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"A Collection of Depravation" (sic) gathers up various split recordings, B-sides, demos and unreleased session jams into one very fearsome-looking CD. For those who don't yet know, General Surgery is a Swedish band that traffics in gore grind metal pioneered about twenty years ago by the UK band Carcass and indeed, the sicko Swedes include a homage / rip-off cover of a Carcass song. Looking at the CD booklet is an experience in itself - 30 songs on the one disc?! - but don't fear, most songs are short and sweet (heh heh) and the whole shebang is over in about 66 minutes. Novice GS listeners should listen to the whole album in one go, as though the disk were just a one-tracker, as the songs speed by quickly and if you sneeze, you might miss one whole track. Repeated hearings will get you used to the entire album and then you can start picking out your favourite tracks or marvel at the band's evolution over time.
The first eight tracks are from a 2003 split recording with The County Medical Examiners, a similar Carcass wannabe band: the songs are usually very short and the band tears through them at blistering speed. The execution is very exact, resulting in a hugely dense and dirty sound that careens all over the place with spurts of melody and spasms of pounding drums. The production is on the murky side so the whole recording comes over with a layer of filth over it. Usually there are two sets of slobbery vocals with a deep guttural set dominating over a slightly higher but equally glucky voice.
Next up are the four tracks from the 2004 split recording with Australian death metal band Filth: the delivery is sharper and the sound is cleaner if thinner but at least the very brief lead guitar solos gush out in excess microbacteriologically pullulating frenzy. The drums don't thump so hard but the thin production may be to blame here; even the vocals are less dense and menacing than on the previous split. A couple of tracks are almost literally blink-and-you'll-miss-'em, lasting only a few minutes each before they're consigned to the hospital incinerator.
Step up the split recording with Spanish band Machetazo: recorded the same year as the Filth split, GS's sound is much the same but the songs are even faster and shorter than on the other split. At least one track delights in the glorious title "Viva! Blunt Force Trauma" which would be a great band name if it hasn't been taken already. Pity the sound quality means the actual song itself doesn't quite live up to what it promises though the band tries its hardest and punkiest.
Lone track "Fulguration" demonstrates that the good doctors know a rock'n'roll groove when they meet one and include it in their surgical arsenal. A couple of tracks from the "Left Hand Pathology" sessions show the GS guys in casualty-ward mode: raw and grindingly rough around the edges.
Skip a couple of years and we come to the split with Butcher ABC: at last GS display a sense of macabre theatre in delivery and melody with sinister death metal riffing. The songs are as fast as ever though and retain a punky spirit. Vocals are slightly different from what they have been on previous recordings - a bit clearer, more upfront in the mix and more confident to the extent that the vocal lines depart quite a bit from the music and stand out.
We arrive at the songs recorded during the "Corpus in Extremis: Analysing Necrocriticism" sessions but not included on the actual album. By this time, original singer Grant McWilliams has departed the band and the vocals recorded for these songs are very different. The band's style is a little slower and more structured with more melody; you can definitely say these guys have become more death metal. "Nephroblastoma" again shows GS is capable of getting into a real rocking rhythm groove before the guys fly off on blastbeat attacks. You sometimes wish these fellas could include a bit more catchy rhythm and the occasional lead guitar solo in their music as they do on this track. GS finish up with a Carcass cover "Empathological Necroticism" which is not greatly different from the Carcass original in execution.
The GS guys seem content as a Carcass-type band in the mould of the Scousers during their early "Reek of Putrefaction" phase and have not budged from it much during their 2003 - 2009 period. If anything, GS is a bit more deranged than the original band and the vocals are sometimes sicker. They're good musicians and work as a tight unit very well, and they do display flashes of rock'n'roll inspiration and originality so they're not just blind plagiarists. Occasionally I think it'd be nice if GS did something really out of the ordinary that even Carcass couldn't have done, something like actually simulate somebody screaming when the anaesthesia wears off while the major league kidney removal operation is still in progress or pretend they've run out of scalpels and lasers and all they've got left is the good old Black and Decker electric drill for the lobotomy, but if the musicians are happy as they are, I'm happy for them too.