Nov 26, 2014

Giving Thanks... to Carcass

A few weeks ago Carcass paid Raleigh a visit as part of what Bill Steer described as their tour of "B markets".  As far as I know this was their third trip to our quaint little home town. They may have stopped here once before I knew anything about them, but I doubt it. Raleigh may not actually rise to the level of a "B Market" stop. We're growing, but you have a six hour trip to Atlanta, Georgia from here.and a five hour trip in the other direction to Washington D.C. with two other cities that come closer to reaching that oh-so-exalted "B market" status between here and either city.  It's rare that Raleigh gets great shows, but it does happen from time to time.  Chapel Hill, which is considerably smaller than Raleigh, is considered a mecca of sorts for collegiate alternative music.  Some of the best shows I have ever seen were in Chapel Hill.  Mr Bungle takes the cake for their show at The Cat's Cradle during their California tour, and Slint's reunion tour performance of their album 'Spiderland',  considered by many to be the catalyst for the 'alt' explosion, was absolutely stellar.  You will not however, hear about real metal bands playing there.  Raleigh has a couple of clubs where metal is allowed to step out of the shadows, but for years there were almost never good, touring metal shows.  Fortunately that seems to be turning around. However it came to be on November 4th, Carcass were in town ready to thump

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 would be remiss were I to write about Carcass without mentioning how many times they have kicked my butt live.  Confessor were fortunate enough to play twenty or more shows with them on the Gods of Grind tour when they were supporting their seminal album 'Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious', and they were flat out CRUSHING every single night!  They were the heaviest band I had ever seen at every show, without fail.  In fact, I have only seen one show that was heavier since .  I thought it would never happen after twenty years of going to shows, but Celtic Frost finally wrested the crown away from Carcass with their performance during the "Monotheist" tour back in 2006-2007.  In all fairness I don't think Celtic Frost could do it night after night as Carcass did, and they aren't as entertaining as Carcass, but they were heavy as all get out.  It is a greater feat to be that heavy twenty times in a row than to have one good night.  Celtic Frost were much more primitive with some good old fashioned horror movie ambiance.  Part of what made them so heavy was that they were a more unique experience live.  We have to be honest about things and recognize that Celtic Frost were "art metal".  Any time you feel obligated to use the word 'art' like a prefix you know some pure crap is about to follow, and Celtic Frost were no exception.   When they missed the mark, it was often a spectacular miss!  When they got it right though, they were sublime!  Theirs was a plodding, lumbering, cro magnon form of music.  Carcass are a little more like underground metal's Judas Priest tuned down to 'B' and with a mean streak.  They have a broader appeal.  I have an idea... let's have a Carcass/Celtic Frost show for Christmas, shall we?  I'd need a cigarette after that one!

Confessor became friends with Carcass during the Gods of Grind tour.  They were the guys we spent the most time hanging out with, though honestly all the bands were great fun. Some were just more, ummmm... unbelievably inebriated than others.  Carcass were more in control of their vices than their vices were in control of them.  In a recent post I mentioned there was only one time I can recall when we had to wait to go onstage because one of our members was nowhere to be found.  We were playing in Liverpool with Nocturnus when Ivan left early in the afternoon to go out drinking with Carcass' singer, Jeff Walker.  When we were pacing back and forth backstage with the stage manager asking what the hold up was we had no idea where our free spirited Ivan could be.  Sabotage!  I always thought that Jeff character looked shifty.  Here's hoping his hangover was brutal the next morning.

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!


  1. I too must give thanks to Carcass...and Entombed for that matter. In the early 90's I was into both bands which led me to buying the Gods of Grind tape. I also liked some of the Cathedral stuff but wouldn't consider myself a fan. As we all know, there was a fourth band on that album (I think we all know where this story is going...) I remember sitting in my bedroom trying to comprehend what the hell I was listening to. This was truly GREAT and my life had changed forever! I immediately sent off for the Condemned 12" on vinyl and Condemned on tape. Carcass are legends, but it doesn't get any better than the mighty Confessor for me : )

  2. We got a box full of cd's from Earache when we first signed with them. "Necroticism" was in there, but I didn't really care for it at the time. There were some decent parts but it didn't really grab me. After seeing them put on such a stellar show every night I was able to relive the live experience by listening to it once we got back home. That box is also what turned me onto Godflesh. I didn't like "Streetcleaner" but I did like "Pure". I never went clubbing, but I thought it would sound awesome loud. Near the end of the Gods of Grind tour I finally heard it loud as they tested a sound system, and it was as kick ass as I thought. Once their next album came out they were my favorite band. So here's to our box of promos, and the Gods of Grind promo you bought for changing both our lives! All hail music! Thanks for the insight into how you heard of us, Keith! Now I have a little perspective. So what was the closest we came to you back then? Edinburgh?

  3. I suppose somewhere in England would have been as close as we got. There was no internet in those days, I had no idea there was a tour. And even if I did, I was too young and had no money to go anywhere anyway : ) 
    I had the fast forwarding of the Gods of Grind tape down to a fine art, and knew exactly when to turn the tape over so a Confessor song was starting on the other side. And when I got Condemned, I played that thing night and day : ) 
    I was at an Iron Maiden gig a few years later. There was a guy wearing a Condemned top and I offered him whatever money I had on me and my shoes haha He declined, I was heartbroken of course. But that's the kind of stuff you do when you are into a band I guess...or maybe I was just young and drunk, either way, it absolutely made sense at the time...

  4. Time to listen to Carcass again. They have slipped under my radar, but I am going to listen right away, thanks to this post. I was at that Mr. Bungle show at the Cat's Cradle, too. California is my favorite album of all time! I am so envious of your seeing Celtic Frost on the Monotheist tour. That's probably my #2 favorite metal album ever. I bet they did crush.

    Any idea if Confessor or Loincloth would ever play Asheville or Knoxville?

  5. It took seeing Carcass for me to be able to appreciate what they were going for with Necroticism, but Heartwork is closer to what they were like live. I like Jeff's vocals too, which is rare for me in underground metal. He sings over a lot of the music, so you'll have to like him to like the band. I hope you dig 'em! So what was your take on Mr. Bungle at The Cat's Cradle? That was the best show I've ever seen! They were unlike any band experience ever. As good as they were a few years earlier at The Brewery with Melt Banana touring for Disco Volante, they were even better on the California tour. Did you see them at The Brewery, too? That show is way up my list as well. As far as our little Celtic Frosted Flakes go, I think Monotheist is fantastic. I don't love every song, but the great songs on the album are wonderfully perfect. So bleak and dramatic! I reviewed it here at The Poundry a long time ago. Check out "Five Albums that Make Extreme Metal Better" from 2012's posts. If Monotheist is your no.2 metal album, what's no.1? Cuz Mr. Bungle ain't metal!

    Loincloth have talked about playing Asheville before. I think once Confessor settles back into writing after this weekend's benefit at Lincoln Theater we will back off shows for a bit. When we have a new set worked up with our newest greatest hits we should look at Asheville. It's a fun town! Thanks for chiming in, Tim! Talk to you soon...