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Although it can be seen, in a way, as a quick, posthumous cash-in after the demise of Carcass, this compilation is still of great interest to fans of the band throughout its highly influential career, featuring rare material that was previously only available on EPs, hidden in the BBC Radio 1 archives, or never heard before. This also inevitably means that much of it is far from the band's best work, as you'd expect from what is primarily a collection of B-sides, but for fans who lament the relatively small size of the Carcass discography, or those who thought the band lost its way towards the end, this is the perfect supplementary purchase that saves the trouble of having to locate those other, limited releases.
By far the most interesting section here (theoretically, if not musically) is the first five songs, out-takes from the 'Swansong' sessions that didn't make their way onto the band's final album. 'Swansong' itself was far from the band's best work, plagued by contractual obligations and band disagreements that ultimately saw Carcass disband even before its release, and the idea of B-side material from an already disappointing album isn't the most exciting prospect in the world, but fortunately it seems that much of it was down to random chance.
Some of this material is much better than the majority of the tracks that made their way onto the finished album,most notably the first two songs that feature greater ferocity and more impressive lead guitar work, but after this point it does just become a somewhat unnecessary continuation of the 'Swansong' mundanity, culminating in the self-deprecating apology of sorts, 'I Told You So (Corporate Rock Really Does Suck)' which is fittingly the worst of the lot.
The second section of the album (tracks six through nine) is a Radio 1 session from slightly earlier in the band's career, and the live performance makes for a satisfying listen, somewhere between studio polish and a raw demo. It sounds in places as if the source material wasn't even the original master tape, but the band still puts in the best performance it can, considering that none of the songs really allow the opportunity to impress: the material is mostly from 'Heartwork,' already a slightly disappointing album, and it's not even the finest cuts. Still, Jeff Walker's vicious rasp must have done an effective job scaring any casual listeners who tuned in at the time.
'This Is Your Life' and 'Rot 'n' Roll' formed the B-side material of the shorter 'Heartwork' E.P., and in this case it's easy to see why they were left off the album, only serving to accomplish what the other songs had already done to greater effect. The latter song is undeniably fun, but considering it has only recently been heard by the listener (three songs earlier), that counts against it in the context of this compilation. The overlap elsewhere is similarly irritating, with both 'Edge of Darkness' (1 & 9) and the later 'Hepatic Tissue Fermentation' (14 & 16) not being distinguished enough in each version to merit their inclusion in this way, though it's ultimately preferable as a more comprehensive replication of the original EPs. Still, if this is the case, they might as well have included the original version of the song 'Heartwork' prior to track ten in order to better represent that release.
It's after this point that the music makes a rapid change, from polished melodic death metal of the band's later years to the brutal death-grind of its earlier days. 'Tools of the Trade' is surprisingly ferocious even for the album it accompanied (1991's 'Necroticism'), and seems like a conscious reaction from the band against its own increasingly meandering style. This song is clipped, aggressive and fast, but still makes time for a brief melodic section later, albeit to a lesser extent that the other material the band produced around this time. Fans of early Carcass should see the 'Tools of the Trade' E.P. as an essential purchase, and thanks to this collection it's now readily available.
However superior Carcass' early works are alleged to be by many fans, the majority of the material here is still a little sub-par, and doesn't match up to anything from 'Necroticism' itself. 'Hepatic Tissue Fermentation' is a standard Carcass grind song that lasts for far, far too long at over six minutes, and it's actually more suited to the lower quality sound of its earlier incarnation at track sixteen, from Earache Records' 1989 compilation 'Pathological' that also contributes the satisfyingly slow and grindy re-make of 'Genital Grinder,' perhaps the best song here. Unfortunately, and a little bizarrely, the final song from the 'Grindcrusher' compilation actually goes too far on the lo-fi front, being quite difficult to listen to not only for its inferior sound, but also the surprisingly lacklustre performance from the band itself.
As a collection of lesser material, this doesn't work particularly well as an overview of Carcass' career path, despite showcasing their move from brutal grindcore to melodic death metal effectively. None of their best material can be found here, meaning a best-of would be a safer bet if that's what you're after, but as a comprehensive release of rare material it can't really be faulted, except that the 1989 'Peel Sessions' E.P. would have been a notable inclusion, and presumably would have been if CDs weren't limited to an eighty-minute playing time. The Kennedy autopsy photo is suitably morbid and shocking as a final statement from this legendary metal band, even if this has the rotten stench of corporate legacy-squeezing all over it.
1. Edge of Darkness
2. Emotional Flatline
3. Ever Increasing Circles
4. Blood Spattered Banner
5. I Told You So (Corporate Rock Really Does Suck)
6. Buried Dreams (Live)
7. No Love Lost (Live)
8. Rot 'n' Roll (Live)
9. Edge of Darkness (Live)
10. This Is Your Life
11. Rot 'n' Roll
12. Tools of the Trade
13. Pyosisified (Still Rotten to the Gore)
14. Hepatic Tissue Fermentation II
15. Genital Grinder II
16. Hepatic Tissue Fermentation
17. Exhume to Consume
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Edge Of Darkness
2 Emotional Flatline
3 Ever Increasing Circles
4 Blood Splattered Banner
5 I Told You S (Corporate Rock Really Does Suck)
6 Buried Dreams
7 No Love Lost
8 Rot 'n' Roll
9 Edge Of Darkness (2)
10 This Is Your Life
11 Rot 'n' Roll (2)
12 Pyosisified (Still Rotten To The Gore)
13 Hepatic Tissue Fermentation
14 Genital Grinder II
15 Hepatic Tissue Fermentation (2)
16 Exhume To Consume