Released: 1993, Earache / Columbia
Reviewer: The Punishment Due
Hidden Gem Selection
Following the amazing release of NECROTICISM: DESCANTING THE INSALUBRIOUS, Carcass had found themselves friends in high places, namely Columbia Records. This album thus got excellent studio production and promotion. A noticeable difference is that the songs are shorter, and revolve round a verse, chorus, solo format that is a bit predictable, although they don’t all stick straight to the rule. Gone are the gorey lyrics, which are replaced with themes of protest and corruption. Also gone is the truly brutal vocal contribution of Bill Steer. Fear not though, this is still an amazing metal album.
It opens with a dose of pure evil in the form of the song “Buried Dreams.” Brutally down-tuned riffing and chilling lead play set the scene. It becomes obvious after a while that Jeff’s vocals are completely throat cutting all the time, with no trace of his own natural voice to be found. The guitar work has taken a different direction too, like a cross between Iron Maiden and Megadeth, with dual guitar assaults, insane thrashy riffing, lead trades and godly solos. The overall pace of the music is much faster, built upon crushing, lightning fast double bass. Songs that epitomize this style are “Carnal Forge,” “Arbeit Macht Fleisch,” and “Blind Bleeding The Blind.” Every song is full of sharp riff changes, key changes, solos and supporting lead play. Bill Steer still hasn’t lost his touch with slow, melodic riffing. “No Love Lost” gave him an opportunity to calm it down with smooth riffs of melody, and a drum rhythm of groove. Probably the best example of the guitar duals is at the intro and outro of “Blind Bleeding The Blind.” Another trademark of this CD is the insane whammy bar madness from Steer and Amott that crops up between riffs a lot,
Blast beats feature quite a lot on HEARTWORK, in almost every song. Ken always executes them brilliantly with sheer precision, and they aren’t robotically fast. The timing of the blast beats is excellent too – Ken blasts them just when a song needs a kick into oblivion. The drumming in the chorus of “Arbeit Macht Fleisch” consists of nothing but blast beats, but rather than destroy all coordination, they release an ecstatic dose of energy and power that just completes the mood. Ken’s drumming as always is amazing, and greatly enhanced by the wonderful raspy snare sound he uses, adding power and kick to riffs.
As I said before, Jeff’s vocals are unbelievably savage this time around. A slight problem though is that his bass isn’t very loud and gets drowned out a lot, although the music still has that heavy, encapsulating sound that is the driving force in each track. The one song that the bass really stands out on is “Death Certificate.” Lyrically, HEARTWORK is completely new ground. Jeff is basically protesting against social control and ridiculing the weak who have given into brainwashing. He obviously is angry at corporate dilution and shows later on that he won’t sacrifice artistic merit for money.
Overall – the perfect follow-up to NECROTICISM. Another album that combines technicality, complexity and melody together, in an original and unique way. Fast, crushing, catchy riffs, exceptional lead play, monster vocals, killer drums and fantastic production. This is when the Carcass damn burst, and damn was it extreme!