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Among the many fantastic metal records of the mid-80’s, Carnivore’s homonym debut was certainly one of the most refreshing and amusing. Steele & co. managed to make a difference from the rest with their unpolished raw sound and peculiar lyrics, defining a distinctive style from the very beginning, away from predictable topics and clichés. By the time their second album Retaliation was conceived, the metal scene had significantly evolved, subgenres like thrash and death became popular and consolidated, so these guys had to offer something superior as well to compete with the many promising new acts around. However, when you listen to these songs you’ll easily notice Carnivore’s music came naturally, fluently and honestly, they played what they really wanted no matter what the requirements of the subgenre by those years were, that’s why this material sounds so fresh, unique and timeless.
Right after that lovely “Jack Daniel’s And Pizza” intro, the group attacks from the very start with “Angry Neurotic Catholics”, a relentless tune of punkish riffing and hyperactive tempos, explicitly simple, yet totally powerful and vigorous, offering limited structure variations to give aggression complete control. That tune determines a characteristic pattern others in the pack follow, as “Ground Zero Brooklyn” or “Sex And Violence”, which are also technically limited and straight, incorporating alternative sections of heavier riffing and sudden rhythm changes though, along with Steele’s big amount of inspired dark humor words (“If you can't eat it or fuck it...then kill it!”, the greatest line of the record). Although Carnivore offer a surprising variety of styles here, for instance “Jesus Hitler” combines some casual groovy riffs with outrageous speed and occasionally calmed tempos, in contrast with the absolutely hardcore essence and attitude of “S.M.D.”, whose configuration avoids significant instrumental alterations. Other cuts like “U.S.A. For U.S.A.” mix evident simplicity with a clear determination to push away uniformity by adding reasonable bridges, breaks and bigger quantity of riff changes, giving this stuff remarkable continuity without getting specially difficult or pretentious. The most surprising moment of the whole record that proves the admirable potential of the band is “Inner Conflict” and its consistent varied structures constructed by punkish riffing, certain melody and those cool disgusting lyrics which start like some kind of joke, becoming later slightly sentimental and serious in some way on the unpredictable mellow break in the middle of the song: “Hate is fear, hate is fear, I rip at my face in the mirror”, Petrus sounds pretty emotional then, supported by that sweet background guitar accompaniment. So there is brilliance and inspiration here, only interrupted by that forgettable The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover that inevitably breaks the continuity of the album.
Carnivore were at their best, particularly motivated and inspired on the song-writing process because after all, they never intended to be great meticulous performers. Instrumentally, the level of these compositions is clearly humble. Piovanetti’s guitar parts ain’t rigorous or immaculate, rather noisy and at times chaotic while the Peter-Louie rhythm section is far from technical or precise…who cares. Once again I must remind you their limited skills were absolutely effective enough to satisfy the requirements of this music to play something simply honest and passionate. Their motivation and creativity are notable, as I mentioned, on the configuration of the music, the splendid variety of titles you can find here prove admirable talent and solidity. In fact, generally these guys refuse to let everything hanging on a single easy riff, they introduce several modifications, many tempo shifts and sometimes surprisingly well-executed and developed instrumental passages instead, even melody and certain refinement are added, which are elements you might not expect from this group (check out the instrumental “Five Billion Dead”). Another notable characteristic of Carnivore’s sound are the many slow sections designed by low-tuned weighty riffs that deny uniformity on the song structures, giving the music intensity and presence, although the percentage of thrashy loose riffing and fast rhythms is still generally bigger. So they combine successfully the attitude of hardcore with the aggression of thrash, along with the power and intensity of Iommi-inspired low riffs. And of course, we couldn’t forget about those charismatic lyrics that gave the group a unique identity, plenty of sarcasm and humor. I don’t think anybody wrote something as “Inner Conflict” before, particularly the sickness, gore and blood themes weren’t developed by 1987 by any death metal act yet (Autopsy’s first demo came out 3 months later..Did they take some inspiration from that number?).
Retaliation sounds as inventive, original and challenging a couple of decades later, a creative album that features a truly own sound. Back then there were thousands of crossover, hardcore and thrash acts which didn’t offer anything peculiar or characteristic, but Steele & co. had the cool ideas, inspiration and efficiency to make something special. You can perfectly tag other groups in one style, one subgenre while people like Carnivore fit no particular label, it would be vague and inexact to describe their music as thrash or hardcore or whatever, that ain’t something you can say about many of their peers.
