Carcass: Surgical Steel


There is probably no album that better represents a step forwards and a step back than Surgical Steel, while removing any negative connotations of those phrases.  Let’s not kill it by blanketing all of music, though, we don’t give ourselves that much credit, but at least as far as metal is concerned these guys have done the near impossible.  There’s certainly no need to discuss Carcass in significant detail, because by virtue of the fact that you’re on this site in the first place, you’ve probably heard everything there is to know.  The early days with their revolutionary singing and lyrical approach that was at times devoid of musicianship, their middle period, peaking at Necroticism, and then their downfall into radio-tune hell starting with Heartwork and ending with an album we won’t mention since it’s the most ironic title ever.  Honestly, this reviewer didn’t even know they intended to do anything more and only heard about Surgical Steel a few weeks ago.  First reaction?  Something like “oh please”.  Second reaction?  “I am but a child, slay me with thy guitars.”

Never has there been a more perfect return and revisiting at the same time, in every possible way.  Carcass is quite aware of what they’ve done with this release.  The artwork hearkens back to the Necroticism days while giving nods to their earlier work, and completely avoiding the general artifice of lies that came after it.  It’s gore in a by-proxy, streamlined way.  The presentation has it down, the only complaint being that the front cover isn’t very conducive to a cool T-shirt.  Anyway, these guys are clearly aware of what this album means and how it sounds from the opening, solo track, “1985”, the year the band officially formed.  But the sound of it is absolutely ripping guitar solo, much more akin to their skill on Heartwork, but completely minus the “radio” that started to turn it off for so many people.  This lead-in is pure self-awareness by means of introduction.  Any Carcass fan can listen to it and it’s immediately clear that Surgical Steel is the most precise combination of early and later Carcass that could have ever been made.

The guitars tear from classic Carcass grind with their impressive vocal range to melodic solos of their later years, but it’s amazing how they were able to avoid the bad of that time period while retaining the good of their early years and also avoiding the bad of those ‘good ole’ days’.  Necroticism, before this, was their most perfect album, but it still had an underground gore presence to it, whereas Surgical makes it a little more user-friendly, like it or not, but they’ve done it in such a way that they’ve successfully bridged two types of sound, two eras, and two types of fans, without, in the opinion of this reviewer, losing any connection between the two, which is not so easy if you consider what it means.  Thus, old fans should find exactly what they’re looking for, and newer fans a segway into the ‘real underground’.  It delivers a clear, and most likely very intentional, combination of two eras while successfully removing every aspect that made either part of Carcass in both periods a detriment to its own image.  Surgical Steel is a perfect album for what it is and should be.  It sounds awesome, the production is high, the guitars are clear, the solos are intricate, it’s got the right amount of grind, the right amount of clarity, it’s the most finely-tuned balance in the history of metal.  You can purchase it in a few versions, the one in particular that was looked at here was the digipack, which features a bonus track at the end and a more impressive layout.  Download, vinyl, whatever your fancy, if you’re a fan of metal and remember what Carcass was but are looking for something new, there is no other option.

Carcass: Surgical Steel
Nuclear Blast
Score: 5 / 5

Written by Stanley Stepanic

Carcass: Official Facebook Page