Liverpool's Carcass was one of the first purveyors of a particularly brutal subgenre of metal called grindcore. In fact, founding guitarist Bill Steer replaced Justin Broadrick (Godflesh) in Napalm Death, and recorded one side of the seminal Scum album in 1987. Soon after, Steer teamed up with bassist Jeff Walker and drummer Ken Owen to found Carcass—a group known for its sub-guttural vocal emanations, graphic meat-and-gore album art and graphic lyrics using terms lifted from a nurse's dictionary.

The band's seminal Symphonies of Sickness album made a big impact on the death metal and grind genres, but it was 1993's Heartwork which reached for the black stars above. This was death metal combined with pop hooks and a sense of harmony rarely heard in such extreme conditions. Unfortunately, the major label deal with Columbia did not have a happy ending, and the Carcass ascent fizzled with a whimper. The posthumous release, Swansong, was decidedly limp.

In 2007, the band reunited for festivals, sadly sans its original drummer, since Owen had suffered a brain hemorrhage that left him unable to play such physically demanding music. Nonetheless, the reunions were well received, and Carcass altered its legacy in the form of 2013 album Surgical Steel. The record was perfectly conceived, taking two steps back to straddle the band’s classic eras, and pleased fans and critics alike. The intro track, “1985,” was actually derived from an old riff cassette that Walker and Steer made as teenagers. The bulk of the album is full of razor-sharp executions of what Carcass does best. The last tune, “Mount of Execution” takes a step into the future, providing an eight-minute finale that boldly goes where Carcass has never gone before. 




Come tell me do you pray to the devout Santa Muerte?

Or do you slay for Hel Nina Blanca without mercy?

The cavalry of this calvary

A nuevo testament that decimates

The reconquista of the crematoria

A gathering corpsestorm of hell awaits

Bloodied but unbowed

These seasoned grievances will be avowed

A dark mobilization

An aphotic horizon

A war unrestrained

Reign of terror is unleashed

The battalions of rage are trouping

Down from the heights of bible hill

This was no new Jerusalem

But a Golgotha that you created

Oiling the machines of your opulence

A sprawling barrio spawning an open living grave

Mountainous Calaveras

Come hold my hand witness the truth

Mass execution of juvenility

The liquidation of a whole ungodly youth

Bloodied but unbowed

These seasoned grievances will be avowed

A dark mobilization

An aphotic horizon

A war unrestrained

Reign of terror is unleashed

The battalions of rage manouvering

Down from the heights of bible hill

Stupefying horror across the river awaits

Can't you see narco insurgency death rattling at the gates?

Barrios of destitution from the desolate valley arose

Come taste god's own medicine

Dispensed from the horn of the goat

Stupefying horror across the river awaits

Come taste god's own medicine pooling at your gates

Unleashed-cartel commandos will rain

Down from the heights of bible hill


WW: Is "Mount of Execution" the longest song you guys have ever recorded?

Bill Steer: Yes it is. It was quite a surprise when we actually completed the thing. 

What brought about such an epic work?

The way I remember is that it was put together somewhat toward the end of the writing sessions for Surgical Steel, and it started with a bunch of riffs that I'd had for a while. I wasn't really sure how good or bad or indifferent they were, but there was something about it I kept going back to. So I brought the basic shape of it into the rehearsal place, and luckily, Jeff [Walker] and Dan [Wilding] really liked it. So we just got to work. And with Jeff being the kind of lyricist, vocalist,and arranger that he is, it immediately started to take a different direction. Straight out, suddenly I had more ideas, and the whole mid-section of the song went somewhere else. It was quite a while that we spent on that one, really. Some tunes, you get an arrangement that you're happy with very, very quickly. Others, it can take a few practices. This was one of those.

When you say you had the riffs kicking around for a while. Were any of them from, say, the Firebird days? Or were they more recent than that?
I guess the intro that you hear, I had a version of that sequence for a few years. It was just something I kept playing from time to time. And then other parts of the song were more recent. Actually they were kind of arrived at around the time we were writing the new record.

Is that the first time that an acoustic guitar has been on a Carcass record?

Properly yes. There's a tiny bit of acoustic on Necroticism, but it's negligible, really. This is the first time there's an actual acoustic piece of music. Yeah, that was really fun to do. It's the most different song on the record, and it's definitely a tune which is harder to compare to things we've done in the past. Whereas I think some of the others things on the album, some people have actually drawn parallels with things that we did on earlier albums. 

Overall, Surgical Steel feels like a nod toward your past. This song feels like the biggest step forward artistically.

Yeah, I definitely feel that way. There's something really perfect about the fact that that's the last track on the record. It is a glimpse of the kind of thing we could get into more in the future. It really does feel like a finale. At first, we didn't know if it was gonna be on the record. We actually looked at it as a bonus track. And then once we'd finished recording, everyone was just really psyched up about it. It just became obvious it had to be the closer.

Have you guys played that one live?
No. [Laughs.] There's been a lot of talk about this, amongst ourselves, anyway. Because that's probably the song that gets mentioned the most by people, you know, when you meet Carcass fans at gigs or if you speak to interviewers on the phone. "Mount of Execution" tends to be the song that gets mentioned the most. So I'd love to do it, but it will definitely require some practicing.

And obviously it would eat up a lot of stage time, too. 