I loved the first album by this band because it is still nowadays one of the best examples of how different genres like doom/thrash/speed and hardcore could be mixed to create a devastating wall of heavy music. The sincerity of their debut and its purity are unmatchable but also this follow up, Retaliation, worth more than a mention for its furious burden of anger and despise towards everything, from religion to society. Anyway, I must say that this album seems more planned and less spontaneous that the debut. The production, anyway, this time is far better and the band has acquired a remarkable burden of technique and this time is more precise.
“Jack Daniels and Pizza” is an intro made of sounds of a person puking in a bathroom and the following “Angry Neurotic Catholics” shows the first fast paced parts. The up tempo parts are furious and full of hardcore influences in the guitars, being mostly on open chords riffage. The vocals by Pete are always angry and truly violent with his particular and easily recognizable tonality. The production exalts a lot the rhythmic session and the pounding, distorted and echoing bass. The following “S.M.D.” is even faster and this time the thrash metal is more present while we reach the first mid-paced track with “Race Wars”. Here the band comes back to the debut with doom tempo and melodic arpeggios with the cleaner vocals by Pete.
“Inner Conflict” is again faster and gives a lot of power to the bass sound. The bass drum triplet and the up tempo on the snare are blowing. The sudden, strange and obscure doom passages are very good and really unexpected. The riffs are always quite catchy even being truly pounding and violent, taking inspiration from punk and hardcore. The refrain of these songs are well stuck in the structures. Pete is truly vicious, especially at the mid-paced parts where his vocals are suffered and powerful at the same time. Some more melodic breaks are welcomed to give fresh air to the sound but for example “Male Supremacy” still seems from another planet.
“Jesus Hitler” is hilarious. The intro is made of a speech by Hitler with choirs on the background to virtually bind together these two individuals. Musically, this song alternates fast parts to doom ones in pure Carnivore style but the catchiness is always present and the structures are dynamic. “Technophobia” somehow always reminded me Sodom for the way they play during the fast parts with more thrash metal parts and solos. “USA for USA” is unbelievably brutal in its relentless march under hardcore riffs and screamed vocals, while “Five Billion Dead” is mostly doom with more melodic and dramatic guitars patterns to prepare for the true highlight here, the final “Sex and Violence”. The refrain is mythical and the power is incredible.
The good blend of hardcore/thrash fast parts with the doom and more melodic ones is perfect to lead us towards the end of another good album by this band. To me, the first album will remain forever the best but if you love Carnivore, you can’t go wrong with this, don’t worry.
I've been hearing good things about Peter Steele's pre-Type O' Negative band Carnivore for quite a while now, but only recently I decided to give it a spin. There surely is no guarantee that ToN fans will enjoy this album, because this is balls-out punky thrash. I can only think of two moments on this album that might be a bit similar to early ToN works (the slow parts in "Ground Zero Brooklyn" and parts of "Five Billion Dead").
The controversial themes are fun as hell and amazingly well written:
"Jesus I beg of thee, don't take my life, return me to the womb
from which I was torn. Birth is a sin and the punishment is death.
I wish you had left me unborn, I shit my pants as I wait for the reaper!"
That's just one good example of the hilarity this album ensues.
The guitar riffs are catchy as hell and resemble Nuclear Assault (Game Over - Handle With Care) quite a bit, but the punk edge is probably even more prevalent.
The drumming is sloppy and punkish too, which fits very well into the overall sound of the album. Steele's vocals are nowhere near close to his ToN delivery - he never uses his bass tone, mostly he stays in his midrange but churns out aggressive and vile screams, which fit, again, very well into the overall sound.
Songs like "Jesus Hitler" and "Race War" tend to cross national socialist parody with anti-religious themes and might be hard to swallow for die-hard "fans" of organized religion. I think they are fun as hell and make the songs even more interesting as they already are.
As of 2006, Carnivore seem to have reunited and maybe I'll be able to hear this stuff live on day. It surely would be one hell of a concert.
I recommend this album to all fans of crossover/thrash. I'm usually not too much into crossover, but I'm sure that this one will be spinning in my player on a regular basis for a while.
