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Heartwork: A Taste of Carcass

Works of art, painted black
Magniloquent, bleeding dark
Monotonous palate, murky spectrum, grimly unlimited
Food for thought, so prolific
In contrasting shades, forcely fed
Abstraction, so choking, so provocative

Carcass - Heartwork

Track listing
1. Buried Dreams
2. Carnal Forge
3. No Love Lost
4. Heartwork
5. Embodiment
6. This Mortal Coil
7. Arbeit Macht Fleisch
8. Blind Bleeding the Blind
9. Doctrinal Expletives
10. Death Certificate

Jeff Walker (bass & vocals)
Ken Owen (drums)
Bill Steer (lead guitar)
Michael Amott (lead guitar)

Colin Richardson - Producer
Keith Andrews - Engineer
Andrea Wright - Assistant Engineer
Dave Buchanan - Assistant Engineer

Carcass, carcase [kaarkas]
n dead body of animal; trunk of dead animal after head, limbs, and offal have been removed by a butcher;
(cont) body of human being;
Liverpool based band of grinding musicians sharing an unhealthy interest in the macabre.

In my previous posts I was talking about Gothenberg and the melodic metal references, well continuing on that is this revisiting one of my all time favourite albums of all time!

Melodic metal?
This is where it all started. This very album could be termed as the first melodic metal album.

Consider this, a grindcore metal band that was responsible for creating that genre along with Napalm Death signs up with Columbia label and records an album in 1993 far removed from the gore obsessed themes of previous releases but a totally new sonic territory that would become a template for many bands nearly a decade later.

Ring a bell? Right. This is the year that witnessed so many metal releases under big labels.

This is not an album that anyone could have expected from Carcass, previously a band obsessed with writing songs about forensic or psychopathological themes like the kind of fun you can with a rotting corpse with its puss laden guts coming out or the way various parts of a rotting corpse could be used to grow plants.

Yes, in a peculiar Carcass kind of way.

Carcass was a Liverpool based British band formed in 1985 by ex-Napalm Death guitarist Bill Steer with drummer Ken Owen. Soon they were joined by a mysterious singer of Indian origins called Sanjiv who recorded a demo tape called as 'Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment'.
Sanjiv was replaced by Jeff Walker (ex-Electro Hippies) in 1987.

Carcass started as goregrind band with lyrical content dripping in medical themes (which the press believed that most of them possessed a degree in medicines or something, which obviously the band members didnt), complex harmonies. Carcass could easily be the most amazingly talented and original metal bands you might have come across.

Carcass still today is considered as one of the best death metal bands of all time. By the way, later Swedish guitarist Michael Amott (ex-Carnage) gave birth to Arch Enemy after he departed from Carcass after Heartwork was released.
It is interesting to note that every exit is marked by another entry (think of Six Feet Under as well in this context).

Where as many bands in the noisy genre seldom innovate or challenge themselves, Carcass tread a different ground with each of their releases.
By the time they had released their 3rd album 'Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious' (1991) on Earache Records, the metal crowd and the critics had pretty much come to a conclusion that Carcass is not 'just-another-noisy-metal-band'.

Their earlier records had the lyrical content that could not be translated using a standard dictionary, for that
you would have to possess a medical dictionary or something. Morbidly humourus 'Spinal-Tap-goes-to-med-school' lyrics, blistering, complex drumming, light speed solos and demonic, insectile vocals.

Carcass has dabbled into almost every major genre of death metal at the same time defining some of them like grindcore (goregrind), melodic death metal, thrash (as on Swansong) and so on.
Their debut album was badly produced but got wide acceptance in metal underground, the next one Symphonies of Sickness was a step further in production quality and brutal sonic assault.
3rd album 'Necrotism - Descanting the Insalubrious' released in 1991 was their best featuring some of the groovy metal numbers like "Corporal Jigsore Quandary", "Simposium of Sickness" and "Incarnated Solvent Abuse" was an instant success and cemented their reputation as a brutal grindcore metal band.

Around this time they had become a metal household name, Columbia thought it was a good idea in the history of good ideas and signed Carcass for a 4 million dollar recording deal...

