Metal · Opinion

Carcass’ Swansong: The album everyone loves to hate

People don’t seem to slate Carcass’ Swansong as much these days. Probably because they can now accept that it wasn’t the band’s swansong after all, (hello Surgical Steel!)

But let it be known that I’ve always really liked it. Even being aware of its flaws. This is something I wrote back in 2010 after seeing Carcass at Hellfest.

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Have you ever felt the urgency to justify your love for a particular album? Perhaps the band in question has a reputation for being a ‘guilty pleasure’ within metal? Or perhaps they’re just downright talentless? Well Carcass are anything but and carry a reputation for being legendary. They’re highly respected for their massive contribution to early death metal. Yet I always feel reluctant to admit my love of Carcass’ final studio album.

There’s a common tendency for fans to turn their noses up at Swansong. But is it as bad as they make out? Not really.

Frontman Jeff Walker introduced the opening track as being from the album that everyone “hates to love” when they played at Bloodstock. Not me – I love to love it and after seeing them perform at Hellfest earlier this year, I was a little disappointed not to hear any tracks from this particular album. Nevertheless, Swansong is always left in the dark and fans are so hasty to disregard it.

Of course there are a few factors as to why this is the case. Swansong stands out as being the ‘softest’ of the death-grind pioneers catalogue and strays quite drastically from the band’s signature sound. This alone appears to be a good enough reason for many extreme music lovers to instantly disregard it. But you’d be a fool not to consider Swansong as a separate piece, without the renowned discography as a backdrop for assessment. Whilst Swansong is by no means Carcass’ best album, there’s something to be taken from their final effort. So don’t cast it aside and label it as a failure.

Listening to Swansong, it seems as though the band were attempting something completely fresh and a completely unique sound has been captured. One that’s more rock’n’roll based, yes. But very dark in its own right. The hauntingly catchy riffs alongside Walkers rough vocals and strange lyrics create an eerie and interesting new sound which is still as edgy as ever. Songs like ‘Childs Play’ stand out to me as possessing a very sinister undertone. Even the artwork on the cover veers from Carcass’ typical theme of autopsies and gore and portrays an abstract family scene; one that is not wholesome and warm, but quietly disturbing.

Whether Carcass managed to execute their vision successfully or not is another matter for consideration. In fact, I think there is a good chance it was the latter. It has come to light that there were a handful of problems during the albums production which may well have affected the overall outcome and prevented Swansong from reaching its full potential.

‘Keep On Rotting In The Free World’ is a fantastic opening track and never fails to draw a positive reaction from the fans at live shows. However it’s evident throughout the course of the album that the momentum and aggression of the first two tracks slowly fades out.

Yes,  other tracks stand out, but maybe this loss of spark is evidence of the band’s problems beginning to take their toll; personal and with the production. Distractions and pressures in and out of the studio would jeopardize the writing and recording of the album and could have left Carcass more inclined to rush, or at least finish it as soon as physically possible. Certain band members have expressed in interviews how they were already becoming “tired of each other” and were aware that their run was coming to an end.

Already possessing this knowledge then, it’s no surprise that a feeling of abandonment might radiate through the piece. Perhaps if the guys had felt it possible, they could have provided fans with a more well-rounded and polished final effort. As a big fan of Swansong for what it is, I think it’s a great shame that this wasn’t the case.

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Opinion

Getting To Grips With GIRLS

It was the fury surrounding the lack of racial diversity in GIRLS that introduced me to the show. Initially I was only familiar with the faults of the first series and this almost put me off altogether. However, a drama so popular that exclusively focuses on four female protagonists is obviously intriguing. 

Now I’ve caught up with the second series and am glad I gave Lena Dunham’s effort a chance. As Stephanie Rogers writes on Bitch Flicks: “It sort of blew my mind to hear women talk to one another about abortion, HPV, colposcopies, virginity, and menopause, like, repeatedly—and with no unnecessary mansplainy perspective involved.” Exactly. It is so refreshing to see interpretations of female characters that aren’t trivialised, sexualised or roles painfully limited. The significance of this can’t be underestimated.

Apart from being privileged, I can relate to some of the personal/professional scenarios that the twenty-something characters find themselves in and this most definitely influences my enjoyment for GIRLS. It’s likely that the show’s core audience also find themselves dissecting their identity and pondering the true purpose of their lives; just Hannah et al have the economic start-up, looks and opportunities to allow all of the experimentation, floundering and self-indulgence it apparently takes to find solutions to these issues.

What I love about the show is how Lena Dunham manages to present endearing characters whilst subtly making fun of the their minor struggles and social trivialities. Yet I imagine that for every girl who finds herself laughing in recognition with Hannah, Marnie, Jessa or Shoshanna there are others who take no enjoyment whatsoever in viewing the quirky lives of four white, New York hipsters.

