Symphonies of Sickness

By Mark Snedden

03 June 2014

Carcass will be here once again in June on a tour to support their superb new album, Surgical Steel. Carcass are one of the few bands who survived the grindcore movement in the ‘90s, and I guess, not only survived it, but developed as musicians and song writers by incorporating elements of grindcore, melodic death metal, and dare I say, progressive metal.

The band has had quite a jaded history and devastatingly enough imploded during their most successful era, Heartwork in the mid-‘90s, with the release of Swansong after the band had actually folded. They moved from a small independent label, Earache in the UK, to a major international label with an abundance of financial support but this wasn’t enough to keep them together. The band reformed shortly about eight years ago to do some festival dates and a longwinded world tour; the band landing in Australia in 2008. However, it wasn’t until 2012 that the band actually formally reformed to begin touring and release new material. Hence, Surgical Steel, an album that represents everything that is Carcass and one that has put them squarely back on the metal map.

I recently spent some time with founding guitarist, Bill Steer, and we chewed over a few topics leading up to their Australian tour next month. Bill was very laid back, quietly confident, and was very upbeat about Surgical Steel

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“I guess we always felt confident about it, only in the essence that it was representative of what we are. It actually has exceeded even our expectations really. So we were quite excited about it once we had the finished product in our hand. Even a year later we still love it! In all honestly I wish we were playing more of it live. There are so many songs that are great to play and I know that they would go over well. But ultimately, we need to play some of our back catalogue to support all of our fans. I don’t think that Jeff or me would ever be 100% with anything that we release, but we are satisfied. It was a big chunk of our lives and so you invest a lot of time and energy in to an album. But as I said I can sit here and say a year on we still love it.”

Bill went on to discuss the song-writing and the total extent of the amount of songs recorded.

“There were actually 15 songs in total. I think that by one method or another we have all of the bonus tracks floating around in some form or another too, which is great. One was actually for a flexi disc on a magazine. We didn’t put all of the tracks on the album because we didn’t want it to be too long. With the song writing, it was to how we wrote in the old days. I would bring in some riffs and we would put them in a framework with the drummer. From this point Jeff would come in and critique it all. He is great at putting songs in to weird timing arrangements and structurally in to songs he can sing over verses and a chorus. This is the most exciting stage. It is a process that we haven’t really analysed; it is just what we do. We bounce ideas around and sometimes in an arvo we will have a song together and done and sometimes it takes a few days or so.”

From this point I had Bill reflect upon the tour so far and how the material and line-up were going down live. Bill was animated about the touring and seems to be reinvigorated over recent touring.

“We have gone down very well, we can’t really complain, it has been solid. I guess we have done quite a lot of work in the States at this point, and this has been the main focus. But we also just went to Japan and that was fantastic, a lot of support over there. We are also very excited about coming back to Australia, it is one of our favourite countries to visit and not just as musicians but as tourists as well.”

We continued with the tour and focussed a little on the set list and just what Carcass have been playing.

“The best way to put it,” Bill continued, “Is that we try to represent every era of the band. The middle period of the group is looked on most fondly, and this was the most successful era of the band commercially, so we have to do songs from here. But there were really strong followings for the first two albums and we need to please them as well. And now with Swansong, an album that initially took a lot of flak, it has aged well with fans, and we have to have songs off this. Then obviously the new album, we are playing as much as we can from Surgical Steel. Look with set lists you can never please everyone, but we have tried and we are excited about what we are playing.”

Quite organically we started to discuss Carcass’ history and the huge development in their sound over successive releases. Bill was happy to reflect up the bands back catalogue and engaged most about their development in sound.

“I say that there are a number of factors that contributed to us mutating like we did. The music we were in to at the time was definitely an influence. The experience of the musicians involved as well, because at the start we were very green. You can’t keep that naivety for long and records will sound slicker as you progress and that comes down to budgets too. You know, you can’t emulate what you have done in your initial stages, whether you would want to or not. So yeah I guess mostly the level of musicianship and what we were listening to around us at the time is imprinted in to our sound. We developed as musicians and song writers and we really didn’t want to do the same album over and over again.”

I had to push at this point and find out what releases over the years resonate with Bill as a contributor to Carcass.

“All of it really, because I was there from day one, and I am still here. There are fond memories with all and for different reasons. But I would have to say Heartwork is my favourite period. It would be my favourite period because it felt like we were peaking as musicians and the relationships within the band were still very strong and positive.”

From here Bill started to focus on Carcass at this point in time, and in to the future.


“We are booked for the rest of the year pretty well. So we are going to really be touring solid. We have a lot of festivals in Europe and will return to the States later in the year picking up a lot of the towns that we didn’t cover earlier in the year. So there will be no new material until the end of the year at this point but ideas are bouncing around in my head. We just don’t at this point have time to do any rehearsing for writing material. When we do, it will be another lengthy process. For us it will need to be different and not safe, like a Surgical Steel part two, as we take the stuff we do seriously and we need to be challenged and excited by it. It will take as long as it needs. You can’t predict length, it just plays itself out. But rest assured there will be releases at the end of this touring period.”

To finish up I asked Bill if he had any message for his Australian fans in anticipation of the June tour.

“We are looking forward to getting out there and thank you to all of the people who have campaigned for us to come back. Initially we felt there wasn’t much interest for us to come back but it has snow balled and so off we go. We are very excited about June and I can’t wait to get down there and play again.”

Bill came across very well and seems to be in a really good place with regard to Carcass and is looking forward to the Australian tour in June. If you haven’t seen this band before make sure you buy your tickets. They were amazing in 2008, and now with Surgical Steel under their belts, this show is going to be huge.

Carcass will be bringing their “Surgical Steal the Commonwealth” tour to Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne this June. For more information on Carcass, check out

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