CARCASS: HEARTWORK (1993)
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.
This is where opinions begin to split, skulls commence to crack, and symposia of sickness start degenerating into pedigree butchery. For some people, Heartwork is the absolute pinnacle of the shivery art of Carcass; for others, it is an unforgivable betrayal of the primary values for which this band had so affirmatively stood up in the past. What's up with the sissy title? What's up with the symbolic, but generally inoffensive album cover? What's up with Carcass songs called ʽNo Love Lostʼ and ʽThis Mortal Coilʼ, titles more suitable for Celine Dion and, uh... This Mortal Coil? What's up with the lyrics being almost free of new anatomical terminology? What's up with the clean, almost sterile production? Where have all the gory times gone?
Of course, you cannot blame an artist for wanting to break out of a stereotype — and, let's face it, by 1993 the band's «gore-grind» schtick was getting old, not to mention that it had been successfully picked up by quite a few newcomers, like Cannibal Corpse, whose primary point was to outgross the old masters, whatever it takes. Reasonably, Steer and Ammott must have decided that they had no real interest in competing with others in the grossness department, and that they would try something different — namely, to «clean up» their act a bit and go for a synthesis of grindcore brutality and melodic heavy metal, where the individual songs would have more individuality while still being conjoined by a general atmosphere of viciousness.
Thus, only a couple of tunes here truly remind of the Carcass of old (ʽCarnal Forgeʼ is the best «retro» example), while the rest are strictly in the «melodic death metal» vein, with distinct, often seriously slow riffs from Steer and the usual classically-influenced leads from Amott. The vocals remain in incomprehensible growl mode throughout, which is a minus — I think that stuff like ʽNo Love Lostʼ calls for cleaner singing, but perhaps they were too afraid to bring in clean vocals, thinking that it would make them sound like Queensryche or something. Also, in terms of instrumentation and arrangements, the album is surprisingly less diverse than Necroticism: there's no special effects, no sampled overdubs, no acoustic interludes, absolutely nothing to draw your attention away from the basic riff — solo — riff — solo patterns.
Although the vocals go so far in the mainstream direction as to sometimes arrange themselves in verse/chorus patterns, it is pretty hard to apply the term «catchy» to any vocal «melody» that sounds as if it were delivered by Satan suffering from acute constipation. However, the riffs are fairly strong and could easily withstand competition with any sophisticated classic thrash or death metal band — ʽNo Love Lostʼ, ʽEmbodimentʼ, the stop-and-start tricks on ʽDoctrinal Expletivesʼ all qualify, and these are only the slower ones; the faster ones, like ʽBlind Bleeding The Blindʼ, add breathtaking excitement without abandoning the melodic angle. From a technical standpoint at least, the general quality of the tunes — complexity of chord patterns, smoothness of transition from fast to slow sections and back again, thoughtful construction of lead parts — leaves little to be desired.
That said, it would be useless to deny a certain amount of disappointment: now that Carcass are no longer really an «extreme» band, they do fairly little to make the music stand out from the rest of the competition. This is just normal, high-quality melodic death metal with faint echoes of the band's original grotesque identity; in fact, we could probably go as far as to state that this was the beginning of the end — particularly with Amott quitting soon after the album's release to form Arch Enemy. The fact that the band retains its penchant for morbid song title puns like ʽArbeit Macht Fleischʼ (good name for a B movie about zombie-infestated concentration camps) and ʽBlind Bleeding The Blindʼ does little to conceal the fact that they are attempting to get serious, and maybe the last thing this world needs is Carcass being serious. Still, as long as the riffage is that good (although I couldn't even begin to describe the particular ways in which it is good without turning into a certified metalhead), and as long as they sound so excited about finding new ways to upgrade their image, thumbs up are in order.