Necroticism..., Carcass' 1991 breakthrough release, still ranks among the finest music to ever crawl out of the Death Metal/Grindcore morass. Indeed, much of the genre seemed to go rapidly downhill after this pivotal outing, losing the clarity and focus of Carcass' inhuman, mechanised slaughterhouse Blues. So, it wasn't too much of a surprise when Heartwork simultaneously pushed Carcass both forwards at warp-speed, towards a Futuristic Death Metal of stunning impact, and back to the bad old days of Iron Maiden. Heartwork found the band on the cusp, either of commercial or artistic greatness. Listening back to Swansong, their much-delayed final album, it's my slightly sad duty to report that they evidently plumped for the former.
In some respects, Swansong does a brilliant job of integrating Heartwork's two Janus-faced sides. 'Keep On Rotting In The Free World' (a hilarious reply to Neil Young's 'Keep On Rocking In The Free World') manages to fuse their NWOBHMisms tight together with their syncopated Grindcore, and emerge triumphantly with one of the catchiest numbers to hail out of our territory for a long time. Had they survived on Columbia, and the label known what it was doing, we would possibly have been talking hit here. That the lyrics are about as political and anti-capitalist as it is possible to get within rock only adds to the song's classic status; few other bands would have even dared, but Carcass did.
Swansong does oversee Carcass' exit and transition from strict Death Metal with far greater success and, yes, extremity, than recent outings by Gorefest or Paradise Lost. It's a far grittier disc than you'd have expected from the usual scene traitors, retaining much of what made early 90s Death Metal interesting to people who hadn't slipped through the floorboards into tape-trading demoland and Suffocation worship. 'Generation Hexed', 'Go To Hell', 'R**k The Vote': they may all be properly written songs, but none of them could have existed without Grindcore.
Longtime fans ought to hear this, if only because Swansong, for all its mutation, remains unmistakeably, finally Carcass. The band have nothing to be ashamed of here. Those who never quite got round to the band, though, may well have missed the boat: head back to Necroticism... and then Heartwork for a fuller picture. Now they are essential.