The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019, #2: Carcass, Surgical Steel

  • Axl Rosenberg

MetalSucks recently polled nearly 180 prominent metal musicians and industry insiders to determine The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019! (You can read all about the voters and the methodology behind the poll here.) Over the next few weeks, we’ll be counting down the entire list, one entry per day.

The countdown continues today with Surgical Steel, the 2013 release by Carcass!

There weren’t any styles of music Carcass wanted to play, so they had to invent their own. Time went by and their sound kept evolving, but then they called it a day. Alas, the Carcass clones just kept on coming regardless. And Bill Steer kept being like, “We should really show these kids how it’s don’t,” and finally Jeff Walker grumbled “Ugh, fine.”

Then they made an album that, true to its name, slices open your flesh, pulls out your tendons, and controls you like a marionette. Y’know, like that scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, except instead of leading you to the edge of a roof, it makes you headbang and air guitar and mosh.

This is what makes examining Carcass’ Surgical Steel through a semi-academic lens so difficult. Normally, I’d put the album in context, both relative to metal and to Carcass’ own oeuvre, and I’d wonder what it says about death metal that a reunion album from a band that had broken up almost twenty years prior trounced offerings by younger contenders at the polls, and I’d ponder some of the more curious turns of phrase, and blah blah blah blah. But I can’t really do any of that when listening to Surgical Steel; shit, dude, I can barely put together a coherent thought.

It’s hard to concentrate when album just compels the listener to rock.

If you told me that Carcass worked in subliminal messages that make you get to your feet and start air guitaring like an idiot, I’d believe it. There is no clichéd adjective that does not apply to Surgical Steel. It’s heavy, brutal, infectious, epic, it slaps, it’s sweet, siqq, dope, funky fresh fly, all that and bag of chips… all that shit.

If aliens came down from space and were all, “Hey, what’s this death metal we keep hearing so much about?”, you could do a lot worse than to play them Surgical Steel. It is a masterclass in DM songwriting. Fuck, it’s a masterclass in fuckin’ DM everything! There are guitar solos on songs like “A Congealed Clot of Blood” and “Captive Bolt Pistol” that make me feel things. Y’know. Down there. I mean. I don’t even try to listen to “Mount of Execution” without a spare pair of undies handy. I mean that one part near the end, where it’s like, [cue Beavis and Butt-head headbanging sounds]! GodDAMN, that is some good shit.

I cannot imagine why, six years after its release, there would be a metal fan on earth who hasn’t listened to Surgical Steel a gajillion times. It is the kind of album that justifies the genre’s entire existence. If you’re not already intimately familiar with the album, you should remedy that ASAP. Your life will be poorer if you don’t.

The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019:

#25: Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas, Mariner (2016)
#24: Triptykon, Eparistera Daimones (2010)
#23: Pig Destroyer, Book Burner (2012)
#22: Yob, Clearing the Path to Ascend (2014)
#21: The Black Dahlia Murder, Ritual (2011)
#20: Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (2014)
#19: At the Gates, At War with Reality (2012)
#18: Meshuggah, Koloss (2012)
#17: Gorguts, Colored Sands (2012)
#16: Between the Buried and Me, The Parallax II: Future Sequence (2012)
#15: The Ocean, Pelagial (2013)
#14: Kvelertak, Kvelertak (2010)
#13: Judas Priest, Firepower (2018)
#12: Metallica, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (2016)
#11: Converge, 
All We Love We Leave Behind (2012)
#10: The Dillinger Escape Plan, 
One of Us Is the Killer (2013)
#9: Rivers of Nihil, Where Owls Know My Name (2013)
#8: Deafheaven, Sunbather (2013)
#7: Baroness, 
Yellow & Green (2012)
#6: Power Trip, Nightmare Logic (2016)
#5: Ghost, Opus Eponymous (2010)
#4: Deftones, Diamond Eyes (2010)
#3: Behemoth, The Satanist (2014)

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