Few 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.”
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?