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Raw flowing energy and vitality in Carcass debut - 85%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, September 26th, 2012

Count me among those few people who actually think that Carcass's debut album "Reek of Putrefaction" is better than most of their later full-length recordings. In spite of the muddy production which makes some of the vocals sound like mud-monster mutterings, the music has a flowing energy and electrical vitality about it. "Reek ..." starts in grand style with a brief angel-choir tone ambience and a very metallic guitar flourish that repeats a few times before pressing down the accelerator and pounding the drums into a rollercoaster ride down to the scrabbly and chaotic "Regurgitation of Giblets". Even that doesn't last very long before we're into the next track, an equally messy traffic jam of a song in which guitar and drums fight for the title of Most Juddery Twitchy Instrument and vocalists Jeff Walker and Bill Steer trade slurpy-slurp slimeball utterances.

The album more or less continues in this way and all the songs - there are 20 of them, trying counting 'em! - can be seen as variations of one whirlwind monster metal grind in which the main constants are frequent epileptic blasts of furious scrabbling guitars that sometimes spit lightning sparks of lead string soloing, convulsive episodes of skin-bashing, bass guitar barely able to keep up with the pace and those duelling / duetting vocals that spit out gravel-flecked vomit balls. Lyrics are as lurid and laughably sick as can be, limited only by the band members' imaginations and the range of comics and medical texts and dictionaries they'd seen at the time. For all that, the instrumentals are energetic and several tracks boast very catchy and dance-worthy groove rhythms - you can hardly stop yourself from bouncing up and down in time to the beat.

I really like the squealy high-pitched lead guitar flashes that are of "blink and you'll miss 'em" duration, the way they suddenly stutter and multiply like bacteria in a frenzy, and the sloppy, all-over-the-house drumming which give the recording a manic and deranged air which suits the over-the-top lyrics. On this album, Steer and Walker share equal vocal duties: Walker's voice has a vicious relish suggesting the bass player might just be harbouring psycho-killer tendencies - he certainly delights in wallowing in all the gore his lyrics muster - while Steer has a deeper swamp-monster vocal in which it's hard to detect what he's thinking or feeling.

Amazingly after the halfway point there's no let-up or relaxation in the pace and general delivery: if anything, the vocals get more vicious and deranged and in some tracks the lead guitar is even more stuttery and some real melodies, very electric and jerky if tinny in sound, sputter out through Steer's fingers. Some recognisable songs appear with repeating riffs and definite groove rhythms near the end, though the drumming is limited in range and is a bit floppy in sound. The final track starts with a gritty and skin-abrading rhythm and continues for some time with rather bland percussion before perishing in a bonfire of fiery lead guitar licks and splutters.

For all the muddy blur which can blunt some of the band's raw style, the trio is very tight and play almost intuitively, as if the guys can read one another's thoughts - their sudden lurches into rapid-fire machine-gun blastbeats and back into a more relaxed mode, repeatedly in the one song, can leave you slack-jawed (if you aren't already at the sheer heavy brutality of the music and the blood-spattered lyrics). There are so many riffs and blastbeats in most tracks that they tend to pass in a blur and they take some effort (and several repeat hearings) to register in the brain cells but what comes across overall is the sheer energy in the musicians' playing. The music appears very improvised and perhaps most of it was done on the spot during the album's recording.

The energy and vitality may not be channelled very well and a lot gets wasted in Steer's solo outings. I almost swear, there is something inhuman in the music, filled with an electric life-force, just ... dying (erm) to get out there!