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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Carcass: Reek Of Putrefaction

CARCASS: REEK OF PUTREFACTION (1988)

1) Genital Grinder; 2) Regurgitation Of Giblets; 3) Maggot Colony; 4) Pyosisified (Rotten To The Gore); 5) Carbo­nized Eyesockets; 6) Frenzied Detruncation; 7) Vomited Anal Tract; 8) Festerday; 9) Fermenting Innards; 10) Excre­ted Alive; 11) Suppuration; 12) Foeticide; 13) Microwaved Uterogestation; 14) Feast On Dismembered Carnage; 15) Splattered Cavities; 16) Psychopathologist; 17) Burnt To A Crisp; 18) Pungent Excruciation; 19) Manifestation Of Verrucose Urethra; 20) Oxidized Razor Masticator; 21) Mucopurulence Excretor; 22) Malignant Defecation.

If you ever had any problems with the Liverpudlian accents of the Fab Four, try this for comfort: anybody capable of deciphering even a single word on Carcass' debut album without peeking into the lyrics sheet should probably be burned at the stake for serious witchcraft. Likewise, if you can commit even a single «melody» on this album to an individual memory cell, you should probably take immediate action to get yourself committed before the shit hits the fan.

Meet bass player Jeffrey Walker, guitarist Bill Steer, and drummer Ken Owen, three friendly and (according to most sources) perfectly normal guys that, one day, set out on the quest of making the most disgusting rock album ever. The immediate influence here is the pioneering grindcore of Napalm Death, for whom Steer also played guitar (and Walker designed the art of their first album, Scum, just to indicate the sort of symbiotic relationship between the two) — but while Napalm Death concentrated more on the laconic-minimalistic side of things, Carcass took it into an, ahem, somewhat more anatomical direction. As you can see, you do not need to go further than the song titles — and a thorough study of the lyrics with a medical encyclopaedia by your side, accompanied by some unflinching staring at this and the ensuing album covers, will make you perfectly qualified for a job as morgue assistant without any real need for a college degree.

The only thing in favor of this record is total commitment — but its totality is, in fact, so over­whelming that it translates to a certain kind of hip charm even in the minds of perfectly sane people (in fact, perfectly sane people are its base audience — it's not as if Carcass had a small, but loyal fanbase of mass murderers and necrophiliacs in mind). The band is unquestionably very tight and professional, but here it completely sacrifices skill to the idea of heaviness, speed, and «melodic blurriness», making Slayer sound like ABBA in comparison; and the vocals are an incomprehensible slurred growl all the way. For 37 minutes in a row, the record operates in two modes — fast and very fast, where all fast parts sound the same, all very fast parts sound the same, and the only difference between fast and very fast is... uh... tempo.

One does have to somehow «accept» the whole package — music, voice, song titles, song lyrics, album art, etc. — for the experience to work. Of course, it's essentially an «anti-musical» joke, whose only serious point is testing the limits of personal and artistic freedom, something that John Peel must have understood very well when he called Carcass his favorite new band of 1988 and got them to appear on his show. Later on, the songs would become longer, more melodic and «musical», not to mention the production, which is pretty bad here, and, apparently, the band members themselves were unhappy with it, but with this kind of approach, lo-fi, dirty, and mean actually works best: I mean, when you name a song ʽVomited Anal Tractʼ, it better sound like a vomited anal tract, or else what's the frickin' point?

It would hardly make sense to condemn the album with the «anybody could produce this kind of shit» argument, either. First, it takes some serious practice to become a top level grindcore artist. Second, it takes real guts (or, perhaps, in the spirit of the album, it takes some really fermented innards) to come up with such an uncompromising concept. Third, once you get around to reading the lyrics, they are really hilarious — probably some of the most verbose, poetic, inven­tive texts centered around complex human anatomy ever thought of by living man (not that I'm mentally prepared to analyze any of them here). Fourth, the sheer contrast between the persona­lities of the band members (who are nice-behaving vegetarians) and the «atrociousness» of the whole concept is somehow quite comforting — I'd certainly rather have that than comparable work of an actual madman like G. G. Allin.

But clearly, there's no need to actually discuss the music; unlike later Carcass albums, the basic point of these songs is that even if they start out with actual chord sequences, the insane tempos mash them together in a grinder and the muddy production finishes the job. The idea is not to «hum» these songs, but to participate in a deranged, macabre dance of death — a fun thing to do, provided you do not accidentally blast these songs out of your car when passing near a hospice (and even if you do, you'd still have to drop leaflets with printed lyrics in the yard to achieve the necessary sacrilegious effect) or send out a complementary version of the CD to victims of nuc­lear meltdown accidents. I am not, by any means, giving this album a proper «thumbs up», but I certainly acknowledge not just its right to existence, but its actual artistic purpose. Besides, you could probably get an M.D., easy, with just a cursory analysis of the lyrics — or, at the very least, vastly expand your anatomical vocabulary.

8 comments:

  1. Oh boy, Carcass reviews. Well, it was a matter of time before George returned to reviewing extreme metal artists. I have tried listening to this album, but just cannot enjoy the guttural atmosphere that work like this generates. If I go extreme metal, I prefer it blackened. (Hoping to see you review Darkthrone in the future)

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  2. Still waiting for one Van Morrison review. 'M'seems like such a long way away. As does'p'for Prince. Love to hear your take on his middle to late period.

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    1. Prince reviews would be awesome, but it will take a decade, if not longer, before George reviews anything from him beyond Purple Rain in the Important Album Series.

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    2. Van Morrison will be a V, actually.

      On the flip side, Frank Zappa will be an F.

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  3. The track list certainly plants the flag. No question of what you'd be getting into, anyway.

    Kind of see the Beatles' influence in this package -- the cover is like an over-the-top version of the "butcher" cover, and "Festerday" is a pretty hilarious song title.

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  4. MMMmmm boy, this is my cut of beef here! My version of this album is in fact bonus tracks on "Symphonies of Sickness" ... It is easy to dismiss because in Carcass' wake so many bands think all that's needed is ratatatat drums & gross-out lyrics. With several exceptions like Terrorizer & Repulsion, Carcass practically made the entire Grind sub-genre unnecessary before it even got going.

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  5. Why oh why did George when reviewing A-bands pass by Anal Cunt?

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    1. I would definitely like to read George's review of Picnic of Love after he goes through Seth's earlier work.

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