Carcass - Reek Of Putrefaction
Earache Records
Grindcore, Goregrind
22 songs (39:41)
Release year: 1988
Earache Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Time for a little something from the eighties! Although they were beaten to the punch by Napalm Death, who were not only around longer but released the classic Scum a year earlier to gain general credit for being the inventors of Grindcore, the sheer amount of influence that Carcass have had on the Metal world cannot be understated. From inventing Melodic Death Metal with Heartwork to, hell, inventing Goregrind with their earlier works, the band stand as one of the forerunners of Death Metal and considering the facts deserve far more credit than they generally get. Where people do praise the band is their run of three albums in the middle of their career, between 1989 and 1993 – Symphonies of Sickness, Necroticism – Descanting The Insalubrious and Heartwork being rightfully acknowledged as classics, far ahead of their time and still kickass to this day. Yet the albums at the beginning and end of the Carcassian career are also deserving of your time, although it’ll take a certain type of Metalhead to truly appreciate each.

Taking debut full-length Reek Of Putrefaction this time around, it’s easy to be offended by both the album artwork and the song titles on the back. I can remember being eager to find one of the ‘censored’ covers for this to avoid parental disapproval, due to the sheer brutal nature of the official artwork, a collage of corpses and festering body parts that I still don’t like to look at after a heavy lunch. It’s simultaneously grotesque and infantile, a gleeful attempt to shock and an unsettling send-up of modern art at its worst, and as a cover for the twisted sounds contained within it couldn’t have been bettered. Of course, if you were coming to this album from the band’s Flesh-Ripping Sonic Torment demo then this would be a real improvement in their sound, but for non-Goregrinders Reek Of Putrefaction is a hard thing to swallow, indeed. Napalm Death’s debut is an easier listen due to the Punkish catchiness and sheer dedication to extremity, but this can’t be boxed up so easily – it’s more clearly ‘Metal’ Grindcore than their peer’s ‘core-rooted sound, for one, and whilst the production may be better, it’s still extremely distant from what anyone would call a ‘good’ production job, guitar and bass forming a wall of noise. The heavy distortion doesn’t help, either.

Once you’re over the sound of the album, however, what is impressive about Reek Of Putrefaction far outweighs everything else. For 1988 this is far ahead of its time, the 90s Death Metal gorehounds nowhere near as heavy and, well, sick-sounding as this. Carcass were the first band to use this sort of extreme ‘medical malpractice’ lyrical subject, and arguments still rage over whether the band were being deeply ironic and clever with lyrics like ‘Fomentatious perflation hydrogenates your foetal cistern/Coagulating haemorrhage and your congenital hernia’ or if they had just been spending too much time alone with medical textbooks, but it’s impossible to deny that enough bands were influenced by this undeniably sick approach to lyrics that today non-gory subject matters in Death Metal are the exception rather than the norm. It’s easy to forgive Carcass this, however, as their music more than fits the lyrics.

Speaking, finally, of the music, it’s wonderfully difficult to get to grasps with. The opening riffing of Genital Grinder is the one and only catchy part of the album, hinting at their later Death Metal perfection, and for a minute and a half it’s possible to delude yourself that you are in for a truly asskicking experience. Of course, when first track proper Regurgitation Of Giblets kicks in it’s a chaotic mess that continues until the end of the album, whatever the track titles – really, this could be one long piece of ‘music’ and it’d be impossible to tell. The classic threesome of Jeff Walker on bass, Bill ‘yep, the same guy from Firebird’ Steer on guitars and Ken Owen on drums produce a sheer racket – Owen especially not having his later precise technicality yet and so turning in a performance most kindly described as simplistic. If you give yourself over to Reek Of Putrefaction, it is quite an amazing experience, the mangled riffs and extremely brutal vocals of all three twisting together until you’re pummelled into obedience, the occasional hint of catchiness (I’m almost certain there’s something on Pysofied (Rotten To The Gore) worth headbanging to) soon being swallowed back into the morass. There are even guitar solos, although far removed from what you’d normally consider as such, sudden bursts of noise louder than everything else that would make even Kerry King drop to his knees in anguish, hands pressed to his ears.

If Reek Of Putrefaction reminds me of anything, it’s that scene in one of the later Saw films where pigs are being carried on a conveyor belt and dropped into a saw above a pit containing one of the victims, causing the pit to slowly fill up with liquid gore. You, the listener are in that pit, and Carcass are operating the machinery, dropping rotten flesh on you over and over again until you have to love it simply because continuing to hate it would drive you mad. I’ve learnt to love this album but am happy to admit that it’s far from top of the list when I want some Grind to listen to. In fact, unless you absolutely have to I’d advise you not to listen to Reek Of Putrefaction – the knowledge that it exists is enough, the invocation of its unholy name alone a warning to fellow Grindcoreheads that you’re not a fellow to screw over. If you must hear it – and be warned, unless you’re already a Goregrind freak the chances are that you’ll hate this album for at least the first six months that you own it – then for god’s sake get the remaster, as whilst far from perfect (it’s what I’ve been reviewing here) it’s a million times better than the sound on the original. Reek Of Putrefaction is one of those artefacts of early Extreme Metal that will probably be of most interest these days to those tracing the history of the genre (if you are, add twenty to the score given) yet it’s a genuinely unique experience like few other Grind albums and should be on the shelf of any Grinder who knows his or her stuff (add ten to the score given). Those reading this hoping for another Heartwork (minus twenty from the score given) are, alas, shit out of luck.

Killing Songs :
Aside from Genital Grinder, you can really take your pick – all or nothing!
Goat quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Carcass that we have reviewed:
Carcass - Torn Arteries reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Carcass - Surgical Remission/Surplus Steel (EP) reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Carcass - Surgical Steel reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Carcass - Necroticism – Descanting The Insalubrious reviewed by Khelek and quoted CLASSIC
Carcass - Symphonies Of Sickness reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
To see all 7 reviews click here
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