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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five for the album, less for the extras, 4 Aug 2008
Paul McNamee "Rambleast Reviews" (North Ireland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Swansong (Audio CD)
Swansong needs no introduction. This album has an unfair, and more importantly unjustified reputation as a major disappointment. Well, for once, listen to me and not Metal Hammer, Kerrang! or whatever poorly written drivel tells you what to listen to these days. Swansong is Carcass' best album, and arguably one of the best 'lost' gems in metal history.

See, people didn't/don't/won't judge this album based on its merits. God forbid someone listens to an album and likes it because of the way it sounds. No, this album is chastised because for five straight albums Carcass had gotten less frantic, chaotic and frankly terrible to the point where they were actually wholly acceptable, even being picked up briefly by a major record label. This seems to be a huge factor in Swansong's dismissal, as metal fans are more concerned with perception, trends and the concept of selling-out as being important than they are prepared to let on. True fans of music realise that a band becoming popular isn't a problem. Staying unpopular would be a problem. So, as Carcass shed the skin of unpopularity, the pitchforks and torches came out.

Simply put, Swansong is full of great, GREAT riffs, excellent guitar solos, Ken Owen's ferocious, innovative and personable drumming and Jeff Walker's inimitable and never-bested vocal attacks. The production, for a relatively underground band, is phenomenal, with a huge meaty bass and guitar combo underscored by great punchy drums. Oh, and it even has cowbells. What it doesn't have is messy blastbeats, lyrics that read like a dictionary and cadavers on the cover, which for some is adequate reason for ignorance of the fact that the album is BRILLIANT. Fans of progression in songwriting, musical craftsmanship and unique expression know this is the best Carcass album, and truly one of the greatest metal albums of all time. Why, with a little polishing and less, er, abrasive vocals, "Keep on Rotting..." could have been a top 40 single. It's easy to forget that back in these days, Carcass were outselling Placebo in the British charts.

Rant and review over, its time to analyse this particular re-release of Swansong. Like this year's other Carcass reissues, it includes a 30-minute documentary/interview with the band members, in which they discuss the band's breakup, Ken's stroke and rehabilitation, their influence (or lack thereof if Bill Steer is to be believed) and other Swansong-specific issues. Whilst the band have plenty to say (Walker in particular coming across as a supremely smug and argumentative but knowledgeable fellow), the footage itself is terribly shot, filling about a third of the screen, with a pointless sepia filter and barely-audible voices. I mean, why on earth film a feature-length interview in a series of North London pubs with chart hits blaring in the background? Still, once you get past this minor quibble, there's plenty to learn here. The set of Carcass stickers included are decidedly old-school actual-size album covers printed on faded paper. I can just imagine Digby Pearson nipping round the corner of Earache Records to Snappy Snaps to get the sheets printed out. Judging by their quality, all 10,000 or so probably cost him all of a tenner. Most fans I imagine will have these discarded before popping the CD into their players.

The packaging is lovely though, with the disc presented in a huge (12-panel!) digipak with all the original artwork and lyrics included. Oh, and there's a previously unreleased (in Europe anyway) song included too. For a tenner, you can't fault that for a great package. So, go forth and buy, if you haven't already, and let's see if we can't change this album's ill-deserved reputation once and for all.
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Swansong by Carcass (Audio CD - 2008)
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