I have done a lot of research on metal music and its’ evolution and I would say we saw the most change in the decade of the 80’s. Many subgenres and the kings of the Death metal/Grindcore Carcass came to be. Forming as the punk band —œDisattack— in 1985, they eventually changed their name to Carcass and had Jeff Walker join on bass. Their Drummer was replaced by Ken Owen and Bill Steer left Napalm Death to focus on the Carcass project. Fun fact: Bill Steer was in Napalm Death along with Justin Broadrick of Godflesh, Imagine if that lineup had stayed together!
They we’re also joined by an enigmatic entity known only as —Sanjay— as their singer for the 1987 demo —Flesh ripping sonic torment—. The demo was out for only a year until Carcass (Now just Walker, Owen and Steer) released their debut album Reek of Putrefaction. This album was the first look into the realm of what these three friends we’re doing. It is sloppy sounding and has low quality production apparently due to their initial producer ruining the mix. They had to scatter to get the LP done and re-recorded/remixed hastily to meet their labels’ deadline. Also, their unique gore collage artwork was banned due to its gratuitous shock value, so they changed the art to anatomical body diagrams. It was after all this dismay with their band that they released another demo and an EP before recording their sophomore album. This next LP would make a huge wave of influence in our beloved murky waters of metal. In 1989, Jeff Walker, Bill Steer and Ken Owen released the opus of death metal/grindcore. The immense step up in recorded talent from Carcass came in the form of Symphonies of Sickness.
This 10 track package contained plenty of gore and the finest death metal tone to be evoked in that era. It was said by Bill Steer that Ken Owen would write the sickest riffs (despite not knowing how to play guitar) and send them to Bill to learn them, so some of these riffs could be on this monsterous LP. The first track Reek of putrefaction commences in a dark symphonic way before you’re introduced to Bill steers blaring meat cleaver guitar tone and Jeff Walkers throaty guttural screams. This song or the next is often reveled as their —best— song from this album. Reek of putrefaction alone can be influential to those looking for a cognitive version of extreme death metal. It also has a lyrical theme that pertains to getting high off of human remains in various ways. The next track Exhume to Consume roars in with a dissonant guitar screech into a riff that is heavy yet overtly groovy. Beyond everything in this genre at the time, I can see why Exhume to Consume got the notoriety that it has because Bill Steer tried (and succeeded) to write songs that stay true to the metal stylistic, but still shine light on his own style. This song is straight from the books, gore filled death metal being that it is all about necrophagia. Coming in at track number three also happens to be my second favorite track on this album: Excoriating Abdominal Emanation. Being straightforward with the rhythm, Carcass relentlessly beats you with their concentrated guitar work. The thing that enticed me so much about this song was the vocal placement and the immensely low tone they provoke at times. This track alone shows you what they can do while still perceiving an overt rhythm.
With the most memorable entrance of any song in my opinion, Ruptured in purulence leaves a palpable imprint on your cognition. With Ken Owen commencing the cacophonous track by cymbal bell hits and a steady beat, Bill Steer soon phones in a monstrous riff to lead into the rest of the song that is anything but slow. Ruptured in purulence has the grindiest riffs while still having a groove that makes you want to move your head until it falls off. Empathological Necroticism ends the first half of this LP with an omnipresent groove that seems most accessible to the common listener. This was the first song that got me to listen to Symphonies of Sickness as well.
I have only described half of this compendium and it has already deemed a daunting task to continue much further. I will just say that the other half of this LP contains the tracks; Embryonic necropsy and devourment; Swarming vulgar mass of infected virulency; Cadaveric incubator of endoparasites; Slash dementia and Crepitating bowel Erosion. All these songs stay true to the Carcass form paved by the first half of Symphonies of Sickness and elaborate on the more rhythmic aspect of the band in a darker way. The name of the album is extremely apt in my opinion because they seem to be just that, symphonies of morose with the point of view focused on death. Moreover, this album is filled with the great instrumental work of these three men and ushers in the golden age of Carcass. This would probably be the pinnacle for Carcass because it was the lineup in which they sounded the most vicious. I am positive that an index of different bands we’re impacted by this great album. No words could sum up how great I think this album is, the best part about music is that its’ greatness can speak for itself. If you’d like to see some of the legendary performances of the band with Ken Owen, I suggest either scouring Youtube for clips or buying —œWake up and smell the Carcass— which was live recording of them of the Gods of Grind tour in ’92 and another show from ’89. Both shows are really great and make for an overall great time. I’ll leave you with the track listing in sequence and the cool names Bill Steer gave his solos for each song;
1.Reek of Putrefaction; [Solo: Cadaveric Resin]
2. Exhumed to Consume; [Solo: Morbid melody for the deceased with salt to taste]
3. Excoriating Abdominal Emanation; [Solo: Rectal intubation with intolerable hot enema]
4. Ruptured in Purulence; [Solo: Smeared organic mess]
5. Empathological Necroticism (No solo named)
6. Embryonic Necropsy and Devourment; [Solo: Paturient paste sandwich]
7. Swarming Mass of Infected Virulency (No solo named)
8. Cadaveric Incubator of Endoparasites; [Solo 1: Parasitic flesh resection]; [Solo 2: Matted fungus, spawn, eggs, bacteria, germs, mold and meat]
9. Slash Dementia; [Solo: Complete and utter dismantlement of torso with carnage]
10. Crepitating Bowel Erosion; [Solo: In tumescence of pulverized piles]