Carcass - Wake Up and Smell the Carcass (1996)Release ID: 771
There are some great rare gems here, but numerous versions of the same tracks was really unnecessary. Still, it's Carcass!
Compilations are often hit and miss affairs and they seem to take on two formats. Firstly, there's the "best of" compilation that attempts to place all the best tracks a band has released on one disc while spanning their entire career. This normally ends up being a great starting point for newcomers, but a bit superfluous for long-time fans. Secondly, there's the "unreleased tracks" compilation that attempts to offer new material for fans desperate to get their hands on more but is probably the last place a newcomer might want to start. Wake Up and Smell the Carcass most definitely fits into the second category which is why I was looking forward to getting my hands on it. I love most of the band’s work and followed them through their evolution through grindcore, intense death metal, melodic death metal and then finally the death n roll entity that was their swansong (sorry). So, what do these remains have to offer?
Well, there's 17 tracks all up so there's lots to talk about. It runs in reverse chronological order which means it all starts with five tracks that didn't make the cut for Swansong. Personally, I really don't like the direction Carcass took for that album. They entered the sort of territory bands like Entombed and Dismember had already delved into, being rock based metal that leaves almost all semblances of death metal behind. The musicianship is basic which is such a shame for musicians of this calibre and the riffs lack any sort of power. That being said, the five tracks here are just as good as anything on Swansong and have a little bit more aggression to them which suits me fine. Each track has its moments, but I'd say Emotional Flatline is the pick of the bunch.
Tracks 6 to 9 are live recordings which were recorded for a Radio 1 Rock Show in 1994. Any Carcass fan will know and enjoy Buried Dreams and No Love Lost off Heartwork and these recordings are quite nice. It's particularly cool how the band kicked off No Love Lost with the opening section of the classic Ruptured in Purulence before seamlessly transitioning. The other two live tracks are Rot 'n' Roll and Edge of Darkness which is a bit strange considering both tracks appear in studio form elsewhere on the compilation. I know it's a case of filling this disc with every unreleased track they could find, but surely listening to these tracks 2 times in quick succession isn't going to please too many fans out there. Nonetheless, they all sound pretty good and the band perform flawlessly.
Tracks 10 and 11 are This is Your Life and Rot 'n' Roll off the Heartwork EP released back in 1993. It's rather strange that the band then went on to release a full-length album with the same name which is certain to have confused a few people out there. This is where Wake Up and Smell the Carcass gets interesting for me as these two tracks are well worth checking out. They do suggest that the band was already considering moving into more rocking waters prior to the release of the classic Heartwork album, but they're still kicking enough to please the death metal fans. Rot 'n' Roll doesn't have quite as much effect since we just heard it three tracks earlier but can't be criticised when it comes to quality. Jeff Walker's vocals still contained that rabid edge that was sadly missing for the Swansong performances.
Tracks 12 to 14 are undoubtedly the highlight of the compilation. The Tools of the Trade EP was recorded around the time of and with the same line-up as Carcass' masterpiece Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious, so there was never going to be any doubt about the quality of these tracks. The original EP also included the completely astounding Incarnated Solvent Abuse but the three otherwise unreleased tracks here are also great. After all the melodic and rocky metal in the first half of the compilation it's damn refreshing to hear the dual vocal attacking, completely shredding and blasting death metal that Carcass did so well. If you've never managed to get your hands on the EP then this compilation is probably the easiest way to do so. Awesome stuff!
Tracks 15 through to 17 were originally recorded for label compilations back in 1989. Genital Grinder II and Hepatic Tissue Fermentation for the Pathological Compilation which also included bands like Godflesh and Napalm Death. Genital Grinder II is a short instrumental that kicked off the compilation in style whereas Hepatic Tissue Fermentation really showed what Carcass were capable of at this early stage with thick, dirty riffs and sick guttural vocals. Unfortunately, its effect is once again diminished due to it appearing literally 3 minutes after the re-recorded version found in the Tools of the Trade EP. I'll partly forgive them this time round as it's quite fascinating to hear what good production and a slightly different approach can do to the same material. Finally, Exhume to Consume was originally recorded for Earache's famous Grindcrusher compilation. This release was really a who's who of grind including Terrorizer, Repulsion and Napalm Death to name a few. Exhume to Consume is a great track of Symphonies of Sickness and this early version is damn putrid to say the least.
So, it's clearly apparent that Wake Up and Smell the Carcass has a heck of a lot of material to delve into. There's no doubt that it successfully makes some rare and at times excellent material available for fans, but the repetition of tracks was unnecessary. Just a little bit of restraint would have lowered the 76-minute running time and made for a far smoother listen. I also can't ignore the fact that the latter material just doesn't work all that well and just shows why the band called it quits in the first place. I won't say you shouldn’t get the album if you're a big fan, but if you already own the Heartwork and Tools of the Trade EPs, this really doesn't have much value.