Girl Stuff · Metal · Opinion

Decibel’s ‘Women In Metal’ Issue Deserves a Read

Since I love heavy music and hate sexism you can anticipate excessive displeasure on my part when the two things converge. Females are so often excluded from metal mags or, on the flip side, are over sexualized so to attract audiences. There are times that I become enraged by metal magazines, when words read like the comments of a horny teenager and for those tedious ‘hot lists’ – usually a redundant countdown of physically ‘attractive’ front-women of not-so-commendable bands.

A musician’s physical appearance (male or female) should not be a factor that influences the level of coverage that they or their band receive in publications focused on music, especially metal.

Which brings me to the news that US magazine Decibel will be releasing a special issue entitled ‘Women in Metal’. Here is what a spokesperson for the magazine had to say (as reported by Metal Injection):

From Queen Latifah to Bikini Kill to, um, Spice Girls, feminism has gone through some interesting permutations in popular music. Metal’s perspective on the matter usually manifests in shrugged-off indifference, spiked with occasional lunkhead leering (from fans and publications). Until now, Decibel has simply covered women in extreme music with the same gender-inconsequential praise and respect we bestow upon the guys. But their journeys to equality are substantially more arduous, whether the endgame is publicity, management or shredding onstage.

So it’s high time somebody devoted a huge mess of pages to their stories, without requiring that the subjects take their clothes off. That’s what you’ll get in Decibel‘s Women in Metal issue, in which we interviewed over 70 ladies of the underground for their unique perspectives, with members of Kylesa, Royal Thunder and Cretin gracing the cover, and Electric Wizard delivering an exclusive track on the flexi disc. It’s in the webstore now – pick it up before it hits newsstands and learn what happened when these women kicked the hornets’ nest.

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I’m pleased to see that more publications dealing with extreme music are promoting gender equality through coverage of talented female musicians and providing the respect they deserve for their contribution to metal.  Terrorizer magazine compiled something similar in February. Their ‘Wicked Women’  feature included background summaries and interviews with female musicians in modern-day metal, such as Cerebral Bore’s Simone ‘Som’ Pluijmers.

Of course it’s certainly a positive thing that magazines like Decibel and Terrorizer are making a point of promoting female ability in metal and for that I commend these publications. But when special features and issues like this aren’t needed or specially designated; when female musicians regularly occupy the covers and homepages of all popular metal media without being objectified, then equality may be accomplished.

Metal · Opinion

Hate Crew ’til I Die!

Children of Bodom have announced that their seventh album is due to arrive sometime in early 2011 and I for one am very excited. However, I can’t help but feel as though I stand completely alone in eagerly anticipating its release. I can imagine my friends now, rolling their eyes as they do so often when I begin to express my love of the band, my favourite band. They look at me as if to say “Sarah, alright the earlier albums were OK, but they’ve had their time now and they aren’t actually as amazing as you seem to think they are. So why are you in such denial?”

I get the impression that many people (if they didn’t dislike the band already) currently hold the opinion that Bodom are old news, that Are You Dead Yet? was the beginning of the end and now they simply have nothing exciting left to offer. But I disagree! The fact is, is that I do realise that their last two efforts have been slightly below par. Yes, Blooddrunk was especially disappointing. And YES I am aware that there are numerous guitarists out there who are more talented than Alexi Laiho. But these factors do not prevent me in the slightest from remaining as optimistic as ever in regards to what they have in store for us next year. Does that make me slightly delusional?

Call it wishful thinking from a slightly obsessive fan, but I hold a strong conviction that Bodom’s new album will be a leap back to good form. It will echo the sounds of earlier beauties such as Hatebreeder, Hate Crew Deathroll and maybe even Follow The Reaper; reminding many of how, once upon a time, they openly admitted to loving Children Of Bodom.

Or perhaps it is just plain denial… I do hate the idea that this album will signal the end of the road for Bodom. I wonder if every avid metal fan experiences a similar phase of refutation at the possibility of their favourite band’s gradual downfall? For years now, while my overall tastes have varied and developed I have continued to love Children of Bodom throughout. I can remember the first time I ever heard one of their songs – how I fell in love with their sound immediately. I was hooked. If I wasn’t listening to Bodom, I was either talking about them or thinking about them and this was before I had seen Alexi! I think it’s safe to say the Finnish five-piece have had a great impact on my life, musically at least.

It is difficult to pin-point the defining ingredient which put me under their spell and indeed it is unclear whether this album will be a success (on my terms at least)…or a failure. But for now my duty as one of their biggest fans is to remain hopeful and continue to defend them, even if I’m mocked for doing so!