Their best was yet to come.
There is a major debate over which one is the best album by Carcass, it all depends on how you discovered Carcass into your consciousness. Some people swear by Necrotism or Swansong as the best Carcass record where as most of them refer to Heartwork as their best effort.

Better still gather a group of Carcass fans and note down favourite Carcass album list of each of the fans, dont be surprised if you get all different ones right from their debut album to Swansong (yes, their final album was called as that).

I'll give you the pointers why Heartwork is worthy of that place.

By all standards, Heartwork is one of the monumental classic death metal records of all time, any list without this record is a bloody waste.

"Call yourself a metalhead and havent heard this album? Go suck an egg!", said one columinst in a magazine where I used to get my metal dope on.
Well I'll be buggered if it aint true!

Before I listened to Heartwork, I came across Carcass only once when a friend of mine had a battered piece of cassette of 'Symphonies of Sickness', it was way back in 1994 and I was more into Hendrix and stuff so that particular album was too much of sonic assault on my unsuspecting ears. Eventually I heard it once and steered myself away from it for a while.

Then it was in 1997, I found Heartwork album at a friend's place and thought I'd give it shot after 4 years it was released. Instead I was shot back!

This was not at all the Carcass I had witnessed earlier. Gone are the gore obsessed lyrics, rotting corpses, medical themes and stuff, in turn they were replaced by Jeff Walker's nihilistic attitudes directly reflected in some songs and even though the lyrics are simple and straight without requiring a dictionary to be kept handy (know-what-i-mean?) at times elevate to the level of beautiful poetry like as on 'Blind Bleeding the Blind' is an interesting take with references to Shakespeare's murder tale MacBeth.

Parched with thirst our cup overfloweth
With the crimson milk of human blindness
In charnel towers of ivory besieged
The bones of subjugation are picked clean
In barren decadence, tears are the only affluence
Welling eyes are indifferent, as the blind bleed

The album kicks off with a brilliant number called as Buried Dreams, slow doomy riffs that later make way grinding rhythm parts and excellent drumming and not to mention this is one of the best opener songs of any album i had known or heard before.

"Welcome, to a world of hate
A life of buried dreams
Smothered, by the soils of fate
Welcome, to a world of pain
Bitterness your only wealth
The sand of time kicked in your face
-Rubbed in your face"

These are the opening lines of Heartwork album as it kicks in, few seconds into the song you'll realise that you are not in the same sonic territory as Necrotism or any of their previous records, it is that obvious.
Even the cover art is a radical departure from the previous or the latter ones, hardcore fans shouted "sellout" since it was the band's major label release from a 4 million dollar contract with Columbia. But the major label
hadnt done anything to the sound and integrity of the band except the lyrical content dropping their excessive bloody details!

This album does not contain any fillers at all. The best metal album ever recorded that deserves more recognition and wider audience than bozo bands like Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and their ilk.
The new generation of metallers who are into shiny metal bands havent heard of Carcass or havent heard their songs, not to blame them. Music channels feed crap and dont believe what they say is cool, they are not informing you but brainwashing you to believe what they are trying to create a market for 18-25 demographic.

There is no band like Carcass or there can be any band like it.
Thank god that there is Carcass at least. I am not complaining for that at least!

Heartwork is an infectiously groovy, catchy, melodic and yet retaining unquestionably brutal sonic assault that Carcass was well known for.
I wont say anything about the twin guitar assault of Amott / Steer duo or the thunder, intricate, captivating drumming of Ken Owen (incidentally he is the most underrated drummers in metal), you gotta listen to it once to appreciate it. Actually this album features many lengthy solos as well as longer song durations, beautiful solos laid over slow, technical and insanely heavy riffs.
Jeff Walker (Bass, Vocals) has a demonic, insectile voice that fits perfectly, he is original and distinctive, far removed from the cookie monster growls of many death growlers.
He is really original in terms of singing, accessible rasping vocals that add undeniable demonic, sinister quality. Very demonic snarl delivering listener friendly lyrics.

