Reinventing the Surgical Steel


My recent concert experiences have left me with cold feelings.  I’ve been missing the suspension of disbelief, the process whereby my body surrenders to the metal and becomes a vessel of headbanging rage and rapture.  I could attribute this to jaded age, the cone of silence proffered by obligatory earplugs, or any number of grumpy excuses.  Last week that veil was pierced by Carcass and Immolation.  In addition to losing myself in the ferocity of the evening’s proceedings, I was also able to come to terms with Surgical Steel.  My relationship with Carcass’ überhyped reunion album is complicated, with roots digging down into my own metal infancy.

Heartwork was my death metal revelation, one of the first signposts on my road to hell. It changed everything, overturning the Metallica, Megadeth, Maiden, and Sepultura albums that had ruled my heart until that moment in 1993.  Heartwork became the soundtrack to my high school years, its esoteric, intellectual beauty and overt elitism setting the tone for my adolescent existence.  It’s still my favorite album of all time.

When Swansong came out, I was devastated.  My ears had pushed further into brutality; Suffocation was more my style at that point.  The heaviness, speed, and soul had been sucked from my favorite band, perhaps by the music business itself.  But Swansong was still filled with righteous riffs and songwriting mojo; it stayed in my car stereo throughout that summer before college.  As the negative reviews poured in, my consternation and contrarianism won out; I became a vocal Swansong proponent.  I’ll still defend the album ‘til blue in the face.

The first Carcass reunion tour bore unbelievable fruits; the resurrection of metal heroes had not yet become a clichéd, cash-driven industrial complex.  I could not comprehend Carcass creating new music; some sacred sarcophagi should remain sealed.  But new music was born nonetheless.  As the release of Surgical Steel approached, I steeled myself for disappointment.  It’s the way of life.  It’s just how things go.  The release of “Captive Bolt Pistol” did nothing to alleviate my doubts; all I could hear was Arsis and Soilwork and Arch Enemy and seventeen years of copycat melodic death regurgitated.  I was blinded by fear.

My first listen to Surgical Steel in its entirety was a bizarre experience.  There were sparks of brilliance, fleeting moments of old feelings, but no magic.  That first spin set off my alarms, breaking heartstrings and filling me with smug dissatisfaction.  I hope for the best but expect the worst.  This shouldn’t have been so complicated.  I had set up an impossible goalpost for the band and the album.

Naturally, I continued to listen to Surgical Steel, repeatedly and obsessively.  My misgivings faded but didn’t disappear entirely.  Could an album that compels daily spins really be mediocre?  I bought a ticket to see Carcass play at the Gramercy Theater and schlepped to the show with zero expectations.

Immolation, as always, were incredible.  But that’s a story for another story.  Gramercy was packed to the gills and roiling with energy as “1985” played over the PA.  Carcass came out and ripped directly into “Buried Dreams,” the sound a balanced clarion call of death. The chills, the fucking chills.

The setlist was glorious, but the Surgical Steel tracks stole the show.  Filled with urgency and ripping, dripping precision, the new songs fit perfectly amongst the gore-filled gems of years past.  I couldn’t stop smiling, or headbanging, or playing every riff and solo on my genuine Acme air guitar.  I lost my pretentions, let it go, and found that old feeling, “the ecstasy of enmity.” I walked out of the concert filled with much joy and neck-pain, thinking this unfathomable thought: I wish Carcass had played more new songs.  I’m sold; Surgical Steel is the real thing.

(Note: cozy up to the soundboard at the Gramercy Theater if you want a show to sound like non-shit).

