Carcass – Swansong (Review)

Fuck all on the telly as usual
Fuck all on the telly as usual

Swansong was released in 1996 after Extreme Metal pioneers Carcass had an unlikely stint as a major-label act in the US. With Columbia unwilling to release the album it was given back to the band and their UK indie label Earache to release, by which time the band had already split up (hence the title). The album met with a muted reception. While the diehard Metal underground felt it was too watered-down it was also way too extreme for mainstream acceptance.

This is Carcass’ “Rot n’ Roll” album. The groovy, stripped-down feel of the performance gives the album a Classic Rock vibe but the up-front delivery is defiantly Metallic with speaker-rattling production from Colin Richardson. Meaty and sophisticated guitar riffs are topped with deft, melodic solos and underpinned with a powerful bass sound. Ken Owen’s drumming is sublime and Jeff Walker’s exasperated snarl and nihilistic lyrics offer the album’s most extreme components. In many ways, the qualities Carcass exhibits on Swansong are very similar to those of Megadeth’s 90s output, albeit a Death Metal equivalent.

Carcass - (on left panel) Jeff Walker (v,b), Carlo Regads (g), Ken Owens (d), Bill Steer (g)
Carcass – (on left panel) Jeff Walker (v,b), Carlo Regadas (g), Ken Owens (d), Bill Steer (g)

Opener Keep on Rotting in the Free World’s rumination on the Western economy still sounds relevant and, as the seriously weighty guitars open up into the harmonised chorus riff, it’s a truly exciting way to kick off an album. Tomorrow Belongs to Nobody’s opening riff salvo is just about the best HM riffing you’ll ever hear and the arpeggios of Child’s Play offer the album’s uplifting lighter-waving moment.

However, Swansong suffers from a mid-album lull that it struggles to recover from, largely due to the lack of variation in tempo. The album regains its footing in the second half with Generation Hexed, Firm Hand and the Thin Lizzy-esque R**k the Vote standing out as album highlights.

Although flawed, Swansong’s enthralling blend of power and flair has a strong appeal. The combination of Classic Metal sensibility and grinding delivery make this an ideal starting point for anyone interested in exploring heavier terrain and there is enough depth to reward repeated listens. On the eve of their comeback album Surgical Steel there is no better time to revisit their great underdog album.

[Carcass – Tomorrow Belongs to Nobody]

The Swansong DualDisc edition. With Part 5 of "The Pathologist's Report" on DVD and stickers!
The Swansong DualDisc edition. With Part 5 of “The Pathologist’s Report” on DVD and stickers!

34 thoughts on “Carcass – Swansong (Review)”

  1. You know this is pretty much beyond me in terms of heaviness, but I still wanted to support you in your heavy metal addiction. So with that in mind:

    Scooby dooby doooooo!


  2. Fuuuuuucckk YEEEEEAAAAHHHH!!!!!!!! Oh man I LOVED that track! If I was ever in a band, I want it sound like THAT! Wooooo! This makes me want to drive really fast and smash into stuff! Grarrrrr!!


      1. I went with a guy I was working with in a warehouse in Leeds a the time, so I’m guessing late 93, early 94. It was at a really plush nightclub in Bradford called Maestros – there were marble fountains in the gents.

        From memory Bodycount’s gear hadn’t showed up, I think. It was one of the roughest gigs I’ve ever been too – one of the few I never went down the front for. I remember one guy reeling past me with a totally flattened nose…


  3. This is my introduction to Carcass but I can definitely see that “no man’s land” dilemma – too extreme for the mainstream, not enough for others. I suppose there have been more accessible band names!


  4. Funny thing is I don’t really remember their music but spent lots of times at Tower Records perusing their song titles…classic!


    1. BTW you liked my Mob Rules post about the mayor of SD…did you guys know the story about that? Just wondering how far that story went.


      1. Or….Vomited Anal Tract. Could you imagine one of those extended commercials for Carcass Greatest Hits….you’ll receive hits like ? Or !. Their love songs….! and *


      2. Haha that would be amazing! There was actually a compilation came out after they split. It was called “Choice Cuts”. See what they did there?

        There was also a rarities collection called “Wake Up and Smell the… Carcass” but its cover would definitely have stopped it being stocked at some outlets! Haha…


      3. So are you a fan of their music? Like I said I never got much past the titles. I remember listening, but, dont really remember their stuff. They made an impact though!!


      4. Finally listened to the posted song…very musical. Even the growling voice fits well. Like it!


  5. I love the style and sound and production of this album and the first two songs are two of my favourite Metal songs of all time, but I agree there’s a massive “mid-album slump.” no matter how great the direction of the album is, some of the songs just aren’t spectacular.


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