Dawn of a New Era
04 November 2013
Words by Luke Saunders
Few bands in the extreme metal landscape garner the kind of unified respect and admiration that British legends, Carcass, have acquired over their career. Along with fellow Brits, Napalm Death, the band basically created the blueprint of what we know as Grindcore (and specifically Gore-grind) through their earlier recordings, such as the raw, mud-caked battery of Reek of Putrefaction in 1988. They continued to blaze a trail of critically acclaimed albums in one of metal’s greatest evolutional trajectories. Symphonies of Sickness (1989) brought stronger production values and musicianship to the table without sacrificing the barbaric, grinding brutality of their music.
Yet the best was yet to come for the band. Third album Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious represented an appealing change of tact which found Carcass embracing Death Metal wholeheartedly. The more technical and melodic approach of their song-writing resulted in an album revered as one of Death Metal’s undisputed masterpieces. Carcass weren’t finished engraving their name in extreme metal’s history. Fourth album, Heartwork, was a bold and melodic step forward for the band, regarded as one of the earliest examples of Melodic Death Metal and a classic album in its own right. Yet after the release of Heartwork, turmoil and friction began to sink in, and following 1996’s Death ‘n’ Roll inclined Swansong album, the band called it a day.
Thankfully, after following their various creative paths, original members Jeff Walker (bass/vocals) and Bill Steer (guitars) reunited with some fresh blood to record a brand spanking new album in 2013 on Nuclear Blast Records. The Metal Forge caught up with guitarist Bill Steer to discuss the triumphant return of Carcass and their highly anticipated comeback album, Surgical Steel.
TMF: After such a long break for Carcass, how did it feel getting back into the studio to record Surgical Steel?
Bill Steer: Exciting. We'd spent quite a long time working on these songs in our rehearsal room, so it was great to get stuck into recording them properly.
TMF: Did you feel any pressure with the inevitable weight of expectation in bringing Carcass back to life and recording a new album?
Steer: No pressure at all, besides the standards we had imposed on ourselves. It was too much to think about the outside world at that stage. We just wanted to write some tunes that worked for us. The general feeling was that we could worry about other people's opinions later.
TMF: How did the song-writing process gel after such a long time apart?
Steer: Easily. Don't get me wrong, we put a hell of a lot of time and energy into this music. But if it had ever felt forced, we wouldn't have an album now.
TMF: Stylistically, how would you describe Surgical Steel in comparison with Carcass’ body of work?
Steer: That's not for me to say. I can't be objective at all, as the guitarist in the band. A lot of people seem to be remarking that the material is reminiscent of the "middle period" of Carcass, i.e. the third and fourth albums. That's nice and to some extent I would agree. But to me it also sounds like a contemporary recording, as it should.
TMF: Considering the late departure of Colin Richardson, and Andy Sneap coming on board for the final mixing process, production-wise, are you happy with how Surgical Steel turned out?
Steer: Very much so. It was unfortunate that Colin wasn't able to complete the mix, but in all honesty we couldn't be happier with what Andy achieved. We've known the bloke for years but even so, it was seriously impressive watching him at work.
TMF: Judging by the song titles, artwork and title - Surgical Steel, on the surface, sounds like a throwback to the medical-themed lyricism of earlier Carcass albums. Can you elaborate?
Steer: Well, it's a shame that Jeff isn't here to answer this one. He's the lyricist and the one behind the visual side of the band. From an outside perspective, I'd say the title was chosen as we all felt it matched the vibe of the music. Lyrically, Jeff didn't really go back into the earlier, surgically-themed lyrics that much. Without wanting to interfere with how people will interpret the lyrics, I would say that they touch on a number of topics. The meat industry, certain political issues, war, personal relationships...
TMF: Following such a long period between drinks, so to speak, was it difficult for yourself, especially with your decidedly non-metal work with Firebird, to get back into the metal mindset?
Steer: No. I'd spent so many of my formative years playing this music. That kind of thing doesn't leave you just because you've spent time playing another genre.
TMF: How did the recruitment process eventuate with new members Daniel Wilding (drums) and Ben Ash (guitars) and what did they bring to the album?
Steer: Dan certainly contributed a lot to the album. Not in the sense of bringing in riffs, but with regard to arrangements and so on. And just by being there at the drum kit in the rehearsal room, he was a very encouraging presence. The bloke is a natural musician and reacts really well to any ideas you throw at him. Ben didn't join us until long after the recording was complete. But he's been doing a great job in the live setting.
TMF: What part, if any, did Ken Owen play in the song-writing or recording process for the album?
Steer: Ken came in and performed backing vocals on several tunes. He was massively supportive about the music, which means a lot to us.
TMF: Do you have any personal song highlights from the album?
Steer: That would vary from time to time. At the moment I really like "Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System", "Non Compliance" and "Mount Of Execution".
TMF: Is Surgical Steel likely to be a one off release, or can we expect more music in the future from Carcass?
Steer: We've been asked this question a few times already, and for each of us the answer has always been - yes, we would be up for making another album. There are still a lot of ideas kicking around and the energy level with this line-up is very high.
TMF: With so many changes in the extreme metal scene since Swansong was released, are there any modern metal bands that get you excited?
Steer: It depends on what you mean. If you're talking about bands that play in the styles of Metal that are considered "modern", I'd have to say no. But there are one or two contemporary groups with an old school vibe that I enjoy. Grand Magus stands out.
TMF: What touring plans have you guys got lined up following the release of Surgical Steel?
Steer: There are quite a few plans being discussed. We have a handful of club shows in the States around the release of the album, and a festival in Canada. After that we go to Russia and Japan, and much of the rest of the year is taken up with a tour supporting Amon Amarth across Europe.
TMF: Any chance Carcass will come to Australia in the near future?
Steer: I really hope so. It's one of my favourite places in the world and we were treated very well last time we went there. If we get an offer, we'll be out there as soon as we can manage it.
The highly anticipated Surgical Steel is available from September 17th on Nuclear Blast Records. For more Carcass info check out: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialCarcass
More from Carcass
- Napalm Death, Carcass and Extortion - The Hifi Bar, Brisbane, AUS, 19 Apr 2015 [live]
- Carcass - Gods of Grind [interview]
- Napalm Death and Carcass with Guests Extortion - April 2015 Australian Deathcrusher Tour Announced [news]
- Carcass - Brisbane, AUS, 13 Jun 2014 [live]
- Carcass - Symphonies of Sickness [interview]
- Carcass - Surgical Steal the Commonwealth Australian Tour Announced [news]
- Carcass - Brisbane, AUS, 11 Oct 2008 [live]
- Carcass - Australian Tour Supports [news]
- Carcass - Tour Tickets Selling Fast [news]
- Carcass - Australian Tour 2008 Announced [news]