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What a Pity - 50%

vegetable, January 15th, 2011

Whenever I listen to this album, I am saddened. Saddened because of what this album could have been and what it is. Carcass, pioneers of grindcore, goregrind, death metal, melodic death metal, whatever the fuck genre they feel like playing at any given time, made their debut with this album. They're playing grindcore here, and of course, doing a damn fine job of it.

First things first, the production on this album is absolutely terrible. It's not authentic or raw or gritty or any of those adjectives that people use to praise the less than pristine production on older extreme metal albums. It just really, truly sucks. It sucks enough to actually ruin your enjoyment of the album. So, unless you're sure that you are a complete Carcass fanboy, or a grind addict who can pick riffs out of the most chaotic and repulsive noise, you would do well to stay away from this. Grindcore sounds like noise to a lot of people's ears as it is, even some fans of extreme metal, and this is a grindcore album with the worst production in the world. Ever.

Bill Steer, who handles guitar duties here, also played guitar on Napalm Death's genre-defining album, From Enslavement to Obliteration (FETO). And yet he manages to sound very different from what he sounded like on FETO. His tone is a lot less harsh, his riffs much, much more varied and he even adds some solos. I can't comment on the quality of the solos because they don't actually sound like solos on the album, but high pitched noise.

Jeff Walker's bass is pretty much the ether the album is swimming in. He is mostly following the guitar, but due to the ridiculously bass heavy production, it sort of fuses with the riffs and contributes greatly to the muddiness of the album.

Ken Owen is manning the drum kit. You hear the snare and bass drums boom out clearly from time to time, but pretty much any other distinct beats are difficult to make out. The drums maintain a quick tempo in the blasting sections and there really isn't much wrong with them.

All three members contribute to vocal duties. Each er... vocalizing, because they're obviously not singing, in a different vocal range. Walker's trademark, recognizable high rasp is what drives much of the vocals. Steer contributes a lot, both in terms of quantity and quality. He growls at lower than sub bass frequencies. If you turn the volume up enough I'm sure they would cause an earthquake. He would gradually reduce his vocal contributions on subsequent albums, but he growls quite often here. Owen does distorted vocals that are slightly higher sounding than Steer's but distorted enough to sound even more inhuman.

The riffs are awesome. No question about it. There are tonnes of them and they are all catchy. You may have to strain your ears a little, but they are audible and fairly distinct and will get stuck in your head. This is why the production is such a travesty. This album is good enough to be legendary, but it is robbed of that glory because it sounds like shit. The songs also have more coherent structures than the almightly blastfest that is FETO. The lyrics and song titles are what you expect from early Carcass, complicated biological and medical terms put together for the purpose of delivering maximum disgust. The songs are very much riff-driven and there is much less blasting than what you'd expect from a grind album.

The songs are all good, and as is usual for grindcore albums, they're best enjoyed when the album is listened to from start to finish. They also rarely exceed two or three minutes in length. It is a fantastic abum. It coud have been right up there with Symphonies of Sickness, perhaps even better. I love it and listen to it often. I really, really want to give it a score in the 90s. But I can't. The production is really that bad. A re-recording would make it more accessible to a lot more people, but there is practically no chance of that happening. Enjoy it for what it is. And lament over what could have been.