No one writes a lick like Carcass. This simple truth rings out time and time again on Torn Arteries. Another simple truth is this album rules. Torn Arteries reflects on every era of Carcass. It spans grinding speeds, crunchy guitar melodies with progressive ambitions, and bluesy, arena rock anthems. Some of these riffs slice like sharpened, surgical steel scalpels. Others rip and tear like hacksaws. Either way, your ear canals will be splattered with greatness.
The opening "Torn Arteries" sets the pace for the whole album. It blazes in hot with a completely zany guitar riff. It's the kind of chop that could only ever be conjured up by Bill Steer and company. This chromatic yarn slithers up and down the fretboard, like the vertebrae of a demented serpent, and then, unleashes a big swing that whips and rollicks. It's the death metal version of a tilt-a-whirl at an amusement park.
The following track "Dance Of Ixtab (Psychopomp & Circumstance March No.1 in B)" is another rock 'n' rager. It wields a blues section, whose twangy notes sound they could be from an Alice In Chains number. However, Carcass bring it home with their own signature savagery, transfiguring its rock leanings into a dissonant guitar melody that remains catchy and crushing.
This whole record sings with its memorable musicality – the British know how to write a good pop song – but is equally peppered with cerebral guitar riffs that burst with character. Case in point, a song like "Under The Scalpel Blade." This song lights up the decibels with a beautiful new wave air. It contains moments reminiscent of Gary Numan, and yet it still fits the tone of this album. From there, Carcass tip their hat in a big way to Celtic Frost's "Procreation Of The Wicked," in one of the few truly derivative moments on this record. And yet, this song rocks, and is one of the many standout tracks on an album with no weak points or lulls.
If there is any criticism to be had, it would go to the "The Devil Rides Out." It's the hardest death 'n' roll song on the record, unloading a Middle Eastern riff like a cross between Testament and Entombed. This song's only incongruous quality is its lyrics. It pertains to Satan and the supernatural, in contrast to the medical and societal themes on the rest of this album. It sounds a bit funny to hear Jeff Walker belt out "Get behind me Satan" and "the power of Christ compels," compared to the more reality-based lyrics. But this change of thematic direction might appeal to some for its escapism. Plus, the song is still quite good, with a soaring mid-section breakdown, and another delicious guitar lead that sounds like it could have been shredded by King Diamond's Andy LaRocque.
While we're on the topic of lyrics and vocals, mouthpiece Jeff Walker still has it. His voice is just as screechy, coarse and full of clarity as ever. This record's physical copies contain lyrics printed out of context, William S. Burroughs style, so it's up to sleuth minded readers to listen and piece them together. Luckily, one can make out the words easily, without any of the vocal attack compromised, and for good cause, because Torn Arteries contains lots of killer one-liners to accompany its riffs.
"Stroll up, roll up, to the sickest show on earth!" goes one of these noteworthy lines from "Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Unlimited." Such is also a metaphor for Torn Arteries as a whole. The theatricality, cohesion and carnage in the Carcass show are all top notch. This song in particular is the most grandiose of the record, clicking in just under ten minutes. But, it certainly feels shorter than ten minutes, which stands testament to Carcass' strengths as exciting song smiths. "Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Unlimited" attacks in three, distinct movements, from a bludgeoning, groovy opening stanza, to an acoustic, melodic solo in the middle, and finally culminates in a galloping finale of epic flavors.
The closing moments of Torn Arteries examines the existential. "Tick. Tick. Tick. Tock," barks Walker in the final song, "The Scythe Blade's Remorseless Swing." Another haunting one line: "They say you have all the time in the world, but the world is not yours." It seems especially fitting for band in their fourth decade, who are nearing the third act of their lives. Despite the ticking of humanity's death clock, Carcass make the most of every second on their new album. This reviewer avoids heaping gratuitous praise on a legacy band just because their new record is "good," but it's entirely justified in this case. Carcass spew forth a career-defining record in Torn Arteries. It's one of their finest moments since Heartwork, and an easy contender for album of the year.
Wake up and smell the Carcass, baby!