DB HOF NO. 100
The making of Carcass’ “Heartwork”
Contrary to popular belief, Carcass’s fourth full-length wasn’t the result of a bunch of product guys, A&R gurus and major label marketing geniuses. For all intents and purposes, Columbia was merely the vehicle by which Heartwork was able to shift 81,000 copies to the same lamentable kids who posted letters of adulation (with SASEs) to fan club Shriveled Clump of Flesh receiving no fucking response years before. Sure, Columbia mail-bombed radio with the “Buried Dreams,” “No Love Lost” and “Embodiment” singles, and sent tons of promotional goodies to retail—blood bags, subway posters, etc.—but whether or not a major label was involved, Heartwork was meant for Earache, the same cadre of dudes responsible for Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower, Entombed, Godflesh, et al.
Heartwork cleverly kicked off with “Buried Dreams.” It was unheard of at the time to start a death metal record with a hard rock song. It nimbly galloped along like a cement truck in heat, with Jeff Walker’s telltale rasp weaving a venomous response to the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.” And the song-capping solos by guitarists Bill Steer and Michael Amott? To this very day, white-lightning hot! The following track, “Carnal Forge,” was a nonstop barrage of savage riffs, meaty hooks and Ken Owen’s signature blasts. By the time “No Love Lost” hits third, Carcass have proven they’re untouchable. But the great thing about the album isn’t its opening salvo. It’s every goddamned song. From the title track to the unrelentingly cool “Death Certificate,” Heartwork ruled, and continues to do so 20 years later.
The work of longtime collaborator Colin Richardson was also noteworthy. The five-star production, engineer and mastering jobs played a massive role in elevating Carcass from sassy underground punks to bona fide contenders for metal’s elite. Sure, Heartwork shocked the fanbase to its pyosisified core, but Carcass—who had spent their youngest years gurgling gore (and forcing longhairs to the dictionary) with “Regurgitation of Giblets,” “Crepitating Bowel Erosion” and “Lavaging Expectorate of Lysergide Composition”—had quantum-leaped the scene they called home for good reason. They wanted to move on.
By their fourth album, Carcass had reinvented death metal, and if there’s an album that has united Decibel’s readership over the years, it’s Heartwork. Therefore, we’re pleased as pus-filled peaches to welcome Heartwork as our 100th Hall of Fame entry!
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