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Wake Up And Smell The Carcass Mark Eglinton , June 22nd, 2009 06:49

While the title of this compilation CD and DVD release certainly raises a wry smile, there is nothing remotely amusing about the cover art: a graphic image of JFK's mushy napper lying on a mortuary slab. Fittingly, contrasts like this are what Liverpool's Carcass are all about, courtesy of at times melodic heavy metal dressed up in hideously visceral titles that even the most practiced of physicians probably wouldn't understand.

This re-issue, featuring seventeen tracks, refreshingly encompasses a fairly broad stylistic spread of the Carcass canon and as such represents a pretty good snapshot of the band's evolution over the years, ranging from the unadulterated grindcore sound — for which they warrant almost pioneer status — through to the more palatable output featuring genuinely melodic death metal and even traces of late 80's thrash.

This desire to change their sound, while admirable, served to both dissatisfy their existing fans, who felt cheated of the death metal fix consistent with their early work, and pave the way for new sub-genres such as goregrind and splattercore. As a result, when you listen to the diversity of the material on display here you'd easily be forgiven for thinking you're dealing with several totally different bands. 'Edge of Darkness' from the Swansong sessions, for example, is basically well executed and constructed heavy metal, admittedly with demonically snarled lyrics. Worlds away, though, is closing track 'Exhume to Consume' from the Grindcrusher compilation, which is nothing but very fast, industrial-edged death metal with Satan himself on lead vocal duties, singing backwards.

Carcass then — and this reissue reinforces the point — are actually a considerably more important part of the overall metal fabric than they are generally given credit for, and it's fair to say that as well as facilitating various off-shoots of the grindcore style, they are also a vital influence on a lot of the melodic Death Metal bands that have appeared in recent years, particularly from Scandinavia. Not only that, they have done all this with a healthy dose of humour too, a point which is often missed; surely nobody could take titles like 'Genital Grinder II' or 'Rot 'n' Roll' seriously?

The DVD that accompanies the CD features tracks from two shows: London Astoria in 1992 and Nottingham Rock City in 1989. Both are excellent documents of the Carcass live experience; they also boast some of the most ludicrous song titles in rock history — 'Embryonic Necropsy and Devourment', anyone?

While probably not the kind of material that will soundtrack the family car journey to the Norfolk Broads or the like, this nicely packaged set is a fittingly diverse document of the work of an oft-neglected but nevertheless highly influential British band.