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Old School is a funny thing to me in that it is not clearly defined. It seems to me that the younger fans of Metal call the early albums by bands like Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, Deicide, Nuclear Death, and Exhumed Old School due to its raw sound production and pace, which in some cases is slower than what we hear in the present. But what I tend to think those fans are misunderstanding about Old School is that at the time there was nothing on the earth that sounded like Death, Grindcore, Goregrind, or Black Metal. Those genres were being created unto themselves and are responsible for a seemingly limitless assault of bands swimming in their perpetual wake. Now, I’m not trying to be nostalgic or say my era is better than the present. I’m merely offering the perspective that a lot of young fans born after 1984 don’t comprehend the importance of the music that was being created while they were little tikes running about with snot festering on their upper lip. By contrast I’m not sure they know that the fusion of rap and Metal also began in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but they sure seem to think it is unique to their generation (Rap-metal ain’t something I‘m proud to have associated with my time frame).
Let’s get in the ole time machine and go back to July 1st, 1989. I was two weeks from being 18, I thought I knew every goddamned thing, I had a hot 23 year old Filipino girlfriend who loved watching porn, and the new Carcass album Symphonies of Sickness hit the stores. Believe it or not I was able to buy this sick disc at Tower Records
with its original gore cover that was later banned. Today I still have the disc, but it has been played and scratched to the point where it needs to be resurfaced. Still, I know exactly how vile Carcass’ second release sounds.
I remember the first time I heard it played. My face contorted into frozen mask of fear and desire like the dead fuckers in the movies The Ring and The Ring 2. Then after each spin on my disc player I’d start it over again and let the “Symphonies of Sickness” overwhelm me. Then as now 2 things where evident with this release. First, as
compared to Reek of Putrefaction the production level on this disc is much clearer. Second, Jeff Walker, Bill Steer, and Ken Owen blended more variance in tempos between slow, mid, and fast. Then they injected lucid solos and more gruesome vocals into the mix that are enhanced a notch on the sickness belt by lyrics taken from the more disgusting finds in a medical textbook.
Essentially, what Carcass did on this album was grow as musicians. They took the rawness from their previous album and fused it into a progression that created a more modern form of Grindcore. In the process they found an identity and cast asunder the comparisons to Napalm Death. While the album does have much to do with the sound of Death Metal, it also is full of gurgling vocals, brutality in tempo ranges, and drumming filled with unexpected variation and disordered fills all amalgamated with blast beats.
What makes this album special is that it had an unmatched originality and progression. Nothing at the time sounded like this, although there where other bands that did have these elements in their music. In a sense Carcass with 1989’s “Symphonies of Sickness” were like Chuck Yeager pushing his tiny airplane past the fear of the unknown to see what would happen when the sound barrier was broken. It is Carcass’ unbridled efforts at pushing the Death Metal and Grindcore sound to new un-dared levels that makes this slab of vinyl unique and Old School.