Monday, July 30, 2012

Carcass Week: Reek of Putrefaction

Welcome to the first day of Carcass Week, where I'm going to be going through and reviewing all of the almighty Carcass' studio albums! First up, their debut: Reek of Putrefaction!

This is the censored artwork. The uncensored is gross. It's also NSFW. You've been warned.  It's here.

Reek of Putrefaction is considered one of the first goregrind albums out there, having been released in 1988. For anyone who is confused by the term goregrind, it's a variation of grindcore. Musically, grindcore and goregrind can be very similar, but it's in the themes and lyrical content where they stand apart. Whereas traditional grindcore dealt with political and social themes of oppression, government control, and anarchy (among others), goregrind covers lovely topics like disembowelment, cannibalism, and necrophilia (among others). For anyone familiar with old school death metal (a la Cannibal Corpse and friends), these themes of grisly, brutal death and dismemberment shouldn't come as a surprise. What Carcass did was look at the groundwork laid out by all these death metal bands and though "let's make these guys' lyrics sound like whatever you would call Sesame Street".

Hard as fuck is what I'd call 'em.

Let's look at a small excerpt from Cannibal Corpse's classic: "Hammer Smashed Face".

The sledge my tool to torture
As it pounds down on your forehead
Eyes bulging from their sockets
With every swing of my mallet

So yeah. Smashing faces. With a hammer. That's pretty fucking brutal, right? It's cute you think that. Let's take a snippet of one of Reek of Putrefaction's songs. I'll choose one of my favorites, "Vomited Anal Tract". You can already tell how this is going to go.

Liquidized esophagus mixes with bloodied excretion
As you pathetically gasp for breath 
The stench of hot feces scorch your nose 
As you violently vomit to death

Yup. Barfing up your butt. Like, puking so hard you pull your body practically inside out. I'll give you a second for the shock of disgust to wear off.

Ready to go? Cool. So now, we're all on the same page about what goregrind is. Let's get to the album.

Reek of Putrefaction, despite being Carcass' first album which pushed the boundaries as to how extreme music, lyrics, and cover art could go, is still seen by many metal fans as their worst album. I have to agree with them. Reek of Putrefaction is goddamn unlistenable.

Production is awful. I mean, I know it was 1988, but I can record Christian Bale's Batman tripping balls on acid and growling into a huge echoing cavern with an 8-track recorder from the 50s and it'll come out clearer and more coherent than this. Everything's got a grainy and raw sound, which, isn't always a good thing. Some bands take advantage of that style of production to drive home the gritty and dirty sound they're going for. That could've worked for Carcass if the level mixing and EQing wasn't awful as well. The bass is loud, which would be nice, but it isn't, because it sounds less like a bass and more like sloppy wet farts. The drums have no clarity, especially when blast beats are involved. When Carcass goes full throttle on Reek, they seem to collapse into a giant mushy ball of sound. It's something they probably realized after releasing the album, because of their 1989 followup, Symphonies of Sickness remedied all the flaws of Reek, but I'll get to that tomorrow.

If you're able to listen past the sloppy production and shitty mixing, Reek of Putrefaction is pretty darn good. There are some catchy riffs here and there, and the lead guitar work of Bill Steer is top notch, as always. After hearing Carcass' later releases like Heartwork and Swansong, I can hear the same style of lead guitar playing, albeit much more viscous on this album. It's kind of cool to listen through a discography and see how band members' playing styles evolve over time.

Bill Steer (left) and Jeff Walker (right). Their faces are about as disgusting as their music.

Something else I've always loved about old school Carcass is the dual vocal attack of Jeff Walker and Bill Steer. Steer handles some brutal, nauseating gurgles and low growls, while Walker screams and shrieks like a madman over top. Oh, grindcore. <3

Bomb-Ass Tracks

Maggot Colony, Vomited Anal Tract, and Splattered Cavities: What can I say. They're all pieces of dirty, filthy goregrind.

On a Playlist With: Exhumed, General Surgery, Haemorrhage

Overall Score


For the modern day Carcass fan, Reek of Putrefaction is more of a you-might-as-well-have-it-in-your-collection piece. There are some diehards out there who swear by it as the end-all of goregrind, but really, let's not kid ourselves. Reek is just the appetizer in this carnal feast. It's not enough to fill you up, but it'll whet your blade and make you want to carve into their next albums with full force.

Carcass: Purulent Bile Excrement and Consumption

That's Carcass: The Drinking Game, for the normal people out there. The game works as so.

  1. Load up Reek of Putrefaction on to your CD player/ record player/ iTunes/ whatever.
  2. Print out copies of the lyrics to all the songs for everyone playing.
  3. Pour yourself a nice tall glass of your favorite drink.
  4. Press play and get blooddrunk.
As the songs play through, have everyone follow through the lyrics. Drink every time:

  • There's a word you don't know the definition of.
  • You think "ew", "gross", "disgusting" or any similar words after reading a disturbing line. If you notice one of your friends isn't drinking to this, that probably means they're a serial killer. I'm just sayin'.
That's it. Let's take a sample game through the song we've already looked at. Red are words I don't know, and Yellow are lines I think are disgusting.

"Vomited Anal Tract"

Oral eruption
Rectal extroversion...

Your vagus implodes, as nausea strikes
Savaging your body in terminal retch
Violent spasms and decaying enzymes
Engulf your throat as you belch

Intestinal disturbance, your ileum turns inside-out
Your duodenum is thrust up towards your mouth
Your pancreas excretes stale septic pus
Your whole digestive system is now a sticky mush
Rectal vomit in your thorax
Retch your anal tract

Liquidized esophagus mixes with bloodied excretion
As you pathetically gasp for breath
The stench of hot feces scorch your nose
As you violently vomit to death

Your intestines are rising, up towards your throat
Stale bile escaping through your bloodied nose
Your colon digested into acidic slush
Your tongue gargling on your dislocated anus

Total drinks: 13.

This one was pretty tame. There are 22 tracks on Reek of Putrefaction. Assuming 13 drinks per song, that's 286 drinks. Have fun. Tomorrow: Symphonies of Sickness!

That's all for now, folks. And remember: Don't drink and dismember!*

*I'm totally coining that phrase. Go me.

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