Published Sep 10, 2013Back in 1996, grindcore/death metal legends Carcass ended off a genre-changing career with a relative whimper of an album called Swanswong, label woes, lineup changes and then an announcement that it was all over. Thankfully, they got back together in 2007, although original drummer Ken Owen couldn't participate due to health problems resulting from a 1999 brain hemorrhage. Now, a few years and a couple more lineup changes later, the band are back with their first album since Swansong, the excellent Surgical Steel, combining their brutal grinding death with their melodic, smart songwriting sensibilities. It's as if the group never really left, which makes sense, as Carcass has always stayed with the band members.
"I don't think it's ever left me, to be honest," bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker tells Exclaim! "Even in my hiatus. Carcass is an extension of myself and Bill [Steer, guitarist], and when Ken was in the band, our quirky personalities anyway. That's why Carcass sounds the way it does and the reason why we write the way we do. We're trying to outsmart people. It's easy for heavy metal to be dumb, but we know what's dumb about it, and we're trying to rectify that."
Walker says that the songwriting process was "a piece of piss," which, to the best of our British-slang-translating abilities, means that it went well. Gone are the boogie-rock overtones of the band's late-era output and the gore-grind of their earlier material, and what remains is well-written death metal with no shortage of great riffs and memorable songs.
"It was fun, enjoyable," Walker says about writing tunes again. "Really quite exciting. After having a break, it's easy, because you've got the hunger again. You've got something to prove. In a way, it's almost like you're writing your first album. It's easy for bands to become detached and jaded. If they're caught in a cycle of recording albums and touring, they never have time to take stock of why they're doing it anymore. This album is not a career move insomuch as we weren't doing it to fulfil contracts or obligations; we're doing this because we wanted to. We're out to prove something. And when you're out to prove something, that's a greater motivation than to have to fulfil delivery dates on record contracts."
The album had a surprising hiccup during the mixing process when producer Colin Richardson quit during the mixing sessions and Andy Sneap took over. Richardson leaving was a result of the producer being burnt out, as well as because of a "phone call where I got some things off my chest that had been building up for months," Walker says. Plus, according to Walker, Richardson got offered to mix Trivium's new one, and Walker says, "I know damn well for political reasons why he'd want to do that."
"He [Richardson] said he thinks Sneap did a better job than he could have done," says Walker about the mixing. "I don't know if he's just saying that because he wants me to pay the invoice, but yeah, I think we ended up with the best of both worlds, haven't we? We ended up with Colin producing it and Sneap mixing it. At least on paper, that sounds like the dream team. Things happen for a reason. We're happy with the album, and that's all that matters."
So when does the music truly die for a band who have come back from the grave to deliver a surprisingly great album? Will the guys be 60 and playing gore-grind?
"Well, you know, I'd say no, but the way things are working, I probably will," chuckles Walker. "No, I probably won't, because I reckon I'll be dead."
Surgical Steel arrives on September 17 via Nuclear Blast, but you can already stream it in full below. You can also see Carcass's upcoming tour dates here, which include a Canadian stop at Calgary's Noctis Festival on September 21.