Hall of Fame Countdown: Carcass’ “Symphonies of Sickness”

Have we mentioned yet today how much we love Carcass? Because we do. We really love Carcass. We recently inducted their second album, 1989’s Symphonies of Sickness, into our Hall of Fame; it’s the band’s third album to enter our hall, which means that 50 percent of their full-length discography now has that honor.

That’s pretty wild, although nowhere near as wild as the off-the-charts playing and songwriting on this album, which took the band’s sewer-grade grinding death of their debut and cleaned it up just a touch, while also switching around those descriptors a bit so it sounds more death/grind than grind/death, not that we’re splitting bloody hairs here.

Grab a copy of the February 2019 issue with the Hall of Fame piece here (or go digital here), then read on as we rank the songs from worst to best below.

10. Slash Dementia

Always loved that song title, although if pressed I couldn’t exactly hum a bar or two of this track at any given moment. That’s not to say it doesn’t shred—it does both, in grinding and mid-tempo forms—it just lacks a bit of the personality that most of the other songs on this album have tons of. Still a killer though, with excellent guitar work and energetic drum and vocal performances.

9. Empathological Necroticism

Excellent verse riff, and a great example of how Carcass were mastering this mid-tempo death metal, this song also showed some early signs of the groove the band would incorporate more into their sound on albums three and four. For some reason, I feel slightly less emotionally invested in this song than the rest on the first half of this album, but it’s still a rager.

8. Crepitating Bowel Erosion

A cool, fun, and climactic way to end off the album, this song takes a long time to start raging, but its first half is a great slow burn, while its second half sums up Symphonies of Sickness in all the best ways, the band taking the prehistoric burble and gurgle of their debut while making things more clear and growing up a bit, in a manner of speaking.

7. Swarming Vulgar Mass of Infected Virulency

Probably the best song title on an album full of great ones, this song finds the band in top form as they stop together on a dime, as the double bass work leads the song, as the riffs and vocals merge together as one swarming, uh vulgar mass of… timeless death metal. Infected timeless death metal. Whatever, it rules.

6. Cadaveric Incubator of Endoparasites

One of the most grinding songs on the album, “Cadaveric” sounds more like the debut than much of the material on Symphonies, and it works excellently, the band taking time elsewhere on this album to explore more open space and songwriting technique than they did on their debut (or at least that we could hear through its production). However, all that isn’t to say that this song doesn’t also take some time to breathe a bit, which it does, with a glorious guitar solo leading the charge.

5. Embryonic Necropsy and Devourment

The band kicked off the second half of Symphonies wisely, with this slow-burning, catchy, and ominous song, “Embryonic” delivering a ton of great melodic riffs that stop to breathe and let the hideous vocals belch through. By the time the German-thrash tempos kick in, it’s scientifically impossible to not play air drums along, a sure sign of success.

4. Ruptured in Purulence

The first part of this song is classic, as it drags us all through the city’s waste-disposal tunnels with some of the most ridiculously gurgling-contaminated-fluids vocals ever laid to waste acting as deranged tour guide. Then things get grindy, and things are ruling, then they bring it back around to that great opening part to end things off. Excellent songwriting skills here on a song that is both a great death metal song and a great song period.

3. Excoriating Abdominal Emanation

It was almost subtle, but this song really brought some clinical cleanliness to things, a sound that Carcass would explore more on their next couple of albums. Yeah, “Excoriating Abdominal Emanation” is more Necroticism than Reek, but placed here as song three of eight on Symphonies, it fits in just perfectly, testament to how smoothly, and how naturally, Carcass were evolving. A killer whiplash of a groove even sneaks in here without causing too much fuss. Indeed, it actually adds to the song.

2. Reek of Putrefaction

What an album opener, that first riff just absolutely huge, Carcass announcing to the world that they are ready to take their music to places their debut—which bore the same name as this song—wasn’t quite ready to go. The melodies here are fantastic, the vocals as grotesque as they come, and—importantly—the songwriting skills are superb, the band taking extreme music to new places.

1. Exhume to Consume

“Reek of Putrefaction” comes close, but “Exhume to Consume” tops our list here, Carcass showing off songwriting chops galore, as well as demonstrating to the world that they’ve got riffs for miles, an ability to use melodies in a death metal framework, and, like every song on this great album, some of the ugliest vocals around, all blasted to oblivion by a frantic drum performance by the one and only Ken Owen. A classic DM cut, no doubt about it.