Friday, July 24, 2009

Carnage- Dark Recollections

This album came out when I was 7 years old, so when I came to it much later, it had to compete with every subsequent development in music. The "importance" of a record can of course never be a substitute for a boring listening experience, and while Carnage would be important in terms of many bands that I love (Carcass, Darkthrone, Entombed), their sole album has never caught on with me.

The whole Swedish Death Metal sound has always struck me as monotonous and formulaic. While I appreciate the blending of Discharge-style hardcore with death metal, the bands in this style forego the sense of dynamics and narrative which the American death metal bands (Death and Morbid Angel especially) took over from thrash metal--in comparison with which, Entombed are a bit "same-y."

The slow pace (for death metal), the consistent and boring atmosphere, the ridiculous chainsaw guitar tone, the guitar solos that are all the same... the entire genre is distilled into this one album, but instead of (as might be the case with another record) being able to forgive the faults of an entire genre in their first instantiation, this record does not *benefit* from its unifying tendencies. Instead, I put it on and think, after a few seconds: "Oh... THIS."

One thing that might mislead listeners is that the band never slips up: every song is consistent in quality; the genre conventions are completely adhered to; as an album it might even be "well-paced"... but like a fractal in mathematics, it looks the same no matter how "close" or "far" one's attention is set. As background music, it is background music---a heavy, thundering roar. But when one really puts one's ear up to it and pays attention.... it is still a heavy, thundering, consistent roar. You can wait the entire album's length waiting for "neat parts" or for any of the record to differentiate itself.

Now, that could be a general (naive) criticism of death metal, but what I mean here is that the TEXTURE is not different from the "big picture"... unlike, say, Suffocation, where repeated listens bring out nuances *from* a general chaos, with Carnage the surface close-up is not any more rewarding than the general impression. In fact they are the same.

As a review of this CD, I should add that (like the Nihilist demos) the demo tracks appended here have a certain raw charm that has been leveled-down for the "Sunlight Studios Sound."

Score: 3/5 stars (***)

Best songs: any will do equally well

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