Carcass' Jeff Walker on Band's Grisly "Multiverse," Savage New 'Torn Arteries' LP | Page 2 | Revolver

Carcass' Jeff Walker on Band's Grisly "Multiverse," Savage New 'Torn Arteries' LP

Plus, bassist-vocalist talks "perverted" Beatles-inspired love songs, fan backlash and more
carcass-jeff-walker-hubbard-web-crop.jpg, Jimmy Hubbard
Carcass' Jeff Walker
photograph by Jimmy Hubbard

Revolver has teamed with Carcass for an exclusive white vinyl variant of their new album, Torn Arteries. It's limited to 500 — get yours before they're gone!

Carcass' Torn Arteries is easily one of 2021's most anticipated extreme-metal releases — and Jeff Walker knows some fans are going to hate it.

"I'm actually expecting some pushback against this album," says the bassist-vocalist for the pioneering English outfit.

Walker's take is partly colored by the past year's countless coronavirus-related disruptions. Torn Arteries — the Liverpool band's second full-length of their reunion phase, seventh overall and first in eight years — was initially scheduled to drop in 2020. But soon after the release of its grooving, violent lead single "Under the Scalpel Blade," the pandemic blew up those plans and the album was shelved for over a year. (It's currently scheduled to arrive on September 17th via Nuclear Blast.) That's an excruciating wait for diehards desperate for more of the iconic act's brutal blend of melodic death metal, prog fury and visceral lyrics full of Gray's Anatomy-worthy medical jargon.

It's also not lost on Walker that Torn Arteries follows 2013's stellar Surgical Steel — one of the most sterling, savage comeback records in the modern-metal era. It's a tough act to follow, and Walker reckons the online trolls are gonna have some shit to say about it. 

"Surgical Steel was so well-received that you know there's going to be some backlash," Walker continues. "In some sense, [Torn Arteries is] that 'second difficult album,' isn't it — it's the second album after our hiatus. Personally, I'm prepared for some negativity …"

Despite Walker's cynicism, the fact is Torn Arteries is ready-made for the band's hardcore fans — and splattered with traces from Carcass' fabulously fetid legacy. The blast-and-dirge pivots of "Under the Scalpel Blade" hearken back to the grotesque, proggy hunger of their 1993 landmark Heartwork. Naturally, Walker rasps through operating table disasters on Torn Arteries' opening title track: "Spontaneous coronary artery infarct/Vertebral transient ischemic bleeding attack." But he gets just as grim while covering the horror of climate change ("In God We Trust"), and offers literal gallows humour over the chewier, rot & roll groove of execution tale "Dance of Ixtab (Psychopomp & Circumstance March No. 1)." 

Carcass have long connected to their legacy with a meta-approach to death metal. Recall how 1989's Symphony of Sickness album was toasted two years later by "Symposium of Sickness" (on 1991's Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious). Torn Arteries only adds to that self-referential canon. The album title nods to an old demo made by original drummer Ken Owen; microburst "Wake Up and Smell the Carcass" is a wink at the band's Nineties-era video compilation of the same name. "There's only so far you can swerve off the central thesis of what the band is," Walker suggests. "I don't think its laziness — or consider it plagiarism — it's just cool keeping it in-house and interconnected."

Speaking with Revolver, Walker spills the gory details of Torn Arteries, points out the connective tissue in the Carcass "multiverse," reveals how they channel the Beatles on "perverted" love songs and much more.

carcass-estersegarra-9145-full-size.jpg, Ester Segarra
Carcass, (from left) Bill Steer, Jeff Walker and Daniel Wilding
photograph by Ester Segarra

COVID SIGNIFICANTLY DELAYED THE RELEASE OF TORN ARTERIES. WHAT HAS LIFE IN LIVERPOOL BEEN LIKE FOR YOU THIS PAST YEAR-AND-A-HALF? WHAT ALL HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO?
JEFF WALKER
Just chilling. I started off doing house renovations, but that fizzled out. I'm cycling a bit; more walking. It's weird, you know, because when you get a bit older there just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day, but I seem to be an expert at doing nothing at moment. In this heat, as well, it's hard to get any enthusiasm to do any manual labor. With the forced [Carcass] hiatus — I was happy for the break at first, but it's dragging on, and I don't see any end in sight to be honest.

