Interview with guitarist Bill Steer
By Peter Atkinson
Promo photos from Official Carcass Facebook page
Live photos by Peter Atkinson
With the mid-September release of their brilliant comeback album Surgical Steel, the return of English extremists Carcass that began in earnest with a spate of reunion shows in 2007 is now complete. And 17 years after the band went out with a whimper, issuing the toothless Swansong in 1996 after they’d effectively already split following several years of label and internal turmoil, they are indeed back with a vengeance.
Surgical Steel manages to at once capture the surging riffs and sinister wit of Necroticism and the crunching melodies and robust production of Heartwork; pay occasional homage to the gnashing vitriol of Reek of Putrefaction and Symphonies Of Sickness; and bring the catchiness of Swansong into the mix, though with decidedly more oomph, all while making it sound fresh, new and vital. This is certainly no mere trip down memory lane, Surgical Steel raises the bar for modern metal the way Reek and Symphonies set the mark for gore-grind back in the day and Heartwork paved the way for melodic death metal.
Oddly, founding guitarist Bill Steer (ex-also of Napalm Death) and bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker essentially removed themselves from the metal scene altogether after Carcass split, despite having spawned numerous sound-alikes who can still be heard to this day. Steer formed the blues rock band Firebird. Walker recorded an album of tongue-in-cheek country covers – though he did join with Latin narco-grinders Brujeria in 2006. But they obviously never lost the “Carcass spirit,” if you will, and when the time finally came to give a go at crafting new material, they went at it with abandon.
Having walked away from the Carcass reunion in 2010 to focus on Arch Enemy, on again/off again guitarist Michael Amott played no part in Surgical Steel, nor did Arch Enemy’s Daniel Erlandsson, who’d been playing drums. Founding drummer Ken Owen was physically unable to perform, the result of a near-fatal cerebral hemorrhage he suffered in 1999. He did, however, contribute backing vocals on the new album and has lent his full support to Carcass’ reanimation.
But with two new members on board – guitarist Ben Ash, who did not play on the album, and drummer Dan Wilding, who did – the band haven’t missed a beat. Indeed, they’ve got a lot of the life back in them – and then some – that was sucked out during the rather trying final few years of the first go-round.
Via Skype, a chatty Bill Steer offered the following on the life, death and rebirth of one of metal’s most groundbreaking, yet misunderstood bands.