulsed by that name (long, sad story). But you seem to really love that album. I got into Metal around 1994. Picking a single album as “Best Death Metal Album” of the 90s would be really diffcult but Morbid Angel’s “Covenant”, Death’s “Individual Thought Patterns” and Obituary “Cause Of Death” are very near the top.

    • Zac Melvin-McNutt

      I’d have to argue with you on that one. It’s a very very good album but to say it’s the best death metal album of the 90’s is an incredibly bold statement and it has some very stiff competition.

      Death – Human/Symbolic, Suffocation – Pierced from Within, Cannibal Corpse – Tomb of the Mutilated, Dismember – Like an Ever Flowing Stream, Entombed – Left Hand Path to name a few.

      You’re reaching pretty far to say Necroticism is the best of the bunch.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        And you didn’t even mention any Morbid Angel album!

    • Dymanic

      For me it’s a tough call between Necroticism and Clandestine.

      But you are almost correct, one of those two is objectively the best death metal album ever. That is FACT and nothing to do with me being in my formative years at the time these albums were released.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Excellent review for a brilliant album, though if I had to pick a favourite I’d probably say Heartwork.

  • Dead1

    Necroticism is phenomenal.

    And Swansong is a great album as well.

  • This is actually the first Ye Metal is Olde articale that has been about an album I actually care about. This along with Clandestine, Rust in Peace and Omnio are probably the albums of the nineties for me. Necroticism is far superior to Heartwork in my opinion. Even to this day, I still find Heartwork to be rather sterile and characterless, though I still think it’s solid. I still don’t think there’s any out there that sounds like Necroticism. It’s an amazing album and hasn’t dated one bit.

  • I fucking love this album so much!

  • Jason

    Are the full dynamic range versions available on CD or are they a digital only thing?

    • Luke_22

      Digital only as far as I’m aware.

  • sweetooth0

    Don’t get me wrong, Necroticism is good, by Symphonies of Sickness is hands down Carcass’ best album and it absolutely kills this one.

  • Michael Staugaitis

    Finally saw Carcass last Thursday and,my god, what a well oiled and brutal machine. I waited 25 years to see them and it was worth the wait. Also got turned on to inter arma and met a couple of the guys in the band. They are really fantastic.

    I give the nod to necroticism because it is the album that made me fall in love with them.

  • Norfair Legend

    I think I have greater memories with Symphonies but Necroticism is the better record…I think. So hard with all the originals, Napalm, Carcass and Morbid Angel are like my three favorite bands with Entombed in there somewhere as well. Seen them so many times I lost count.

  • Dagoth_RAC

    I actually put together a cassette tape of just the guitar solos from this album. Which was quite a pain in the neck back in the day. Take note of the start and stop times of all the guitar solos on each track, fast forward the CD to the right moment, press record on tape and play on CD in sync, etc. Well worth it, though. Just a glorious album for guitar riffs and guitar solos.

  • Dagoth_RAC

    Also has the best spoken word sample ever on a metal album:

    “That’s why I find it so amusing that the latter-day saints of our
    business:
    (1) attribute to me motives that just weren’t there, and
    (2) accuse me of corrupting morality, which I wish I had the power to do.”

  • Dirty G

    Still one of my favorites of all time
    Desert island record for sure

  • Jason

    Holy shit! Thanks! I didn’t even know Earache had a U.S. store.