When UK extreme metallers Carcass reformed back in 2008, it did feel like a minor miracle had taken place. Loaded with dry wit, black humour and some gruesome lyrics, Carcass were shrugged shoulders as to their trials and tribulations while taking the reverence laid at their feet in their stride. When the band split in 1996, it was sudden, but they left behind a fascinating discography as well as something of a hole in the extreme music scene.
Carcass’ sound pioneered goregrind on their early output and despite their debut 1988’s Reek Of Putrefaction being something of a classic, bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker describes the sonics as an “abomination.” Follow up 1989’s Symphonies Of Sickness may have improved the sound but had Carcass heading into more death metal territory and two years later, 1991’s still awesome Necrotism – Descanting The Insalubrious added swathes of intricacy – as well as lyrically swallowing a medical dictionary. 1993 saw a breakthrough for Carcass and their fourth album Heartwork although with more melody and simpler song structures, the change was maybe too much for some older fans. Carcass’ final album – aptly titled Swansong – should have been their first for a major label and while songs were recorded in 1994, due to issues with the label, the album was pushed back to 1996 and by the time it was finally released, the band had actually broken up.
A Carcass reunion was touted a decade later and it was announced in 2007 that the band would be appearing at festivals in 2008 and into 2009 although any new music did appear to be a remote possibility. The ‘possible’ became a reality when in 2013 Carcass signed to Nuclear Blast and released the excellent Surgical Steel album the same year. As much as post-reunion output has been not exactly been speedy, the release of Torn Arteries had been touted for 2020 but the covid-19 pandemic put paid to that stalling the release but had the band landing a four track EP entitled Despicable towards the end of 2020 as a bit of a deathly sweetener.
Torn Arteries is not an album that is rewriting Carcass history – although it does doff its cap to it – and in terms of its predecessor, it is an album that does deliver much of the same – sharp and incisive death metal. In one respect there are no airs and graces, the band still maintains those shrugged shoulders as to who they are – excellent musicians that are writing Carcass music and this is what they do. While this may point to the band resting on their laurels and turning out music that they could knock out in their sleep – the opposite is true. Say “melodic death metal” and maybe Soilwork or Arch Enemy spring to mind where there are some glossy bells and whistles on show but there is a world of difference between those bands and Carcass, Torn Arteries is a band doing what they do best and in just the way that Carcass want to do it and throwing in a few curve balls along the way.
Torn Arteries is not short of variety and this is actually one of the record’s greatest strengths, albeit with a slight shadow. The first listen whizzes past with nothing jumping out necessarily, it is a flurry of Bill Steer and Tom Draper guitars and Walker’s dry bark but the lure is there to dig into the detail which does reveal more on each successive listen. It is the combination of solid riffs and solos that is something of a driving force, the impeccable execution and knowing where to place these elements; there is consistency and a dark charm that pervades the album and there is not a single moment where it could be thought that the band are just playing it safe or not having fun in doing it.
In terms of songs, the album does get off to an incredibly strong start with Dance Of Ixtab and the title track; the latter especially is a blood rush to the head in its viciousness and it is a song that really propels the album as a whole – up to the mid point at least. To a degree, this is “standard” Carcass but Torn Arteries is not short of a few left turns and a bit of chicanery and especially on the ten minute Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited which is loaded with texture and does get away with the track length as a song without running out of steam entirely. It is an adventurous attempt to showcase a band who still has a desire to experiment and go headlong into lengthier and more progressive territory. The issue is that the track is slap bang centre of the album and it does feel something of a trial to get to the other end. It is not the fact that there are no other strong songs around it – especially on the stunning Kelly’s Meat Emporium which just blows the roof off, caustic and vibrant, it is one of the historical nods to Carcass’ past that literally goes for the throat. Maybe that mid point is just that there is a grower there and so much to dig around in one song but all credit to Carcass in trying something different.
A new Carcass album is worthy of celebration and Torn Arteries is absolutely no exception. There is grace in its rawness and its desire to be old school whilst being modern at the same time. This is a band that is determined not to trade on its past but does looks back at it while continuing to be inventive and flexing that gloriously twisted imagination. Cast an ear across the whole of the Carcass discography pre and post reformation and it is a band that has never really stood still or repeated itself. Torn Arteries does have the feel of a band that is twisting and melting, the nods to the past but facing front and delivering high quality death metal – classic while being contemporary.
A dark delight for sure and if anyone has not already….wake up and smell the carcass.