I figured something out about Carcass during their set and in the days that followed as their records played back to back while I frantically hammered out the last posts about our trip to Spain. I realized that Carcass have a unique position at this point in the evolution of death metal, or grindcore, or whatever category anyone might like to throw them in, as underground metal's best and only party band. They are the most fun you will ever have listening to death metal, or seeing it live. They have all of their chops down, and if they wanted to be a more technical band they could, much like how Loincloth or Confessor do it. We aren't out of this world technical but we do stand out, and they could too if they so desired. Instead, Carcass have opted to keep things heavy and headbanging. You really can't get much heavier than Carcass, at least not in the way I mean to use the term. 'Heavy' describes the way a band hits you in the gut, like when you put something on and it immediately starts to kick your ass and you scrunch up your face and blurt out loud "Oh, hellz yeah!" Carcass pummel, and they have a blast doing it. The audience has a blast watching them, and at this point they have been around for so long it's like going through your golden oldie favorites whenever they come to town. They don't take themselves too seriously, which is very refreshing in the world of "... my soul is soooo much blacker than yours" metal, but they rock it better than any of the bands who celebrate image over musicianship.
When Carcass played at The Lincoln Theater here in Raleigh three weeks ago they were as tight as ever. Actually, they were tighter than ever. They sound better live than they did on albums, but it was in the same way we sounded better live than on 'Condemned'. I have always attributed that problem to recording an album when the songs were new instead of waiting awhile and having some of the rough edges smoothed out. At least that was how I always felt about Confessor's two albums. Loincloth were recording some songs and ideas that had been around for a long time, so that "teetering on the edge" vibe wasn't there on 'Iron Balls of Steel'. I can point out a few moments here and there where things weren't as well polished as I'd like but those moments are fleeting, and changes come so fast that you don't have time to notice many of them. Still, 'Necroticism' is the Carcass album I enjoy the most even though everything they put out since then has been more polished. Live though, they were, and are still, a vicious band.
I remember thinking that we had it made during the Gods of Grind tour. Every day I would wake up as we were pulling up to the club. Lunch would be waiting for us, so I would snarf down some weird, European version of a sandwich that used butter instead of mayonnaise and then step out to see what the city had to offer. As one of the two openers, our soundcheck came much later in the afternoon so we had a few hours to kill. I would make my way back to the club in time for soundcheck and then grab dinner, which was usually a catered affair, and then we'd go onstage. Our set was roughly 35 minutes or so, which is pretty ideal as a musician. You get worked up but not overworked, and you leave people clamoring for more. Loincloth play shorter sets too for that very reason. There is a lot of information to be absorbed in our music, so anything longer than a forty five minute set would start to wear people down. After Confessor were done I would shower off and begin to show my superior control over my own vices and search out the best spot to watch Entombed and Carcass. Since we were part of the tour we had free reign throughout the venues. I remember having some amazing vantage points to be able to take everything in during Carcass' sets. The house was always packed, and when you have that many headbangers trying to break their necks it ends up looking like fields of wheat on a breezy day. Such energy, pointed in the same direction! Carcass were fantastic at getting everyone pumped up, from their own personas onstage to their brilliant sound, and the expert light show that our own tour manager and a local promoter, Steve Adair ran for them... Carcass kicked ass every single night! I was a kid every time they played! I don't remember them ever having an off night.
Here is an amusing story from that tour. One day Michael Amott, who later went on to found Arch Enemy, told me about an encounter he had with someone at one of the shows who mistook him for me. Both Michael and I are red heads. We are roughly the same height and our hair was about the same length at the time. People thought he was me, or that I was him, and on this occasion he couldn't resist the temptation to mess with the confused Confessor fan. The guy was complimenting Mike on my playing, obviously not realizing who he was talking to, and Mike, who was going along with things and pretending to be me said something to the effect of, "Yeah, I really am pretty amazing." The guy then asked what Mike, or I, thought of the other drummers on the tour to which his reply went something like this; "Well, they are all shit, aren't they? I'm the only drummer worth listening to on this tour." Nice. I wonder if some day I'll get a comment from someone talking about what a douche bag I was that day. Still, it was pretty damned funny. I appreciate that he took the guy's mistake and created something out of it that I still remember today. If anyone ever sees me at work and mistakes me for the guitarist of Arch Enemy I will get even. Bet on it!
When Confessor played the Maryland Deathfest in 2012 I ran into Jeff Walker. He was playing with Brujeria right after us the next night, and we were catching up in the VIP lounge at the venue. In case any of you are rolling your eyes at the thought of there being a VIP lounge at a metal festival, I also thought it a little odd. Some of those guys were pretty big figures in the genre though, Jeff Walker included, so you can't really fault the organizers for providing a space for those people to mingle away from autograph seekers. I did feel like a fish out of water walking in there but to my surprise, I actually knew a few people in the room, and there were some who crapped themselves to finally be in a room with Confessor and other bands they had followed for years. It always feels strange to me to be in the kind of situation where I am something other than just "li'l ol' me". I'm always happy to oblige whenever someone does want to capture a moment like that, but it is surreal. So Jeff and I were talking and he said something that I found strange. In a very complimentary way, he said that he blamed Confessor for ruining metal. "Ruining metal?!?" What could he possibly mean? He elaborated and said that after we came along there were suddenly several bands who were trying to play in ways that put too much emphasis on rhythmic changes and odd timings. All of that focus on musicianship took the fun and spontaneity out of metal. I'm paraphrasing, but that was the point I think he was trying to make. After seeing them earlier this month and having my epiphany regarding their status as the most fun band in underground metal, I understand why he would lament a change in direction like that. Jeff, I hear ya'! It is a party for our fans when we play too, but we'll never rock the same way you guys rock. I think that your approach stands out even more after twenty years of other bands missing the mark by trying to insert technicality when it isn't necessary. You are still the king of the death metal party hill.
We had a small entourage with us at Lincoln Theatre the other night when Carcass played. Unfortunately Monica and I found out that it was an early show about five minutes after they went on. I was still a few minutes from the house when I got a text from Cary, so I asked Monica to meet me at the door. We raced downtown and caught about half of their set. I know that we missed some songs I would loved to have seen again, but they were still a hell of a lot of fun, and there is something to be said for only being in a club for an hour instead of all night. We were able to catch up with Jeff and Bill for a bit after the show. That's Yours Truly with Jeff, Bill and Cary. Steve Adair is watching over us all like the good ol' days from the back. Monica always makes Cary look like a genius in pictures. They were as accommodating as ever, and it was so nice to be able to reconnect with them. All of the guys in Carcass were great many years ago, and they have been wonderful every time we've seen them since. I'm so glad they are still out there, crushing crowds with the thing that they do better than anyone else... making the heaviest music around a blast for people who live and breathe this thing we call 'metal'. So among many other things in life, I'd like to raise a glass to Carcass and thank them, as is appropriate to do on the eve of Thanksgiving, for staying true to their brand of heavy music. May they 'Keep on Rotting in the Free World'!
Have a great Thanksgiving everyone, and I hope that you enjoy the people around you this weekend. Safe travels!