There is that, yeah. I think at the moment, I suppose, we are very conscious of not missing out anything essential from the earlier records, because obviously people can get quite heated about that. [Laughs]. Presently, we perform three or four tunes off the new album, but they're shorter tracks, really, that aren't going to mess up the flow of the set too much.

I know Jeff writes the lyrics, but can you comment on them at all?

Interestingly that is one set of lyrics I haven't really got to grips with on the album. Some of them it's been a lot easier figuring out what he's trying to say. These have been a mystery to me, to be honest.

It's interesting that there's the sort of Latin theme.  

I think like all of us, he has his interests and his obsessions. Latin American culture to him is very interesting. He has been across most of South America. He's got a lot of very good friends in Central America. So I guess that might be part of it.

Was the music already finished when he wrote the lyrics? It made me wonder if there was such a heavy Latin theme in the lyrics, why the Latin theme didn't make it into the musical part of it.

[Laughs.] Yeah well it's always that way. I mean the music's always done first with us.

I think it was in the Pitchfork review that I read, where he sort of implied that maybe these were the leftover riffs that got strung together, which is maybe not the most flattering way to put it, but I almost wondered if this was a sort of "Abbey Road Side Two" kind of idea?

Oh, you mean, leftover riffs at the end of the album writing sessions?

Right. Or maybe riffs that were homeless that needed to be put together into something.

Yeah… kind of. I'm always a little bit hazy about how we do this because we don't really have a very obvious process. It's just a case of getting into the rehearsal place and blasting through riffs and there's always somebody, at least one of us, who will have a very strong idea about where the arrangement needs to go. It gets battered back and forth between the three of us, Dan, Jeff and myself. And that's some of the most enjoyable stuff we do really, to be honest. I mean, recording was fun, but I think the rehearsal part beforehand was the most enjoyable. It's very creative, dynamic time. But with this one, I think the main body of the song that you hear was already one piece. It felt very together. But the stuff you hear in the middle, I think that was just, maybe one of those things that, as a happy accident, I had a couple more riffs that were in the same key and felt right, so we kind of brought them in. I don't know. It's kind of hazy already. It wasn't that long ago!

After the verses end, there are no more vocals, there's that big stop at about 6:22, and then it comes in with the two-minute outro and lead. Was that already part of it?

No, that was definitely the afterthought. That was a riff I did play a lot in rehearsal with Dan, and then Jeff just walked in one day and said that would be a very good outro for the song. It just seemed to work. It was kind of just another unexpected element to the track. I kind of like doing fade-outs, occasionally. I know people think it's very passé. But I think occasionally a fade out can be really cool in terms of creating mystique or atmosphere.

It seems to me like the idea with this song was to do an epic finale along the lines of Judas Priest.

Yeah, well, exactly. And that's the stuff that we all tend to revere: '70s Priest, things like that. Mercyful Fate, obviously. I think, really, the whole scope of the album kind of covers the classic era of hard rock and heavy metal, with of course a dash of the early extreme metal too. We're a band that use a lot of distortion, the vocals are gruff, so that's kind of the bedrock of everything we do, but then we do bring in these other influences that are a bit more traditional and you just end up with this weird blend, I guess.

There are those clean background "ooh oohs" on this song. The vocals?

It's interesting, that. A couple of people have actually misunderstood what that was, because it's actually a lap steel guitar. Ben [Ash], our new second guitarist, he assumed it was a voice, which is funny. But no, I own a very old lap steel. And they asked me to bring it to the studio. And we ended up putting that line down, just as a sort of background bit, really, just to create more tension. 

It's a nice texture. It stands out from the rest of the album. As far as the guitar layering on this song, it seems like a lot of the time on this album, there aren't as many guitar tracks. So when it hits a solo, you can hear the bass under it and the lead happening. But under the lead on this one, there definitely was some riffing happening.

I think you just look at it on a case-by-case basis really. Sometimes it's really nice to have all the kind of space around the guitar, just a slightly emptier kind of sound. Other times, it just needs to be stacked up. Goodness, there are a lot of guitars on this track. For the most part, whenever you hear a rhythm guitar on this album, there's four at any one time. But then sometimes, with lead stuff on top of that, you could actually be hearing up to six. But luckily we've got Andy Sneap mixing. So he's very tidy. He doesn't make it sound like it's overcrowded or anything. 

Do you feel like as a soloist that you get to express something different on a track like this than on the rest of the record?

I think so, yeah. There was a lot of harmony stuff that was fun to do. And then I guess at the end, that's more like a true guitar solo. A finale. Yeah, I mean that was a fun one to do because I didn't have a methodically worked out piece, just a couple of rough ideas. But they seemed to turn out quite well. And again that was something that was recorded quite near the end of the sessions in the studio. So everyone was quite burned out. It's exhausting listening to lead guitar several hours a day. It's just like somebody screaming in your ear. So yeah, the longer you record, the more your patience you start to work in, I think. So it's really just very rewarding if you come out the end of one of those days with something that was better than you would have expected. Then, yeah. You're gonna be delighted. 

SEE IT: Carcass play Roseland Theater, 8 NW 6th Ave., with the Black Dahlia Murder, Gorguts, Noisem, and Bastard Feast, on Sunday, March 30. 6 pm. $25.00 advance, $28 day of show. All ages.