CARCASS - Surgical Steel
September 15, 2013, 5 years ago
The easy joke is to ignorantly proclaim that Surgical Steel, the first CARCASS album in 17 years, is for those locked in the confines of Gods of Grind nostalgia, or for the slaughter of the souls who yearn for the days of mushroom cuts, Doc Martens, hating on NIRVANA, and all other manners of partying like it's 1992. And, yes, when you think about it, one should rightfully be skeptical of this latest Jeff Walker/Bill Steer collaboration because, hey, it's not like either reached any sort of corporal, or jigsore, creative heights since those last strains of Swansong faded out in '96. A Carcass reunion LP serves only to taint the putrefacted legacy, says both conventional wisdom and conventionality, in tandem.
But who said conventional wisdom is always the shape of classic records to come? Despite what rationality dictates, it can be reported, in the most surreal of ways, that Surgical Steel is a fire-on-fire record, one that might be the summit of an absurdly high-calibre 2013. The term 'perfect metal album' no doubt seems like I-got-into-extreme-metal-just-last-week hyperbole, but perfection is a concept that's been evoked in the environs of Surgical Steel by opinions that I respect and trust. And it's the first thought that cemented itself as Surgical Steel's initial listen fortified itself, in the most effective and efficient of ways. After 17 years away from Carcass, how is it possible that Jeff and Bill have written something so bold, so confident, so well executed and so goddamn perfect?
Though the pre-release chatter has Surgical Steel characterized as the perfect storm centrality of the five Carcass records that preceded it, if you're looking for moments that keep on rotting in the free world in the vein of Reek Of Putrefaction or Symphonies Of Sickness then just go home. Seriously, just go home and play those two albums while sucking your thumb and cuddling with your underground elite security blanket. For the rest of us, Surgical Steel is a welcome culmination of Necroticism, Heartwork and Swansong, this new record acting as the zenith of each of those three. Remember the splendour and derision you felt the first time you ingested and understood 'Corporal Jigsore Quandry', 'This Mortal Coil', and 'R**k The Vote'? Multiply that evisceration by (room) 101 and you have the kinds of circles Surgical Steel runs in.
A record with the level of aggression Surgical Steel is encased within coming so late in a career is a lethal proposition indeed. The album wastes no time introducing its malice and that's to positive effect, as at no moment is the listener left wondering if maybe this reunion album should have been left on the cutting room floor. From its initial salvo to its commandeering conclusion, Surgical Steel is an all-consuming and seismic mouth for war, using it for what it's for. There's absolutely no point isolating key tracks, because Surgical Steel is an entirety of enthroned darkness triumphant, the bloodied lyrics of Necroticism back with all sorts of medicinal vengeance and the seminal leads of Heartwork firing with the all the efficacy of a captive bolt pistol. That said, 'Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System' and 'The Master Butcher Apron' have to be mentioned, if only for their caustic levels of intensity that would make a band a third Carcass' age blush in technical ecstasy, while 'Unfit For Human Consumption' and 'The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills' are the type of pre-Gothenburg that would inspire a legion of Swedes to pick up guitars in their tre cronor hands and try to write a record worthy enough to be whispered in the same breath - and viewed within the night fogs of the same profound lore - as the Carcass catalogue (incidentally, and it's not like I have to tell you, many succeeded, which is a testament to Carcass' massive scope and inexhaustible influence).
In the annals of metal history and the beer-drenched debate that no doubt accompanies it, the search for the perfect metal album is a long and winding road of endless analysis that is part personal preference, part objective appreciation of technique and part understanding a record's place in its time and context. With regard to all three criteria, Surgical Steel fulfills its mandate with malice, legacy-backed assertiveness and panache, this album the result of smart people working really hard to impressive effect. Let's call an ace of spade an ace of spade: Surgical Steel is an unqualified and unreserved 10, a record that is homage, next-generation revival and a reminder to all of metal what our genre is like at its most absolute of peaks.