Known across the world for the sheer ferocity of their live shows, Carcass are coming our way. Jeremy Sheaffe wakes Jeff Walker from his hangover to chat about their latest album, Heartwork.
Of all the 'grind' bands England has produced, Carcass have always been the one my non-metal friends (yes, come on, admit it - you've got some too!) have known about. 'They're the ones who reek of putrefaction, right?'. 'They're the ones with all the meat and guys on their covers, right?'. Some of the more clued in buddies even said, 'They're the ones who sing about vegetarianism with a clinical and precise force, right?'. They were all right, in their own weird and idiosyncratic ways, but some were more right.
Carcass have always been more than just a 'grind' band, they've shown that heavy metal and grindcore is more than just long hair and unintelligible delivery. They've shown it is an equally viable expression of anger and energy, and also that you needn't have long hair to play the stuff.
And so on to album four from Carcass. It's called Heartwork, and with some hesitation I ask singer/bassist Jeff Walker why he, guitarist Bill Steer, drummer Ken Owen and then-guitarist Mike Amott chose such a simple title for their latest work.
"I don't know. One song's called Heartwork, so I guess we went with the safe option," he says with a laugh. "Most of the band liked the title, so I guess we agreed to disagree."
This is not what I expected at all. From a band that went so far as to make up words for their last album, the gloriously titled Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious, I wanted to hear something equally overblown; particularly after I put in so much effort to pronounce it.
"Yeah, probably too much effort," Jeff jibes. "It just gets to the point where it becomes ludicrous and you end up with a very long title like that. I think the point this time was trying to keep that down a bit, where it's just the first thing that comes off the song sort of thing. I guess calling it Heartwork was simpler.
"I could have... I did come up with lots of titles, but sometimes it's hard trying to please different members of the band so I just went along with the consensus, and I think it's a good title. I mean, at the end of the day it's the name of the record. At least people will be able to pronounce it properly!"
So when they go in to buy the thing they won't be stumbling over words, hey? "Actually, we probably lost out before," he replies. "We lost sales because people couldn't pronounce it properly."
Jeff mentioned earlier that it was occasionally difficult to please everyone in a band, that often individuals had to go along with the consensus and all that. Was this why Mike Amott left the band shortly after Heartwork was completed?
"No, not really," Jeff says, hestitating a little. "As he said himself, he's just a guitar player and I guess he just got tired. It was time for him to leave basically. He wasn't enthusiastic anymore, so it was time to inject a new lease of life. We've got this new bloke now, Mike Hickey, and he's gonna inject a hell of a lot of enthusiasm into the band. That's what we needed, an injection of enthusiasm. It'll be good having a different perspective, not another member who's just as bitter as the rest of us," Jeff laughs.
"He's ready to kick arse, as he'd probably say himself. He's been in other bands and we've seen him play and stuff. He's a really good performer, so he'll enhance the live show, and he's a better guitarist as well."
Jeff said the album's title was a lot simpler than previous works. I put it to him that the whole album is a bit simpler than previous stuff, that the whole tone of Heartwork is very 'heavy metal' as opposed to grindcore. Thankfully, to save me from looking like more of an idiot, he agrees.
"Well, we basically are a heavy metal band anyway, so I guess in our defence it's basically that there's more harmonies and all that. I think we've still got our heavy grinding riffs, but it can get a bit bland just playing really low, fast riffs, especially the way we tune.
"Personally, I'm really into melody. It comes from the fact that the vocals are not melodic - the music carries the melodies. The vocals at the end of the day... well, they're not Geoff Tate."
Funnily enough, that was one of the questions I was going to pose: has more of an emphasis been placed on melody?
"Oh yeah, definitely," Jeff says emphatically. "We want really strong hooks and good catchy, killer riffs. I think all the new stuff, it's not like we sat down and cynically designed the music to reach more people. The leads are really catchy, and everything's got to be memorable. I don't see the point in making stuff that sounds like a washing machine on full cycle.
"At the same time, though," he says, taking another tangent, "as soon as I start thinking maybe it's a bit more accessible, I slap my face and come back to reality, and realise that to a lot of people it's gonna go over their heads. I'd like to think it's more accessible - it is to me within the way I view our music. At the same time I still think it's never gonna appeal to an Aerosmith fan or whatever, so we're not gonna lose our sense of reality in that sense. But yeah, I think the song structures are a hell of a lot more conventional than some of the other stuff. Then again, there's tracks on our last album which are kind of similar to what we've gone for this time - songs like Corporeal Jigsore..., which worked really well live and are more straight ahead. We've tried to cut down on the complex time changes, songs that kind of rock on 11."
During the course of our conversation, Jeff steers very clear of the term brutal - even admitting it's a word he hates. Ironic really, because Carcass are one of the few bands currently truly worthy of the term.
"There's nothing really wrong with the term - our album is still brutal and ferocious, but at the same time we want a bit of quality in there, and stuff we know is gonna appeal to a rock fan and not only a 15 year old who just sits in his room all day and wants to hear a noise. We want to broaden our horizons. At the end of the day I'm 24 and any input I have in this band is going to be aimed at myself. I'm 24, so we've moved on six years down the line - if you still wanna hear that stuff, our first album is pretty primitive and completely horrible. We don't see the point of churning out the same album."