Carcass – Torn Arteries (Album Review)

Carcass – Torn Arteries (Album Review)

Nearly a decade since the acclaimed Surgical Steel, Carcass have returned with a ripe full-length, Torn Arteries, on September 17, 2021 through Nuclear Blast Records. 

Formed in 1986, Carcass were borne of the Merseyside scene that produced acts such as Echo & the Bunnymen, A Flock of Seagulls, and the Beatles, as well as contemporaries Conan, Gomez, and Anathema. After a few early name and lineup changes, Carcass took root as Ken Owen on drums, Bill Steer on guitar and vocals, Jeff Walker on bass, and Andrew Pek (by then cryptically known as Sanjiv) on vocals.

Nodding again to their early days as a trio, Torn Arteries features Jeff Walker on bass/vocals, Bill Steer on guitar/backing vocals, and Dan Wilding on drums/percussion. Tom Draper, a fellow Englishman based in Los Angeles, and widely known for his membership in Pounder, appears live on second guitar, a role filled by Ben Ash between 2013 to 2018.

Taking its name from a high school project of Ken Owen, former drummer but permanent presence, Torn Arteries contains ten songs of patented Carcass riffs, bottomless growls, and punishing rhythms. Further shoulder glances to the past come with titles like “Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited” and “Wake Up and Smell the Carcass,” as well as the cheeky “Eleanor Rigor Mortis”; no doubt a morbid nod to the classic track “Eleanor Rigby” by Liverpudlian neighbors The Beatles. Torn Arteries starts with a raucous and brash drum fill from current skinsman Dan Wilding, and though the remaining instruments quickly take their places, the opening of the track serves as a deft bridge between the past, present, and future of the band, as fresh blood augments the aging masters.

Prior to the official album release, four songs of Torn Arteries had already seen the light of day, including “Under the Scalpel Blade” which was released as a single in December 2019, on the eve of the band’s headline of the Decibel Metal and Beer Fest in Los Angeles. The surge of covid-19 caused the band to push Torn Arteries back, with Despicable EP arriving in the fall of 2020 and adding three tracks to “Under the Scalpel Blade.” With time and hands idle for both label and artist, worry set in that the final product would feel over-produced, endlessly re-arranged, pulped, and pulverized. While Despicable did lean that way (as much as an EP can), Torn Arteries abated all fears with its brash tone and loose availability. The band, taken at their word, had not listened to the complete album in nearly a calendar year after putting in the can, and certainly had not mucked with any post-production or twenty-first century studio magic in the intervening months.

Instead, Torn Arteries sounds like Carcass distilled into a bottle; there are slow and mid-tempo progressions, nods to the crusty grind of their beginnings, and long, dead moments of pure unadulterated thrash. “Dance of Ixtab” pairs with an animated video, showing fans monotonously marching toward their doom, all in step. This song simply and efficiently moves, and makes the lister move, and think. Aforementioned tracks like “Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited” and “Wake Up and Smell The Carcass / Caveat Emptor” take the place of the live album-spanning, genre-mixing medleys the band has made into a habit.

Eastern twinges adorn “The Devil Rides Out,” particularly the opening bars, before dragging the listener along for the titular ride, punctuated by the again impressive percussive efforts of Wilding, marred by strong, imposing vocals from Walker and thick, winding riffs and solos from Steer. The valley of the track takes a trip to the far reaches of stereo and breaks down into a sludgy platform for Steer to take off into screaming guitar lines amidst growls, both vocal and string, from Walker. Furthermore, a slow dirge opens “In God We Trust,” before Steer alternates between long, ripping solos and slow, deliberate melodies. The album closes with “The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing,” a long winding missive that not-so-subtly acknowledges the ticking clock on the band’s career, be it time, motivation, or crowd interest.

Torn Arteries fits snugly into a headspace between the rock of Swansong and the hard place of Heartwork, a space packed with fans of all eras of the band. Steer has proven his ability to write, arrange, and play riffs will never end. That in mind, Carcass have never been a band to care about any motivations other than their own. This is shown by the shifts in sound between practically every album, and Torn Arteries versus its predecessor Surgical Steel keeps that habit alive. 

Torn Arteries may not win many new fans, but it should stem the tide of any existing fans exiting or bitching. Featuring 10 dense tracks full of everything Carcass should be about, Cryptic Rock gives this album 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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Adrian Breeman
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