WHAT KIND OF RENOVATIONS HAD YOU BEEN DOING?
Really going to talk DIY, are we? I was continuing demolition at the back of a chimney in my kitchen, to make an alcove. I'd basically done all of the metalwork a couple of years ago — that's how long it takes me do stuff. Last March [2020], when the lockdown was kicking in, I finally removed all the brick and other crap. I brought all of the framework in there to panel out with plasterboard, but, yeah ... the enthusiasm has fizzled out a bit. I'll get there in the end. I might be 80 years old, though. What I've realized is I'm very good at demolition, but I'm not that enthusiastic about construction and decorating.

THIS ISN'T A CLEVER SEGUE, BUT WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THE STALLED ALBUM PLANS AND HAVING TO HANG ONTO THE TORN ARTERIES MATERIAL FOR THE PAST SEVERAL MONTHS?
The label gave us the option [to release it in 2020], and I made the executive decision to postpone it. I mean, we could have released it last year — in retrospect, we should have — but obviously we didn't expect this to drag on for so long. The swine flu and the avian flu, those hardly had an impact on our lives. I thought this would have been over in six months or so, but obviously I was wrong. But to be honest, it really wouldn't have mattered if it came out in another eight years. It still sounds the way it is. It's not going to age. It just sounds like Carcass, you know?

SOMEWHAT CONNECTING TO THOSE HOME-RENOVATION PLANS, WAS THERE ANY ADDITIONAL WORK PUT INTO TORN ARTERIES OVER THE PAST YEAR, OR HAD YOU PUT IT TO BED BEFORE THE PANDEMIC?
It was put to bed. If I listen to it, I can hear little things we could've done to improve it, but the reality is they were tiny little things that aren't going to change anything drastically for the listener, just little tweaks. The longer you live with something, the more you can pick it apart, you know? So we put it to bed and that was it. We haven't done a Fear Factory and gone back and reworked anything. I mean, we already spent enough time on it.

IT'S BEEN EIGHT YEARS SINCE SURGICAL STEEL WAS RELEASED. HAD YOU BEEN WORKING ON THESE SONGS STEADILY SINCE THEN?
[Guitarist] Bill [Steer] and [drummer] Dan [Wilding] started jamming stuff out around 2015. Around that time we were kind of trying to wind things down [from promoting Surgical Steel], so we could write proper and get in the studio. But we got offered the Slayer tour. What's been happening is we keep getting offered stuff. It's very enticing and difficult to turn down the offers when they come in, [but] we would have been itching to record. We were still gigging around the recording because we didn't do it all in one session. We basically hadn't ever stopped, so it was nice to have this kind of enforced hiatus [because of COVID]. But it's kind of detrimental now because we've not played together for over a year. We're extremely rusty.

EVEN OUTSIDE OF THE MUSIC PROPER, THERE IS SOME NICE CONNECTIVE TISSUE BETWEEN TORN ARTERIES AND THE REST OF THE CARCASS DISCOGRAPHY. THE TITLE OF THE NEW ALBUM'S "ELEANOR RIGOR MORTIS" IS A NOD TO THE BEATLES' "ELEANOR RIGBY," WHICH ISN'T THE FIRST TIME YOU'VE ALLUDED TO THE BEATLES. THERE'S ALSO THE "ALL YOU NEED IS HATE" LINE ON HEARTWORK'S "BURIED DREAMS," FOR INSTANCE …
This is possibly the one joke that's gone too far. It's a title from the early days that we thought was too cheesy to use [at the time]. But I liked it, that's why I dragged it out again. I don't know if it was Ken or Bill's [idea]. It was probably one step too far back in 1986, or whatever it was, but I just thought why the hell not, you know?

I think a lot of people aren't going to get that it's a Beatles reference. You overestimate the average cultural intelligence of the younger generation. There's probably an entire generation of people that haven't bothered to listen to the Beatles. We're just showing our age by knowing this.

SONICALLY, THE SONGS COULD NOT BE FURTHER APART. YET THEY ARE BOTH, IN THEIR OWN WAY, PONDERING MORTALITY. TAKE THE BEATLES' SCENE OF FATHER MCKENZIE AT THE GRAVESITE, VERSUS YOUR SONG TAKING PLACE, PERHAPS, FROM WITHIN A BODY BAG.
Definitely. It's a very morose song, "Eleanor Rigby." I don't think our song is quite that, but it's morbid enough. I mean, I say it's morbid, but I don't find it morbid. I think it's very comical and tongue-in-cheek. It's a perverted, weird, twisted love song, you know ... possibly to a corpse. It's not about necrophilia. Or maybe it is, I don't know. It's about molesting a corpse, I think?

