Album Title: Torn Arteries
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Date of Release: 17 September 2021
My last Carcass review was for the 2020 EP entitled ‘Despicable’. It was billed as an appetite-whetting release ahead of a new album, containing a small handful of tracks that were apparently written at the same time, but for one reason or another didn’t make the cut. Of that EP, I wrote:
“…if this EP does contain songs that failed to make it onto Carcass’ next full-length, I can only begin to imagine just how good that’ll be. The musicality on ‘Despicable’ is insane, and it demonstrates a band that are not even close to losing their edge. On this showing, Carcass are hungry, Carcass are determined and, on this form, you’d not bet against them to conquer the extreme metal world once again.”
Well, I don’t have to wait any longer because here I am writing the review of the promised new album, ‘Torn Arteries’, with expectations pretty high. Not only was last year’s EP damn good, the Liverpool quartet’s previous album, ‘Surgical Steel’ was the return from the wilderness that many of us had hoped we may see one day. It was a belter and proved that there was life in the old dogs yet.
I’m not sure whether it was the weight of expectation or any other myriad of reasons, but on a first spin through ‘Torn Arteries’, I felt a pang of disappointment, possibly even boredom. That feeling has well and truly been given an unceremonious kick up the backside and has long since scarpered into the night. However, having listened to the record quite a few times through now, I can understand a little more about why I may have had this initial feeling towards it. It’s perhaps because ‘Torn Arteries’ feels a little ‘safer’ than I maybe had hoped or expected. As the name suggests, ‘Surgical Steel’ was sharp, incisive, and unforgiving. ‘Torn Arteries’ feels like it lacks a little bit of that cutting edge; it’s less a scalpel and more a hammer and chisel.
That last line is not necessarily a criticism I ought to make clear. I’m just trying to make a point and at the same time, describe the music on this record. ‘Torn Arteries’ gets under your skin or, to belabour the analogy, it bludgeons you into submission like a lump hammer might. There’s only so much of a thumping you can take before you give in. In this case, we are bludgeoned with plenty of mid-tempo stomp that carries with it a surprising amount of nuance, subtle melody and not-so-subtle groove. Think less ‘Necroticism…’, more ‘Swansong’ or ‘Heartwork’ to put it as simply as I can. Fear not, Carcass can still bring the ferocity, it’s just that it feels much more tempered this time around.
The first cut on ‘Torn Arteries’ is the title track, and it begins ferociously enough with a cool drum intro, swiftly joined by a fast-paced riff that then only increases pace to deliver a thrashy death metal track that injects some brief, subtle melody at points. There are plenty of nice lead breaks from Bill Steer and Tom Draper as well as moments of barely contained speed, although there are times when the quartet ease off the accelerator pedal just a little. Jeff Walker’s voice has barely changed over the years, so hearing his voice atop new Carcass material remains a joy to these ears.
Next up is ‘Dance Of Ixtab (Psychopomp and Circumstance)’, which is an entirely different beast altogether. It is a groove laden, stomping affair led by the strong drumming of Daniel Wilding that gets the head nodding, injected with a little more melody, making it one of the more accessible and immediate tracks on offer. That said, ‘Eleanor Rigor Mortis’ pushes it close, blending some irresistible chunky grooves with bursts of faster thrash-imbued riffing. It’s here, and within the likes of ‘Kelly’s Meat Emporium’ later in the record, that I hear the ghost of ‘Heartwork’ most clearly, and this is certainly not a bad thing in my opinion. Again, the lead breaks are seriously great, especially the final flourish which brings the track to an abrupt end.
Of some slight surprise is the mammoth ‘Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment’, which begins in a manner vastly incongruent to its title, thanks to a melodic, atmospheric acoustic guitar intro. The song lasts for the better part of ten minutes and is certainly an ambitious composition. On balance, I’m not entirely sure it warrants this extended run-time, as it gets a little repetitive in places but as well as the nice intro there are some highlights to mention. For a start, some of the slow, molten riffing is thunderous and groove-laden, but most impressive is the glorious melodic breakdown around the half-way point, complete with a wonderfully soulful lead guitar solo that ditches speed in favour of out-and-out musicality. Naturally, for me, this is a real winner and it demonstrates that Carcass are willing to test out new ideas and directions within their tried and trusted formulae.
I am less enamoured with ‘In God We Trust’ thanks to the surprising and unexpected inclusion of what I assume are hand claps. Surprising and unexpected, yes, but also entirely unnecessary and out of kilter with the overall atmosphere on the remainder of the record. It’s a shame because there is much to enjoy about the song otherwise, including more moody lead solos and plenty of muscle.
‘The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing’ completes the album and does so in nice fashion, in many ways working with the opening title track to bookend ‘Torn Arteries’ with faster, more confrontational, thrashier material. The riffs behind the central lead solos is superb, really accentuating them, and giving them more of a melodious edge to counterpoint the more uncompromising elements within the song.
It is hard to be negative about ‘Torn Arteries’ because it is an album from Carcass for heaven’s sake, one of the best in the business at what they do. There is a great deal of enjoyment to be had by listening to this record; a little nostalgia mixed with a few new ideas, and delivered in an exemplary, professional manner, with a strong production to complete the package. However, I just have an overall feeling of being a little less excited by ‘Torn Arteries’ than I was by ‘Surgical Steel’. This is an album that will definitely appeal to fans of the ‘Heartwork’ and ‘Swansong’ era, and I have no doubt will scoop up a few new converts along the way too. But at the end of the day, it’s Carcass, so we’ll all buy it anyway, regardless.
The Score of Much Metal: 87%
Further reviews from 2021:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: