Kerrang Carcass review

Swansong Review

By Malcom Dome; Kerrang, June 1996

How ironic that the album which was supposed to gain Carcass worldwide recognition has ended up as their final act. When the Merseysiders signed to Columbia in April 1994, it really did seem as if they were about to establish themselves as a major force on late '90s metal. After years of struggle, their vast potential and talent was at last being recognised. Nothing could stop them... except for the apparent confusion within Columbia over precisely what they'd signed.

It's all very well teaming up with a major label, but if that label hasn't the faintest idea how best to market and promote the band, what is the point? Carcass soon found this out when they proudly delivered Swansong, only to find the powers-that-be at Columbia less than enthused by what they were being asked to release. Ultimately, a compromise was reached: Carcass were allowed to walk free and return to Earache. Thus, Swansong sees the band ending their near-decade-long career on the label where it all began.

So, were Columbia right? Is Swansong the wrong album at the right time? In a way, the answer is yes to both questions. Swansong isn't as good as any of the band's classics (Symphonies of Sickness, the fantastically-titled Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious). It isn't even on par with their last album, Heartwork. At times, it sounds closer to an average Megadeth record than anything else.

It's not difficult to appreciate what Carcass were trying to do this time around, opening up their brutal sound and style to other influences, growing up musically, flexing their lyrical muscles. But for the most part it hasn't got sufficient light and shade to really take the band to the next level. Everything sounds like everything else, leaving little room for the music to manoeuvre and breath. Only 'R**k The Vote' and 'Keep On Rotting In The Free World' (Arf, arf - Comedy Ed) do justice to the Carcass tradition of firing up melody with a fierce attack. Otherwise, it all sounds rather like a band confused by what they're trying to do and falling flat on their face as a result.

Maybe it's just as well that Swansong is Carcass' farewell. They were never meant to sound like this.

Everything you need to know about Carcass

Formed: 1987 in Liverpool.

Previous LPs: Reek of Putrefaction (1988), Symphonies of Sickness (1989), Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious (1991), Heartwork (1993).

Biggest Hit: The Heartwork album reached Number 54 in the charts and the band remixed one hit for Bjork, which was included on her 'Hyperballad' Top 10 single.

Current Line-up: The line-up that recorded this album was Jeff Walker (bass/vocals), Bill Steer (guitar), Ken Owen (drums), Carlo Regadas (guitar).

Studio Vibe: Knowing this lot, rather low-key, with typical Scouse humour flying all over the place.

Cover Artwork for the LP: A nice normal suburban family at work, rest and play in their living room, whilst a huge, surreal face stares down at them.

Subject matter for LP: "The frustrations and personal traits of a band intent on going against the grain." Well, that's what the press release says, and who are we to disagree?

Next move: Um, splitting up.