The door crashes open, there are running footsteps, sounds of heaving and coughing, the contents of a stomach splatter into a toilet bowl. After a bit more coughing, puking and spitting, the toilet is flushed. This is the greatest introduction to an album this side of Slayer's "Hell Awaits".
Then the music kicks in. Not just a light tap with the foot, but an almighty great steel capped heave to the groin, off a 10–yard run up! Who knows what Carnivore were railing against on "Retaliation", but it's sure to have been mortally wounded. In the year or so that passed between the self–titled debut and the second album, Pete Steele and co. sent their sound to the gym. The faster parts are faster, heavier parts are heavier, it's vocally more brutal, and lyrically more focused.
The band really stepped on the accelerator in all departments right from the opening track of the album, the wonderfully titled "Angry Neurotic Catholics", which sees Pete fighting with inner demons, contemplating suicide to escape sin–induced guilt. This is thrash the way it should be played– heavy, unstoppable, uncompromising, with proto–blast beats, shouty choruses, intense riffing, all with just a hint of melody to hook the listener. These are just downright catchy headbanging tunes. Pete had been pondering religion, the reasons behind world conflicts, and examining the human psyche, which he expressed in his own blunt politically incorrect way. The vocals are delivered with more venom than on the previous album. Steele had developed a more hardcore vocal delivery, and included spoken word rants in several tracks.
There was something spookily prophetic about this album too. Two tracks in particular, "Ground Zero Brooklyn" and "USA for USA" both have taken on a new significance since the events of September 11th. "All the bullshit countries who think they'll beat the giant, World peace in upheaval, We'll nuke 'em to the Stone Age, send the message clear, Ya don't fuck with the eagle!" Sound familiar?
This is music with balls. Great big hairy tattooed leather–clad ones.
This was the album where Peter Steele & Co. ditched the silly Road Warrior image and started really LAYING THE SMACK DOWN. After a silly and pointless puking intro that gets points deleted and me skipping it, the onslaught starts hard with "Angry Neurotic Catholics", a feral thrash blaster that will have the Gothlings who worship at Peter's huge boots aghast at the intense aggression and anger on display here. "S.M.D." continues in that vein with insanely vicious lyrics directed at any and all who would call him a freak for his image, lifestyle, music--in fact, this entire album has some of the most ugly, misanthropic lyrics I've ever read. Knowing Peter, he wrote them to get a rise out of folks, which he most certainly did. But back in those days, he wasn't as refined a lyricist as he is with Type O Negative, and as a result the lyrics come off as much simpler and even more direct than anything he's ever written with Type O.
"Ground Zero Brooklyn" has a very catchy chorus, and "Race War" is just...yeesh! Truly angry and racist lyrics that really capture the mentality of the average white supremacist in a nutshell: "Don't call me your brother, cuz I ain't your fuckin' brother/We fell from different cunt/And your skin, your skin's an ungly color!" The lurching, doomy riffs on the verses ram these hateful lyrics home with brute force, and the chorus actually drifts into a more dreamy and sad feel. Ironic, considering the lyrical subject, but it also makes one wonder how racist he actually is, as the feeling on the chorus as he sings "Race war, we're going to a race war/Hate war, we're going to a hate war" makes him seem sad and reluctant to actually go through with the war in question. "Jesus Hitler" has some amusing lyrics as well as a solid alternation of thrashing and slower riffs, and their cover of "Manic Depression" is actually pretty decent, although delivered in a considerably more nettled and irreverent manner than Mr. Hendrix probably imagined it.
The musicianship is strong throughout the album, with Marc Piovanetti cranking out some blistering leads to flavor the riffs and Louie Beateaux raging behind the kit like a madman. Peter's bass tone is the same as it is on the Type O albums; a wall of chorused fuzz that doesn't require a second guitarist at all to hold up the low end during solos, and his vocals are mostly delivered in an angry ranting/screaming style that suits the music perfectly, far from the smooth Goth-influenced bass vocals that the future would see coming from him. This is essential, and if you know not to take the lyrics all that seriously, you will indeed dig this album. Crossover at its heaviest was this band, and I'm glad Peter has gotten all that rage and bile out of his system, because who knows what he'd be like these days if he hadn't!