Symphonies of Sickness

Earache, 1989 - Mosh 18

"The dead people secrete a liquid underneath your eyelids, top and bottom, they communicate through this liquid as I have found out when a baby is baptized, they put it in then and later in life people on top do it, who I cannot say. The only remedy I can recommend is letting the wind swirl into your lids, or swirl them in the dark..." --Anon.

Carcass's 1989 release, appropriately titled Symphonies of Sickness, is today generally recognised as a grindcore classic. The group chose Colin Richardson to produce the album following the farcical engineering to be found on the group's debut, 1988's Reek of Putrefaction. This apparently helped substantially, as Symphonies features a much clearer mix than can be found on Reek.

Song titles such as Exhume to Consume, Embryonic Necropsy and Devourment, and Cadaveric Incubator of Endoparasites leave little doubt as to the lyrical focus of the album. The lyrics themselves are as precise as the song titles would indicate, as can be seen from Ruptured In Purulence:

Miasmic fungus infests the small intestine
Vitriolic juices burn through the stomach wall
Bursting carcinosis as chylase melts your guts
Crepitating neoplasm erupts with gore...

Maturating bils, the canker emmenagogic
Grume decays to a frothing sludge
Dermatital pustules suppurate with cancer
Caustic sepsis coagulates the blood...

Necrolytic digestion, rancid plasma is released
Automaceration of the carcass incites pyogenesis
Globular tissue decomposed, hydrogen sulphide is evolved
Reek of putrefaction secreted by necrotrophic mould...

In general, however, the lyrics feature an increased level of abstraction from the physical act of death as compared to Reek. (The group's 1992 release, Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious, features even more of an emphasis on the ultimate lack of meaning to be found in human life, rather than merely the twisted imaginings to be found in the earlier works.)

The song structures are also considerably more complex than those to be found in the Reek material. Songs such as Reek of Putrefaction and Excoriating Abdominal Emanation show signs of the development occurring within the band, as they employ multipart arrangements and tempo shifts similar in concept to those found on Necroticism. The rhythms are, as might be expected, a mixture of styles; intricate picking parts similar in style to those found on Necroticism, and simpler powerchord rhythms reminiscent of some of Reek's more complex material.

The role of the lead guitar is more clearly defined on Symphonies than Reek. Whereas Reek featured both bursts of noise and [somewhat] melodic runs which served to contrast with the chaotic sound of the rhythms, Symphonies features clearly recognizable guitar solos similar in vein to the style of those found on Necroticism. Leads such as "Pasteurized foetus goulash" (Embryonic Necropsy and Devourment) and "Matted fungus, spawn, eggs, bacteria, germs, mould and meat" (Cadaveric Incubator of Endoparasites) possess an undeniable sense of melody, and in retrospect can clearly be seen to foretell the Necroticism sound.

Cadaveric Incubator of Endoparasites may be the album's defining moment. The song begins with a chaotic blast of noise, punctuated by Bill Steer's low-pitched, yet clearly enunciated vocals. A slower chord progression, doubled by a synthesizer, immediately follows, to lead into a faster section. This precedes a somewhat melodic guitar solo, which presents yet another change of mood to introduce the midtempo groove of the next verse. Such a tempo predominates throughout the middle section of the song, before the song breaks loose with frenzied picking, contrasting with the slower moods established throughout the piece.

Ken Owen's drumming also features more complexity than was to be found on Reek of Putrefaction. Songs such as Excoriating Abdominal Emanation feature some double-bass, which was not seen on the earlier album. In addition to this, some impressive blast beats serve to contrast with his other fluid, more relaxed patterns.

Symphonies of Sickness is generally recognised as being a definitive work in the death/grind genre. It features the natural evolution of many of the ideas hinted at in Reek, and offers some insight into the direction of the band as they moved towards the sound to be heard on Necroticism.

See general information about the album, or go back to the Carcass page...