There’s something apt about Liverpool legends Carcass returning to the fray in the middle of a global pandemic. From their earliest days they’ve revelled in the gory details of human psychical frailty, even using medical textbooks as lyrical inspiration to give them a scalpel sharp edge. Gratifyingly, the band aren’t here on this occasion to rub our noses in the grim facts of biology, but instead to deliver a short blast of some of the finest melodic death to lift (and simultaneously crush) our spirits.
Despicable, the band’s new 4-track EP, was not originally part of the plan. This year was meant to see the band releasing their 7th full length album and stage a triumphant return to the live circuit. However, then of course COVID happened. Rather than just hitting pause completely and waiting until things blew over, the band decided to drop Despicable as a tasty little teaser for fans.
Kicking off with the 70’s horror homage ‘Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue’, it’s pretty clear from this EP that Carcass in 2020 are a band firing on all cylinders. Nearly 30 years after they arguably invented the genre (do not @ me) the band are still some of the finest proponents of melodic death metal in the world, combining both blistering heaviness with catchy as hell tunes. ‘Living Dead…’ is a hyper-speed rager that features some stunning twin guitar work, while ‘The Long and Winding Bier Road’ (a bier road being the path leading to a cemetery which corpses would transported along) finds them shifting gear into the classic, chugging death of the likes of Death and Pestilence. Bill Steer’s guitar work remains some of the most tasteful in extreme music, managing to be impressive while never falling into the trap of being overly techy or noodley. ‘Under the Scalpel Blade’ is a masterclass in death metal percussion while the final track ‘Slaughtered in Soho’ is a balls-to-the-wall crescendo for the EP with a few nods to classic 80’s metal.
Carcass have always had a wry sense of humour. With their tongue-in-cheek approach to gore and love of a good pun, they’re easily as capable of making you grin like a loon as they are making you headbang like a demon. Whether it was their intention or not what they’ve done here is drop a slice of finely tailored, feel good extremity at the exact moment we need it. The band are clearly on the form of their lives, and if this EP is anything to go by then the new album, whenever it emerges, is going to be a classic.
Despicable is out now via Nuclear Blast and can be ordered here.
Words: Dan Cadwallader