Music News

A Bone Chip Off the Ol' Carcass

The pioneering British gore-metal band Carcass may've disbanded in 1995, but its legacy has never been stronger. In fact, not content merely to borrow from the masters, an entire new subgenre of unashamed copycat bands has arisen in Carcass' wake, each one an attempt to cut closer to the heart of Carcass' aesthetically vile, surgically inspired reinvention of death metal. None of these bands, however, has aped Carcass with the (quite literal) pathological dedication of The County Medical Examiners, a California trio whose members — understandably operating under pseudonyms — claim to be actual forensic pathologists. It's a clever shtick, but it also goes a long way toward explaining the scientific fervor with which TCME dissects Carcass' pioneering early work on its Relapse Records debut, Olidous Operettas.

For all of the arcane medical terminology that defined their lyrics, the members of Carcass weren't actually medical students; rather, adopting the maxim that "meat is meat," the band used the concepts of dissection, putrescence, and sadistic torture as ironic commentary on popular dietary habits (the members were avowed vegetarians). Conversely, befitting its name, TCME simply sliced open Carcass' early albums to study the entrails. From the opening double-bass-pedal groove — lifted almost verbatim from Carcass' 1991 classic "Corporal Jigsore Quandary" — to the gurgling vocals and raw recording values lifted wholesale from 1989's Symphonies of Sickness, there's not an original idea on Olidous Operettas — which, of course, is exactly the point.

The Belgian underground fixture Aborted, on the other hand, has progressed more steadfastly, using Carcass' blood-soaked glory days as a springboard for its own spit-polished take on gore metal. (Not surprisingly, neither Aborted nor TCME touches Carcass' simpler and melodically catchier late-period work.) Complete with a career-validating vocal cameo by Carcass' Jeff Walker, Aborted's fifth album, Slaughter & Apparatus: A Methodical Overture (Century Media), replicates the gruesome, bowel-loosening sonics of Carcass' 1991 landmark Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious and updates them with Pantera-style punch-press grooves (as in "Avenious"), borderline-decipherable vocals, and Swedish-style melodic-death-metal licks. It's a schizophrenic blend of elements, to be sure — and not always a winning one — but it at least gives the illusion of creative progression within a genre that, ironically, was founded in opposition to it.

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Aaron Burgess