Labels

Absu1 Acephalix2 Agalloch1 Agrath1 Altar of Plagues4 ambient1 Amon Amarth4 Amorphis1 Ancient Wound1 Anhedonist1 Animals as Leaders1 Aosoth1 Apostasy Records1 Arsis1 Assück2 astrogrind1 At The Gates1 Atakke2 Augury1 Aural Music1 Australia1 Autopsy1 Avantgarde Music1 Backslider1 Bandcamp4 Baroness5 Barren Earth1 Batillus2 Be'lakor2 Beansidhe2 Beaten To Death3 Bindrune Recordings3 Black Anvil10 Black Cobra1 Black Metal66 Blender Theater3 Blood Harvest3 Blood Incantation1 Blood Music1 Bloody Panda1 Blue Record1 Blut aus Nord2 Bolt Thrower2 Bosse-de-Nage1 Botanist1 Bowery Ballroom1 Buckshot Facelift1 Burning World1 Burst4 Cake Shop2 Candlelight1 Cannibal Corpse2 Captain Cleanoff1 Carcariass1 Carcass3 Castevet8 cats1 Century Media1 Chepang1 Chronicles of Chaos1 Chuck Schuldiner1 Cloud Rat2 Cobalt2 Code6661 Coffinworm1 Concussion1 Coney Island High2 Converge1 Convulse1 Convulsing1 Creator-Destructor Records1 Crom Dubh1 Crucifist1 crust2 Curandera2 Cynd1 Cynic1 d-beat1 Dååth1 Dark Descent Records6 Dark Tranquillity1 Darkane1 Darkthrone2 Deafest5 Death2 Death Angel1 death metal68 Death Toll 80K1 Deathspell Omega1 Debemur Morti2 Decibel2 Decrepit Birth2 Defeatist8 Demilich1 Denmark1 Dephosphorus1 Disappearer1 Discordance Axis1 diSEMBOWELMENT1 Disma3 Disrotted1 Dissection2 Don't Give a Fuck1 doom28 Down2 Dream Theater2 Drugs of Faith1 Dunkelheit Produktionen1 Duplicate Records1 Dying Fetus1 Dystrophy1 Earache4 Eight Bells1 Eluveitie1 Emperor1 Enslaved3 Entombed2 Epoch1 Europa3 Exhumed1 Explosions In The Sky1 Falls of Rauros1 Fen3 FLAC1 Flaming Tusk4 Flourishing6 folk1 folk metal2 From Exile1 Fuck the Facts5 funeral doom6 Funeral Moth2 Fuoco Fatuo1 Gattaca1 Gaza1 GetOverHere1 Gigan1 Gilead Media3 God Dethroned2 Gojira5 Google Music1 Google music beta1 Gorguts3 Gorod2 Gramercy Theater2 Grand Ballroom1 Grave Miasma1 Graveyard Hill Records1 Grind and Punishment1 grindcore30 Grindcore Karaoke1 Guns N' Roses1 Gustavo Santaolalla1 Gwynbleidd1 Gygax1 Handshake Inc.1 hardcore8 Heaving Earth2 heavy metal2 Hells Headbangers2 Hellthrasher Productions2 High Water Media1 Highline Ballroom1 Hivelords1 Holy Grail1 Hooded Menace2 Horrendous3 Horror Pain Gore Death Productions2 Howls of Ebb2 Hreilia1 Humanity Falls2 Hybreed Chaos1 I1 I Abhor1 I Voidhanger Records1 Ill Omen1 Imbroglio2 Immolation6 Immortal4 Impiety1 In Flames2 Incantation3 industrial2 Infernal Stronghold1 Infestus1 Ingrowing1 Inquisition2 Interviews1 Intronaut2 Inverloch1 Invertia1 Invictus Productions2 Ipsissimus2 Irkallian Oracle1 Iron Bonehead1 Iron Bonehead Productions1 Iron Maiden4 Irving Plaza4 Isis1 Katatonia3 Khthoniik Cerviiks3 King Giant1 Krallice10 Kreator4 Krypts3 Kylesa4 Lamb of God2 Landmine Marathon3 Last Rites1 Laster1 Latitudes1 Lavadome productions2 Lay Down Rotten2 Legion1 Listenable Records1 Lit Lounge1 Ludicra4 