This is where it all started, Carcass had managed to record the first and finest melodic death metal as we have come to know it now. This was the template which left many disciples to follow and evolve the genre.
Never outgunned or surpassed, this still stands out as the best melometal album of all time. Period.

Accessible. Bloody heavy.

Where are they now?
The band that never followed even what they created and refusal to be predictable led them to a stage where they either disintegrate or breakthrough (immediately Cynic comes to my mind, of which I'll write soon).
Here the villain was not the creative differences or any other stupid reasons that made Max Cavalera got fired from Sepultura, it was something else.

Swansong was their last album and a certain record company screwed them big time, their album was delayed by a year for release, founding members Bill Steer and Ken Owen walk out and as the things go, Carcass is no more.

Here are some pieces from an interview with Carcass members when they were asked about the label issues, it sums up the attitude the band had in terms of music and business.

"What morality's involved? There's not much difference between indies and majors at the end of the day, except major labels are probably more brutal than an indie at screwing bands up!"

"Independent music was bought out a long time ago! Most indies now have links with EMI, or Sony - and you can rag on a major label all y'like, but the music isn't gonna sell out or go commercial! We're not gonna try and water it down, and that's all that matters. We've still got the same mentality."

Occasional compilations like Choice Cuts, Wake Up And Smell The Carcass are released by their previous record companies which by any means are better deals for anyone who is going headfirst into Carcass sonic territory and also for a hardcore Carcass fan since they include some of the outtakes or alternate versions of classics as we have come to know them.

Carcass was the kind of a band that would call it a day than compromise on the integrity of the band in terms of values, attitude or the musical direction of the band.

After Carcass was dissolved it made way for some interesting projects since grindgore metal with psychopathological themes was too limited.

Arch Enemy owes its birth to Mike Amott, incidentally the Enemy album Stigmata sounds like an extension of
Heartwork, which is not a bad thing. Who's complaining?
Arch Enemy has established a name for itself as a force to reckon with in a scene filled with mindless metal
releases over the years earlier (Angela Gossow, the lead female vocalist of Arch Enemy is the kind of babe who'd make you "wanna-sleep-with-the-Enemy", get a load of her screaming her guts out, you'll know what I mean, forget the goth females and all).

Ken, Jeff and Carlo continued with the Blackstar project accompanied with former Cathedral bassist Mark Griffiths. Blackstar (later Blackstar Rising) went defunct after Ken suffered from a severe brain haemorrhage. Recently he returned totally recovered, fine and dandy for the remastering of Choice Cuts, a fine compilation released by Earache Records (if you are new to Carcass, start from this album and then slowly you can indulge in individual albums to get a "taste of Carcass").

Bill Steer and Jeff Walker have formed 'Firebird', a country / blues band with songs of John Denver , Johnny Cash and George Jones covers with a metal angle with guests musicians from bands like Amorphis, Napalm Death and Faith No More.
Check out their single "Youre still on my mind" written by Country legend George Jones, google it and you'll find a place to listen to it. It's a brilliant piece.

Some unusual info on Carcass:
The sculpture depicted in the cover art, "Life Support 1993", was designed by H.R. Giger. The video for the song "Heartwork" features the sculpture.

Carcass tunes their guitars down 2 and a half steps, ending up like this (low-high): B E A D G F# B. Jeff tuned his bass to standard concert pitch, with the low E string de-tuned to B.

Bill Steer used to also play for Napalm Death, appearing on their first 2 albums (Scum and From Enslavement to Obliteration) as well as Death by Manipulation.

Carcass's record label was Earache Records. That other company will not be mentioned by name or discussed.

On the Indie Metal chart, Carcass were second with Heartwork (Sepultura's Chaos A.D. was first)

How to close this post?

I dont know, I'll never come across a band like Carcass. Period.



1 Responses to “Heartwork: A Taste of Carcass”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Hey Max!!

    Good to see you bloggin again.

    WEll......death metal, grind core, melo metal, melodic metal.....kind a getting 'genre rash'.

    Looking forward to reading more of your stuff!  

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