Friday, September 6, 2013

Carcass - Surgical Steel

After a 17 year break, death metal juggernauts Carcass are releasing a new studio album this month. Bill Steer and Jeff Walker are back, with a pair of new faces on board to flesh out the current lineup. The album was made available to stream, which was linked in this Blabbermouth article.

Now as the record first started to play, I have to admit I was struck with a chord of terror, because the intro track sounded like I was in for an evening of power metal wankery, but thankfully that sensation vanished once the first proper song started. This is pretty much "Heartwork"-era melodeath Carcass, which could either be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on where you fall when it comes to the band's eclectic discography. Basically I'd say you can gauge you much you'll like this based purely on how well you liked it's aforementioned brother, so rather than go into further detail about the record itself I'd like to go off the rails a bit and examine the reasons why I'm not personally sure how I feel about it just yet.

You see, melodic death metal and I have grown apart somewhat over the past couple of years. In part I blame this on the general quality of the music being produced within the style, since the heyday of the Gothenburg sound is long gone, and in the place classic At the Gates and In Flames the sub-genre has become stuffed with sensitive goth prettyboys pumping out bland, syrupy mush full of "emotional" screaming and whining. Basically, it's the festering spawning pool of the metal world's equivalent of boy bands.

That's not to say that there is no good melodeath out there anymore. Dark Tranquillity have basically stayed the course, Insomnium are an unstoppable colossus, and Amon Amarth are still Amon Amarthing. That said, there has been a general sense of toothlessness pervading melodic death metal for some time. As a result, music simply falling into the style has tended to put a bit of a bad taste in my mouth unless it's something I already know.

Of course the alternative to this theory is that I've just grown beyond my melodic death metal phase and have moved on to bleaker pastures. The sound served as an excellent gateway, but maybe now I'm at a stage where I no longer need the connecting strands holding my music to the hard rock world and I'm just shoving my former favorite sub-genre into the same box in the basement where people hide the embarrassing clothes they thought were cool back in high-school. The egotistical part of my brain, which admittedly is a pretty big portion of the whole, rather likes this idea. Moving on to something different doesn't have to be an act of growth or improvement, and it's entirely possible that my tastes have simply made a lateral move, but it sounds better in my mind when I view it as a form of progress.

Ultimately, whether melodeath has changed for the worse or I've just left it behind, the simple fact of that matter is that I don't listen to it very often anymore. I still go back to old records I know and old bands I trust, though, which is what puts "Surgical Steel" in such a uniquely weird position. It's not a familiar album, since it's brand new. And it's not part of a trusted routine the way every new Amon Amarth record is. It's still from an old band that produced a pioneering melodeath record, though, and it's a band hasn't destroyed their credibility with a string sellout disasters. So there's familiarity in limited quantities.

Really, the music needs to stand in its own right, and I think "Surgical Steel" does that fairly well. I also think, though, that I'm far less enamored with it than I would have been 5 years ago. Basically, I find it difficult to approach this objectively enough to give it a fair review, so I'm not even going to try.

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