Lychgate1 Madison Square Garden1 Magrudergrind2 Man's Gin1 Manipulator1 Marduk1 Marty Friedman1 Martyrdöd1 Maruta1 Maryland Deathfest2 Mas-Kina Recordings2 Masonic Temple1 Mastodon6 Megadeth1 melodic death metal4 Melvins2 Metal Bandcamp7 Metallica1 Mikael Åkerfeldt1 Milwaukee Metalfest1 Mind Mold1 Mirovia1 Misery's Omen1 Mithras2 Mitochondrion1 Moksha1 Mollusk1 Mono2 Moonsorrow1 Morbus Chron1 Mortician1 Motörhead1 Mournful Congregation1 Music Hall of Williamsburgh1 Mutant Supremacy5 Mutiny Within1 My Dying Bride4 Nachtreich2 Naisian1 Napalm Death5 Nasum1 Necrophobic1 Necrosemen1 Necrowretch1 neo-classical1 Nephelium1 Nerve Altar2 Neuraxis3 Neurisis1 New Zealand1 Nile2 Nirvana1 No Fashion Records1 noise3 Nokia Theater1 Nordvis2 Nuclear Blast3 Nuclear War Now!1 Nucleus2 NWOBHM2 Obscura4 Obsequiae2 Ogg Vorbis1 Opeth5 Order of Orias1 Osmose Productions1 Owen Hart1 P.L.F.1 Pact Ink Records2 Pagan Records1 Pallbearer1 Pantera1 Paroxsihzem2 Peaceville4 Pelican6 Phantom Glue1 Phil Anselmo1 Pinnacle of Bedlam1 pirate metal1 Plebeian Grandstand2 Poland1 Polluted Inheritance1 Portal1 post-metal2 post-rock2 PRC music1 Priapus1 Prisoner of War1 Profound Lore9 prog11 Prosthetic2 Psychic Limb3 Pulverised Records1 Qrixkuor2 Quorthon1 Radiation Blackbody1 random playlist3 Red Album1 reissue1 Relapse8 Revocation5 Ritual Chamber1 Robert Johnson1 Sabre1 Saint Vitus Bar1 Sarcasm1 Sarpanitum1 Satan1 Scion1 Scrotum Jus Records1 Selfmadegod Records1 Sentient Ruin1 Sesecresy1 Setentia2 Seventh Rule1 Severnaya1 Shadow Kingdom Records1 Shea Stadium1 Siberian Hell Sounds1 Skeletonwitch6 Slough Feg1 Sludge17 Slugdge1 Social Distortion1 Soilwork3 Soulseller Records1 Southern Lord3 Spectral Lore2 speed metal1 StarGazer1 Streetwalker1 Suffering Hour1 Suffocation5 Sulaco1 Summer Slaughter1 surf1 Swallow the Sun2 Swashbuckle3 Swedish Death Metal1 Swimming1 Swords of Chaos1 Sydney1 Symphony X1 Taake1 technical death metal7 Temple of Abandonment1 Temple of Void1 Thantifaxath1 The Absence1 The Acheron3 The Ajna Offensive1 The Binary Code1 The Bowery Electric2 The Chance4 The Charleston2 The Communion1 The Faceless4 The Fucking Champs2 The Knitting Factory3 The Path Less Traveled Records7 The Rolling Stones1 The Ruins of Beverast1 The Secret2 The Studio at Webster Hall5 Thou1 thrash10 Thrawsunblat1 Throatruiner Records1 Throne Records1 Tiger Flowers3 Toad's Place1 Tombs6 Triptykon1 Union Pool2 Unmen1 Unspeakable Axe Records1 Urfaust1 Vancouver1 Velnias1 Vendetta Records1 Vex1 Via Nocturna1 Vic records1 viking2 Vit1 Vitriol Records1 Vore1 W.T.C Productions1 Wadge1 Wake2 Warbringer2 Weakling3 Weapon1 Weedeater1 What We All Come To Need1 Willowtip4 Withered5 WITTR1 Woe3 Wolves In The Throne Room5 Woods of Ypres4 Wormrot9 Writhing Mass1 Xaddax1 Xantam1 year-end list2 year-end-list1 Yellow Eyes1 Yith1 Zhrine1 Zosimus1
Show more