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Review of the Album "Symphonies of Sickness" by Carcass

Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

The Musical Style of the Album Symphonies of Sickness

Those of you that may have been turned off by the debut of British death metal band Carcass called Reek of Putrefaction will be pleased to know that their 1989 studio album Symphonies of Sickness has an approach that is considered to be more of a death metal album with longer songs and slower passages. This is the album where we start to hear the raspy vocal style of Jeff Walker, the trademark raspy growls that he is known for. Lyrically, Symphonies of Sickness resembles their debut with the medically influenced song titles. However, this one no longer has the very short songs which end very quickly which is a good thing for those of us that crave longer songs. It still has the double bass drumming which you would hear in Heartwork just four years later in 1993. The vocals fluctuate between the raspy vocals and the brutal, guttural style.

Commentary About the Vocal Styles and Production

Keep in mind that in 1989, the heaviness of the vocals was very common in most bands minus maybe the band Obituary. Famous producer Colin Richardson is responsible for the production work on this release and the production for 1989 standards is quite good.

"Exhume to Consume"

However, with the way that this album starts you would think that this is going to be some weird, cheesy attempt to sound like death metal. But the first song slowly builds up starting with some choral style chants followed by a heavy grunting, monster type noise as Jeff Walker and Bill Steer share vocal duties with Steer having the more guttural growls that sound like a beast. Even though Symphonies of Sickness is an improvement musically over the band’s debut it still does not match the songwriting, better melodies, and solos of Heartwork, their best album. Some bands take a while to hit their musical peak and for Carcass this was in the years 1993 and 1994.

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More Analysis of the Lyrics

In a sort of irony, the first song of this album is called “Reek of Putrefaction.” “Ruptured in Purulence” features a growl by Jeff Walker followed by a very good bass part as the song switches back and forth between heavy, short bursts of riffs and then the drumming can be heard too. The solo in this song is one of those short and fast ones that ends with a kind of screeching sound if you know what I mean. The biggest con for Symphonies of Sickness is that the lyrics will be very difficult for most of us to try and interpret as we analyze these songs. Lyrically these songs are similar to Cannibal Corpse but instead of covering lyrics that could be used for short stories or for horror films, these lyrics focus on medical terms and having to do with dissection.

"Ruptured in Purulence"

Final Thoughts About the Album Symphonies of Sickness

“Slash Dementia” is a song that has guitar work which is similar to quite a few songs on Heartwork but this album that came out before sees Carcass build up their death metal riffing skills as they would get better and abandon lyrical content about the dismemberment, carving and destruction of body parts. For what it is worth, Symphonies of Sicknessis an album that has a combination of grindcore and death metal with two contrasting vocal styles and very fast lead guitar work.

The album’s title is kind of interesting given the fact that it is an album with a series of death metal songs that have to do with human body dysfunction and dismemberment. However graphic the lyrics may be a true fan of Carcass and death metal will see this album for what it is which is a death metal album that has some of the most complex lyrics known to humans but an album that most death metal fans will like.

© 2021 Ara Vahanian

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