PEAK OF PUTREFACTION
By Graham Rae
In July 1988, the first album by English hardgore death metal band Carcass was released, Reek of Putrefaction. I loved it the minute it came out, and listened to it constantly. A messy, psychotic, riotous death-vomit of an album, it had a cover with photos of real dead people on it, which is pretty tacky and horrible, really, but when I was 18 I was much more accepting of such stuff. Subterranean woundsounds and screaming, sludgy vocals; magic. And as for song titles like Psychopathologist, Manifestation of Verrucose Urethra, Oxidised Razor Masticator, Genital Grinder, Vomited Anal Tract, and Excreted Alive…ah, poignant lifesick teenage poetry! I sneaked a wee ref to their second album, Symphonies of Sickness (the original cover of which is a photo somebody with their head split in half with an axe upside down; had to ask the band what it was), into my released-next-month novel Soundproof Future Scotland, just as a…salute.
Their first extreme mutilation sonic splatter platter fit right in with my teenage love of extreme music and movies and books (the month after this album came out I would discover Nekromantik; I was reading early Clive Barker and splatterpunk stuff at the time), and I just couldn’t get enough of it. I met one of the band, Bill Steer, in Edinburgh at The Venue, after a Napalm Death gig, and remember him as being a shy teen (he’d be around 19 at the time; he’s 3 months younger than me) who stood looking at the floor as he talked with his long fair hair covering his face. The band knew my work from Deep Red, and I gave Shane Embury (whom I recall supplying with bootleg splatter videos back in the day) an encyclopedia of serial killers to get into the Grindcrusher Tour when it was in Edinburgh on November 11th, 1989.
This tour was run by the record label Earache, and featured the bands Morbid Angel (Shane gleefully telling me to watch out for their guitarist’s spot of self-mutilation at the start of every gig “to get himself going”), Bolt Thrower (who always seemed to be playing every other week in the late 80s at The Venue, a now-sadly-defunct great wee, well, venue, by Waverley Station in Edinburgh), Napalm Death and, of course, Carcass. They showed a huge screen with real dead bodies on it behind them as they played. Subtle. Who said theatre was dead, eh? Steer told me at the time that Psychopathologist was one of his fave Carcass songs, after I casually mentioned that it was one of mine.
|jeff walker, bill steer and ken owen|
You know the GREAT thing about this album? The engineer totally messed it up when it was being recorded, so it sounds, apparently, completely wrong. But I think the poor recording actually ENHANCES it. It's a lumbering, shambolic sludgy noise puddle just splashing and slashing in all directions at one, barely staying together tunewise, with beautifully horrible strange adipoceric oases of music bursting through the skanky prurient filth, precise carved gutter-guitar and bass and drum-beaten howling islands of comprehensible sound, split seconds of linearity, moments of clarity, pterodactyl screeches of too-high earache guitar, wallowing in insane unprecedented death-blood-horror-gorged baths of guts and psychosis-purebred sonic madness, gleefully revelling in vile human misery, unstoppable death train on greased tracks, modern band cannibals round a campfire neon-illuminated by guttering windblown flesh-smelling flames with blood and gore dripping dementedly down their human-masticating chins, empty split carcasses of dreamy bellyful food comas, charges of the tired-of-light brigade, two-sec guitar so-low solos firecrackers of vague competency screaming up from the hollow caustic depths of maggot-ridden despair to disappear, horrific serial killer grunts and groans of curious volition murdering notes and tunes and civilised grace and sanity and dignity and elegance, replacing them with a long-lost primal earthy banter fury, skinsoundpounding thunderground breakbeats, broadcasts from an advance snarling musical camp of slaughterhouse laughter, manic depressing maniac skilling sprees, howling and licking the headphone-covered ears with malicious seditious hatefueled glee, bloodburps of absolute pure fury purity, running running running towards some ruinous glutted end point of terminal anthropophagous velocity, chewing up and spitting out all olde-worlde music and tunes and notes and stanzas and swansongs, the certain death of the old and rebirth in a fiery sanguinary bloodflood of placenta and amniotic songstorm to fly new and bruising and disturbing round the confused-listener room, semi-coagulated half-hard symphonies of sickness slipslapsplatdripdropping off the inhospitable hospital table to pool in advanced-brilliance-glittering depthless shallow mudblood puddles of band guignol, temples of doom and despair and decay and disease and dis-ease and dementia 13 ways until a never-coming next Tuesday, always winding up new blinding modes of wreckspression, sanity suppression, inexactly tabulated recordings of a tense dense terse new expressive chaos and murder of thousands of years of senseless consensus morality and reality, intimate intimations of reality, threats of sensitive violence, soft sibilant blood-hisses in the wailing despairing ear, inexorable push-and-shove-to-the-front of the terminus line, lemmings over the cliff of permanent extinction, extinguishing anguish in one swift knifestab of killing joke trajectory, rollercoasters of death crashing and gushing guts and graphic gore all over a once-funhouse-rejoicing theme park of now-contaminated atmosfear, random instrumentals muscling to the front of the aural house to be bleeder of the pack rats hoarding nothing but holocausts of infinite destruction, deathpurr shockrockability crashing and burning all over eighteen tons of superhighways of album-and-crashing sex deaths, final deep death metal breath and fade...to...blackout.