"Welcome... to a world of hate," forwards four-stringer Jeff Walker as Carcass kick off their fourth album, and while the hate flows freely, it's carefully channelled. It wasn't until 1992's Necroticism LP that things truly got underway for the death/grind/thrash quartet in terms of songwriting, performance and production. With Heartwork, they've furthered their chances of being the torch-bearers that carry extreme metal to the masses. Morbid Angel already failed in their bid, so it would seem the stage is set for a group with a clearer understanding of what the public wants to hear without yielding an ounce of integrity.
Even if these 10 songs failed to catapult the group into higher standing, they'll nevertheless be seen as a generous reward to their fans. Essentially, what the band have done is whittle away the wanton breaks and the technical medical jargon now unsuccessfully aped by their imitators. The result is a more refined, defined collection of standouts like "This Mortal Coil," "Embodiment," "Death Certificate," and the sheer divinity of "Buried Dreams" (a death-metal hit single if such a thing ever existed). Oh, Walker still growls his way through verses like a phlegm-laden Schnauzer, but he's since discovered the value of proper phrasing and choral repetition. Simultaneously, the dual lead guitar team of Bill Steer and Mike Amott has never sounded brighter, making ample use of their fluid lead capabilities to set off some truly jarring riffs.
A raging treat from beginning to end (save only for the listless "No Love Lost"), Heartwork is feral yet focused, equally malicious and delicious. It's the closest they've ever come to a commercially digestible album, all while remaining deep within their own boundaries. That means you'll have to extend your hand the rest of the distance if you want to take a closer look. But before turning your back on this exceptional album, ask yourself this: are the riffs really too powerful, the tempos too fast, and the vocals too gruff for you... or are those just the convenient excuses from a persona overburdened with complacency?