SO "ELEANOR RIGOR MORTIS" IS A TITLE THAT WAS BROUGHT BACK FROM THE EARLY DAYS, AND THAT'S ALSO THE CASE WITH "WAKE UP AND SMELL THE CARCASS," WHICH THE BAND HAD PREVIOUSLY USED FOR YOUR VIDEO COMPILATION FROM THE NINETIES. WAS THE SONG ITSELF BASED ON MUSIC FROM BACK THEN, OR DID YOU JUST LOVE THAT TITLE?
We've always been self-referential. There are links like that between every album. It's just this Lovecraft-ian mythos that Carcass has [built], this multiverse. There are bookends on either end of what Carcass does, and we have to fit within those parameters.

IN A CERTAIN SENSE, THIS MAKES "WAKE UP AND SMELL THE CARCASS" THE BAND'S DE FACTO THEME SONG.
You think? That tiny little wink of "Wake Up and Smell the Carcass" is basically just the title of that section of music before the actual song ["Caveat Emptor"] kicks in. For me, that section of music is a kicked-up, groovy, modern take on something like the intro of [Symphony of Sickness'] "Ruptured in Purulence." I could have easily not given it that title, but I liked the idea that this was two separate pieces ... Actually, it was written as two separate pieces of music! I couldn't see where "Wake Up and Smell the Carcass" could go as a song itself — it's obviously not a complete song; a three-riff cycle, I guess — so that's why it kicks off "Caveat Emptor."

AS YOU ALLUDED TO, YOU'RE WORKING WITHIN SOME PARAMETERS AS CARCASS. WITH RESPECT TO THE LYRICS, YOU'VE OFTEN HAD THESE MEDICALLY ACCURATE LYRICS INJECTED INTO THE SONGS OVER THE YEARS, AND THAT CONTINUES ON TORN ARTERIES ...
Who says they're medically accurate? [Laughs] Has a doctor vetted our records?

THAT COULD BE A GREAT CLICKBAIT ARTICLE: WE GOT A DOCTOR TO FACT-CHECK THESE CARCASS LYRICS ...
I've met people who have become doctors, pathologists or veterinarians — or have stopped eating meat — after listening to Carcass. We've got that feather in our cap. Maybe one of those people could do it.

THERE ARE ALSO A NUMBER OF GORY PUNS THROUGHOUT THE RECORD, LIKE ON "DANCE OF IXTAB" WITH THE LINE "YOU'RE SO JUGULAR VANE"...
That's how I write lyrics. It's like writing riffs: you make a note and come back to it. Then I load 'em into my literary shotgun cartridge, fire at the paper and see what sticks. When it came to writing the lyrics out [for Torn Arteries], it was pretty quick, in one session, almost. I went to our sound guy's place in Belgium, spent a week with him with a demo in-hand, and I just spent all my time writing the lyrics out. It's something I'd never done in the past. I always wrote the bulk of the material and kept tweaking it over time. I mean, going back to what you said earlier, I could've spent the last year tweaking the lyrics, making them clever, but I liked the idea of taking a different approach.

FROM A STRUCTURAL STANDPOINT, A PIECE LIKE "FLESH RIPPING SONIC TORMENT LIMITED" TAKES A DIFFERENT APPROACH, AS WELL. IT'S THE BAND'S LONGEST SONG, AT OVER TEN MINUTES. IT'S GOT MID-TEMPO GNASHING, THAT DOOMY CLEAN SECTION IN MIDDLE. THERE'S ALMOST A BLUESY CHUG WHEN IT PICKS BACK UP. WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THROWING TOGETHER THIS KIND OF AN EPIC?
What you said is correct: it was thrown together. It was a deliberate attempt, a laugh, to make a long song and cram in as many riffs as we could. Well, I wouldn't say it was for a laugh — it's not that irreverent or throwaway. Obviously, we wanted it to be good. It's definitely got the Mercyful Fate influence on it.

We'd done that in the past with some stuff on Necroticism; I don't think we'd ever passed the ten-minute mark, but we tried to. On Surgical Steel, how long is "Mount of Execution"? Nine minutes? What's funny about "Mount," in particular, is that it doesn't feel that long when we play it; I'm not yet sure if "Flesh Ripping" does or doesn't. I know we did count how many riffs are in it: it's 18 or 19. That sounds like a lot, though not necessarily.

