Let’s cut to the chase: Torn Arteries is a good album. If you like Carcass, specifically their post-reformation album Surgical Steel, then you’re going to like Torn Arteries. It’s a clear continuation of that kind of melodic death metal – sharp and precise, with just the hint of a raw edge at times. As far as extreme metal can ever be without becoming overly sanitised (like, say, Arch Enemy – who were originally founded by former members of Carcass), it is professional – and that is intended as a compliment. Carcass know what they want to do, know how to do it, and they achieve it. It’s all powered by an energy and conviction that shows Carcass aren’t merely going through the motions – they’re having fun here, and want you to enjoy listening to Torn Artieres as much as they did playing it.
Now that’s the TL;DR version of the review done with the headline points, let’s dig in a little deeper.
There are few bands held in higher regard within death metal than Carcass. The English veterans went from goregrind to practically defining – and perfecting – melodic death metal within a few years, with their Necroticism and Heartwork albums being undeniable classics of the genre. After Swansong’s release in 1996 the band broke up, before reforming in 2007 initially just for live shows, but as so often happens, this led to a new album. 2013’s Surgical Steel more or less picked up where Heartwork left off, with gore-flecked melodic death metal being the order of the day. That’s the case with latest album Torn Arteries, which showcases a band well aware of their place in the death metal pantheon, and leaning into that, with a few nods to their history throughout. Whilst a few risks are taken, on the whole Torn Arteries is what you would expect a new album from Carcass to sound like in 2021.
That’s a good thing in a lot of ways. There’s plenty of variety on offer here, within the constraints of melodic death metal – tempos are varied, songs flow and ebb with a good use of dynamics, and there’s plenty of strong riffs and solos throughout. And, given that it’s Carcass, there’s a lot of talent on display throughout without ever becoming flashy. The album puts its best foot forward, with the opening one-two of the title track and ‘Dance of Ixtab’ being among the strongest songs on here. The high-tempo viciousness of the title track is especially notable, getting the album going with a blast of energy that instantly grabs attention and will get heads banging.
The tone and sound of Torn Arteries is largely established from that point, with few surprises. As such, it’s hard to talk about the album without risking sounding like it’s being damned by faint praise. Saying that it’s what you think a new Carcass album will sound like might imply a level of predictability, with the band taking their chosen style and playing it with all the talent and professionalism you’d hope for from them – and to an extent, that’s true. Carcass are smart enough to know what works, and they largely stick with it, for better or worse. The songs are (mostly) concise, exciting, and fun.
You might notice that there’s been a few qualifiers in the album review thus far – “mostly”, “largely”, “few surprises”. That’s because Torn Arteries does feature a handful of unexpected detours, almost all of which are contained within centrepiece track ‘Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited’. At almost 10 minutes long, it’s considerably longer than anything else on the album, and moves through a series of tempos, moods, and textures. The trouble is, there aren’t quite enough ideas or energy to sustain such a long runtime, meaning that it ends up feeling repetitive and bloated. And given that it’s placed right in the middle of the album, it also means that it drags the rest of Torn Arteries down with it. Credit to the band for trying something different, but sadly not all experiments are successful.
That ‘Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited’ has this effect is a real shame, as otherwise Torn Arteries would be a much stronger album. The remaining nine tracks are evidence that you don’t need to push boundaries too much for an album to be worth your time, and that simply writing strong songs – as the remaining tracks are! – can be more than enough, especially when it’s done with a knowing wink to the listener (come on, there are tracks on here called ‘Kelly’s Meat Emporium’ and ‘Wake Up and Smell The Carcass’ – the band are evidently having fun, and want you to have fun too). And that’s all without mentioning the surprisingly emotional edge that closer ‘The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing’ possesses, with its oddly life-affirming lyrics about the inevitability of death being paired with some of the strongest songwriting on the album.
A new release from Carcass was always going to be worthy of headlines in the death metal world, and Torn Arteries largely justifies such excitement and attention. It’s at its best when doing what you’d expect Carcass to do in 2021, and whilst credit should be given to the band for taking some risks in their songwriting, it’s a shame they don’t work as well as the rest of the album does. Still, Torn Arteries is a lot of fun, and that’s exactly what you’d hope for.
Torn Arteries is out via Nuclear Blast on September 17th and can be ordered here.
Words: Stuart Wain