Home > Music > Carcass – Heartwork (1993) “Re-review”

Carcass – Heartwork (1993) “Re-review”

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I should do some more capsule reviews someday. Until then, here’s a rethink.

This is the moment where a wide audience actually noticed that Carcass, in all their foundational grindcore gloriness, had become rather more accessible over the years. Their previous albums (even going as far back as Symphonies of Sickness) had steadily streamlined their once sickening sound into something more commercially viable. While debate about why they did this continues even to this day in dark corners of the internet, we’re left with the result. Heartwork is an early example of the so called “Gothenburg” style of death metal – basically traditional/power/speed metal with the velocities and vocal/instrumental distortion of more extreme styles – and a sign that all music is subject to commercial influence.

Part of Heartwork‘s story is the presence of Michael Amott, who started his career in the Swedish death metal band Carnage before making his way across the North Sea. His influence might’ve showed up on his first album with the band (Necroticism), but the fact that pretty much everyone in the Carcass went on to found a hard rock/traditional metal band or two makes it hard to say how much influence he had on the band’s transformation. Either way, the music here doesn’t sound enormously different from its contemporaries; in fact, I’d say the production is actually more abrasive than on the predecessor. The mix is similar in style to that of Necroticism, but everything’s been amped up and exaggerated a bit. Bill Steer no longer provides deep backing vocals, but Jeff Walker’s snarl remains present.

With all the polishing and streamlining, though, it’s the songwriting that takes a hit. Individual riffs and leads here are going to sound fine if you’re okay with the more accessible mode Carcass is writing in. However, mid-period Carcass has a serious problem with filler. It’s not a particularly nuanced problem – there are just too many song sections that don’t add to the overall effect – basic chugs and progressions that come off as an attempt to convince the audience that the band hasn’t lost their edge yet. Now, Heartwork has noticeably briefer and simpler songs than most of the prior incarnations of the band (although Reek of Putrefaction obviously takes the cake), but whereas a better streamlining would discard filler, Heartwork‘s song seem to discard everything – you’ll end up bored and/or irritated about as often as you did on the oft-scatterbrained Necroticism, but if you put the entire album on, the track count will increment markedly faster.

I can’t really speak for Carcass after this, but the whole “melodeath” idea definitely became popular enough after this that eventually bands started doing it better. Maybe listen to them instead?

Highlights: “Carnal Forge”, “Arbeit Macht Fleisch”, “Doctrinal Expletives”

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