ARGUABLY ONE IRREVERENT MOMENT ON THE RECORD IS THE HANDCLAP SECTION ON "IN GOD WE TRUST." THAT MAY BE THE MOST CHIPPER CARCASS MOMENT EVER LAID TO TAPE.
Things like that — or adding mellotron, piano, tambourines, or whatever bits of percussion — I think there could have been some heated arguments between band members in the past. Somebody might've walked out of the room in protest. But I think the idea with this is that if anyone's got an idea, we'll give it a try. If it sounds good, we'll do it.

With the handclaps, it was a bit of fun in the studio; same with the stomping of the feet and handclaps on the intro of "Dance of Ixtab," though maybe that's not mixed as loud. We just tried these things for a laugh and a bit of fun, otherwise what are you doing? Just playing the guitar in the studio? You've got to add some levity. Maybe it's our homage to Cathedral — it's not that Cathedral invented handclaps, of course, but for heavy music that's our point of reference.

SINCE YOU'D BROUGHT UP NECROTICISMTORN ARTERIES IS COMING OUT THIS FALL, LITERALLY A COUPLE WEEKS OFF FROM THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THAT 1991 RELEASE. ARE YOU A NOSTALGIC PERSON, AT ALL?
No. Until you told me that, I wouldn't have known … and I wouldn't have cared! I think there's too much of this nonsense going on where bands are celebrating the 20th anniversary of something. Jesus Christ … well done! You've lived another 20 years. So what?

Ironically, there is a bit of nostalgia with some of what we're doing [on Torn Arteries] since there's some self-referential stuff going on — with some of the lyrics, song titles or even sometimes the music. Honestly, it's just our lineage. We've gone back to the first album [Reek of Putrefaction] by having blast beats, or d-beats. I'm not gonna say we're that forward-thinking, because our influences are probably in the past. Not necessarily looking at our own past, completely; maybe we're living in another person's past, you know?

THE BAND RECENTLY REFERRED TO THE NEW ALBUM'S "KELLY'S MEAT EMPORIUM" AS A "STOCK" CARCASS SONG. YOU'D SAID SOMETHING SIMILAR AROUND THE TIME YOU RELEASED THE "UNDER THE SCALPEL BLADE" SINGLE, TOO. IS BEING SELF-FLAGELLATING LIKE THAT A NATURAL EXTENSION OF THE BAND'S SELF-REFERENTIAL M.O.?
I'm not sure that's the reason it's referred to as "stock Carcass." That's just what Bill said when he brought the riff into the rehearsal room. It's a very straightforward, fast thrashin' Carcass song.

C'mon, its tongue-in-cheek that we refer to it as stock Carcass. But ironically, it's one of the first tracks since Reek of Putrefaction that doesn't have a guitar lead. I bet you if I hadn't mentioned that you wouldn't have noticed. The same way people didn't realize the reason they don't like [1996's] Swansong is that there's no fast parts on the album at all — no d-beats, no Slayer beats, no blast beats. The fastest beat on the album is when it hits the "Children of the Grave" pace in "Child's Play." That's what I've always found weird. No one has ever said, "This album sucks because there's no blast beats"  … Or maybe no one's bothered to listen to it.

AS YOU MENTIONED, MAYBE YOU COULD HAVE DROPPED TORN ARTERIES A YEAR AGO. BUT NOW THAT IT'S FINALLY COMING OUT, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT RELEASING THE RECORD INTO THE CURRENT METAL LANDSCAPE?
I don't think bands releasing albums is such a big deal anymore. It doesn't feel like there's going to be fanfare about it, and I'm actually expecting some pushback against this album. Surgical Steel was so well-received that you know there's going to be some backlash. … Personally, I'm prepared for some negativity.

WHAT'S THERE TO BE NEGATIVE ABOUT?
I just think people are negative for the sake of it, which is a bit rich coming from me. It just seems to be a 21st century thing. Let's face it, when people have access to commenting on forums, or whatever, it just seems to be the de facto mood to go to. People don't type anything positive on the internet.

It's funny, because back in the Eighties, no one was bothering to put pen to paper and pay for a stamp to send a letter to the band they hated the most, to extol the virtues of why they don't like the band. They didn't bother. It's crazy now to just tap away and think that your opinion matters out there in the void. It's just the way it is.