England’s brutal pathologists have returned with the second full-length procedure since their reanimation in 2007, and of course it brought some anticipation on whether CARCASS would be able to replicate what was achieved with 2013’s highly acclaimed Surgical Steel. Comparing Torn Arteries to its predecessor shows the band preferring the scalpel to a bone saw, with their focus directed heavily toward melody and groove, but it still retains some of the blunt force from prior releases while also bringing in a few novel elements. Lighter rock passages are integrated with the ceaseless power of heavy riffs, and the whole slab is infested with fretwork reaffirming a penchant for dynamic songcraft. After eight years, CARCASS delivers a variation of their sound that may challenge preconceptions, but Torn Arteries ultimately proves itself a worthy addition to their formidable discography.
Drums initiate a first incision on the title track, and a heavy sequence moves to fury with a riff reflecting the harsh vocal onset. Their rasp meets with gutturals as an accented thrashing develops, and a disturbed ring is noted as these segments recommence. Melodic forms are expanded in the following riff, and its clean arpeggiated tones lead to chords that pound the mid-pace into a whirl of blasts and speed riffage. A solo emerges from this raging blur, along with the downward trajectory of frantic leads, and the attack regresses toward a desolate trudging beat on “Dance of Ixtab (Psychopomp & Circumstance March No. 1 in B).” The riffing unravels a string of notes that bends and creates a swinging melody, which seems appropriate considering the subject of this track, and percussive nuances embody its ancient spirit while primary drum patterns accompany the evolving structures. A timing shift incorporates pauses for crushing emphasis, and a solo appears before the heaviness culminates and pursues a lead with driving force on “Eleanor Rigor Mortis.” It breaks to a groove that imposes its power between shreds of melodic flow, and then drops to a bare rhythm while soloing materializes. The main groove is restored through altered variations until a rush of intensity is unleashed to seal an effective strike.
The title is grimly declared on “Under the Scalpel Blade” as it blasts into a chugging riff, and a slower heaviness takes over with noted doom that moves toward a melodic shift. A progressive rock vibe develops when its intricacies rise from an entranced background tone, and it peaks during a solo before the brutality charges ahead. An epic aura unfolds on “The Devil Rides Out,” with an opening melody to evoke some ancient, possibly Egyptian, presence, and a classic rhythm rides on while maneuvering through detailed progressions. They extend to leads that encounter a heavy riffing vortex, and these elements form a passage of sinister force and soloing until speed melodies emerge, which combine with tambourines to launch an expansion of the Egyptian sound. “Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited” follows this grand display with an acoustic intro, and a rhythmic bombardment pursues devastation in accented points that escalate up to intervallic frenzy. Soloing manifests once the intensity breaks to a stride, and it later drifts into ballad territory, where another solo reaches euphoria amid the clean arpeggiated calm. Deranged effects surface as the barrage proceeds with crushing intent, and various formations meander along its grooves until chord and chugged pulse alternations bring an ending surge.
The pace quickens with a vicious riff attack on “Kelly’s Meat Emporium,” and it veers into melodic excursions before raging on with a force matched by blast beats. A chord shift sets off heavier intricate forms, and haunting ambience progresses with a pulse that powers toward gloom on “In God We Trust.” A solo is unleashed once the riffage builds up its groove, and leadwork persists in sections of clean melody, and also of hand claps accompanying a heavy return. A grand closure transfers to the sliding rhythm on “Wake Up and Smell the Carcass/Caveat Emptor,” where soloing issues from distant bends in the riff, which then times its muted notes and accents to drive a methodical strike. This execution continues, along with intermittent solos after an evocative instant, and the subsequent melody leads to an altered intervallic progression. A culmination of elevated soloing carries these arrangements to the resounding bells and melodies on “The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing,” and their conclusive tone is mourned in a lead until classic rhythms collide with brutality. These elements expand within various riff and tempo changes, and percussive tactics imitate clock ticks while the inevitable approaches. A final soloing send-off precedes an end in decay realized through swarming flies.
The white background with a heart constructed from vegetables takes a “less is more” approach to artwork, with curious thoughts provoked by its progressive decay throughout the booklet, and also from its animal fat counterpart appearing on the back. The text inside is somewhat cryptic and doesn’t appear to contain lyrics, but some of the titles, including “Torn Arteries” and “Under the Scalpel Blade,” depict familiar CARCASS subject matter. The second track also doesn’t fall off course by referencing Ixtab, a Mayan goddess whose name means “rope woman,” or “hangwoman,” and who is sometimes tied to suicide by hanging, but the inclusion of both meat and vegetables in the art suggests some thematic contrast, and this has been confirmed by the available sources. Along with traditional themes are the environmental issues addressed as “the earth dies screaming” on “In God We Trust,” and “The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing” discusses aging, with regrets over the loss of time expressed through “try to unwind the death clock, you do not possess the winding key.” The correlative substance between lyrics and music aims to explore other horizons while keeping the heart intact.
A meticulous effort on Torn Arteries shows the time devoted to its composition wasn’t spent in vein. The favor of this work in relation to past releases will be left to individual preference, but its contents are compelling and undeniably CARCASS. Elements from their known arsenal form an interplay of brutality and groove, with melodic structures and leads weaved through the heavier components, and these combine with some newer details to create anatomically complex arrangements. Their core sound is present but has evolved to spread its rot through other extremities, and the result is an enjoyable listen that’s highly recommended for those who appreciate exemplary songwriting. The anticipation for future material from CARCASS will continue, but Torn Arteries contains enough substance to keep occupied across foreseeable scythe swings.