"If you operate in exactly the same gear the whole time, after a while it just becomes meaningless," says guitarist/primary songwriter Bill Steer of the self-generating Carcass. One of the most musically adept of bands that dwell in truly heavy, brutal territory, the band's fourth LP, simply titled Heartwork, takes the band's extremism into a certain area of accessibility. "It just sounds like what we do has been refined a lot more," says Steer. "The end result is actually a lot heavier, the way the songs turned out, for some reason they turned out to be a lot more powerful, but I think we paid a lot more attention to song structure this time around and actually the performances of the band on the record have got a lot more energy behind them, just because we improved as musicians."
While each record has displayed marked advancement, with the biggest jump in sound quality being between the first LP, Reek of Putrefaction (which Bill refers to as "dreadful") and Symphonies of Sickness, the most obvious musical development occurs between Symphonies and Necroticism: Descanting The Insalubrious. On Heartwork, there's a noticable clarity of sound, as well as a real heavy metal feel which hasn't been prominent on anything previous. "It's kind of bringing out stuff that's been a part of the band in some ways since early on really," the guitarist states. "With each record we introduced new kinds of styles with what we're doing but at the same time we haven't really strayed from the core of the band. Ultimately, what we do sounds pretty aggressive and it's never gonna be otherwise. It's nice to add a few different textures as well. To me the whole thing has been a fairly gradual and natural process. I don't feel we ever actually changed direction as such since we started. With each record we just tried to add a couple of different things to our sound. To us, every album should be a little different, having said that, we're not really into experimentation for its own sake."
Songwriters, not scientists, they are, and from the song titles, Buried Dreams, No Love Lost, Blind Bleeding The Blind, on the new LP compared to those like Cadaveric Incubator of Endoparasites and Lavaging Expectorate of Lysergice Composition on past records, the fascination for (or fun-with) medical terminology that Jeff Walker had has possibly been satiated or maybe just hidden in innuendo. "The lyrics are still pretty obscure, there's nothing in there that's the kind of thing that people will grab hold of immediately and relate to," Steer comments, as lyrics were not available and as usual, hardly discernible on cassette. The Brit continues, "having said that, there's a couple of tracks where he has been more explicit and there's definitely a lot more of his personality in the lyrics. I saw a couple of them and was really pleased. I was laughing to myself, thinking what will the reaction to all this be? We moved away from that older stuff a little bit on the last record but it was only noticed by a few people, so this time around it appears to be more drastic although it really isn't the case. These are just a collection of lyrics that Jeff's got together over the last year or two. Again, as with anything else we do, it wasn't really calculated but I'm sure in the back of his mind he knew that a little progression was needed." The guitarist indulges my curiosity about the German-titled song, Arbeit Macht Fleisch, telling me, "Roughly translated it means work will make you meat or flesh. It's just a song about the work ethic."
While Carcass' last two LPs as well as the post Descanting EP, Tools Of The Trade, can surely be appreciated for musicianship, velocity, and the hours of entertainment their covers provide, Heartwork features more finely tuned tracks boasting beautiful guitar harmonies as well as ferocious passages. These things have been on previous albums but the sound of this record brings all the instruments to the front, and results in one exemplary LP. "The most important aspect of all this," Steer answers when I ask if he's responsible for most of the songwriting, "is that before a song is finished there's a lot of time spent on arrangements with the whole band. Jeff in particular being the lyricist and the guy who writes the vocal lines has a lot of input as to how things are structured." As far as each song being a well thought out entity, Bill explains, "We had these songs for a long time. We finished writing the tenth song sometime during the end of last year (1992) and we demoed these tracks in February (1993) and we felt ready even then (to record), and the only reason we held off was because things were changing with the American end of our operation because now we're on Columbia/Earache as opposed to just Earache through Relativity, so we had to wait until summer to pass just so we would be on Columbia as opposed to just going and letting Relativity put it out. We didn't really like the idea of recording in March or April and then waiting even longer for it to actually be out. The closer the recording to the day of the release, the less bored we'll be of our product." Since our interview is taking place in October and the album was recorded and mixed "in one big go" beginning in the middle of May, and ending four weeks later, are you bored with it yet, Bill? "Yes and no, it depends when I hear it really. I have to say as far as self satisfaction goes, I don't recall feeling the same way about our last album. I mean, obviously we were happy with that one when we got out of the studio but I think it wore off a little more quickly. This one... we spent so long crafting the songs, or maybe because the recording is that much better, it seems to have a slightly more lasting impact." The band again relied on Colin Richardson to "act as an extra pair of ears in the studio," says Steer, quite enthusiastically. "He's got an excellent attention span. It's absolutely crucial because I've seen a lot of people get burned out really quickly with this kind of music in the studio, because if they're not into it, they can't pretend forever. It's gonna wear them out at one point, but he genuinely believes in what we're doing musically so his commitment is there 100 percent, all the time... we're the second intense band that he ever worked with. The first thing he ever did was an early Napalm (Death) EP (while Bill was in the band) and shortly after that we decided we'd use him to do our second album."
Ahh, Bill said, "this kind of music," which allows me to say, "what is 'this kind of music?'" "Hahahaha" he says. "I don't know, it's for other people to decide. We're at the stage now where we can accept any label that's thrown at us. Nine times out of ten that label is gonna be death metal. That's okay, whatever, we can live with that. It's an extreme kind of label and I guess the band still sounds extreme so we can tolerate it." Although when I rant about the label being wrong, he adds, "It is in some respects because it's a very black and white term. It makes things sound very negative, very dull and one dimensional. I don't think we're that kind of band, not anymore anyway. I guess it's just a convenient point of reference for a lot of people."
Since the LP was recorded, guitarist Mike Amott has been replaced by Mike Hickey, of Cronos fame, who also filled in on bass in Cathedral for a year, and served as guitar tech on the Earache Tour which included Napalm Death, Cathedral and Brutal Truth as well as Carcass. "He's a really experienced musician, so he's really the first person we thought of when we knew we were going to need a new guitarist," Steer enlightens. "We spoke to him on the phone, we sent him a promo CD, he learned most of the material, came over, and we've been rehearsing ever since." Hickey, a longtime Carcass fan, is happy with the material he'll be playing live, but not locked in to reproducing Amott's leads. "What I suggested is he play whichever parts he felt belonged there and just do whatever else he felt."