Reek of Putrefaction
Earache, 1988 - Mosh 6
"I think the world is a dead carcass and I think the purpose of human beings is as maggots..." - Alison Moyet
Carcass originally began in 1985 as a spin-off of Napalm Death, also godfathers of grindcore. (Guitarist Bill Steer was a founding member of Napalm Death). By 1988, Carcass had achieved a considerable underground following resulting in Steer's decision to work with fellow Liverpool-based musicians Jeff Walker (bass/vocals) and Ken Owen (drums/vocals) on a full-time basis.
The group's first studio effort, Reek of Putrefaction, was a mess. According to Steer, the sound "was destroyed by an incompetent fool of an engineer." He went on to say:
"there are some good riffs on Reek, unfortunately most of them were lost in the production... it had to be the most horrible sounding record of all time. We created a monstrosity."
In many cases, the music verges on a total aural assault, as the guitar becomes a detuned wall of sound accompanied by a variety of vocal eructations, contributed by all three members. Then, abruptly, it often switches to slower, catchy rhythms consisting mostly of rhythmic powerchord strumming. The simpler song structures contrast dramatically with the more involved riffwriting to be found in the group's subsequent releases, such as 1989's Symphonies of Sickness. (Many of the twenty-two tracks on Reek are only one or two minutes in length).
Many lyrics within the grindcore genre are social or political in nature. (Napalm Death's fall in this category, for example). Carcass, however, opted for a different approach, as they dramatically raised the stakes in the shock value department. Walker's lyrics occupied a wide spectrum, ranging all the way from disgusting to even more disgusting, as he presented graphic descriptions of unusual, and inevitably fatal medical conditions. Topics such as human combustion (Burnt to a Crisp), regurgitation of internal organs (Vomited Anal Tract), and tissue fermentation (Fermenting Innards) are dealt with in considerable detail. Consider, for example this excerpt from Carbonized Eyesockets:
or this, from Microwaved Uterogestation:
Despite the technical language used in songs such as Microwaved Uterogestation and Mucopurulence Excretor, Walker was not a medical student (according to both Steer and the Point Blank Merchandising FAQ). [This conflicts with such sources as the All-Music Guide, which claims that Walker was a biology/anatomy student who lifted his early lyrics from some of his medical textbooks. The same guide mentions that "he professes to be fascinated with the digestive system." The belief that Carcass were medical students is one of the most widely held misconceptions regarding the band... in fact, the lyrics were culled from a nurse's dictionary and several pathology books.]
The lead guitar on Reek takes two basic forms. In many places, the solos are agonising screeches, while in others there is some semblance of melody, hinting at the development that would take place on Symphonies. Solos such as "Grotesque anal disgorgement" (Vomited Anal Tract) and "Parasitic excrement consumption" (Pungent Excruciation) can be viewed as more primitive realisations of the lead style that would subsequently be developed as the band evolved.
Despite the problems regarding the album's sound, or quite possibly because of the personality they give the recording, Reek is now recognised as a seminal work within the grindcore genre. The contrast between chaotic blasts of noise, and more structured, midtempo rhythms provides for a unique listening experience, and one which no metal listener should miss out on.