Review by Sonny for Carnage - Dark Recollections (1990) Review by Sonny for Carnage - Dark Recollections (1990)

Sonny Sonny / June 22, 2022 / 1

OK, surprise, surprise Carnage are another death metal band whose existence I was completely oblivious to. It appears these Swedes had quite a short run, the band being formed by several members of Dismember who were joined by Michael Amott, future Arch Enemy mainman, originally playing grindcore. By the time of the release of their sole full-length, Dark Recollections, in March of 1990, they had lost their grindcore beginnings and produced an album of pretty lethal, out-and-out death metal. Now I have insufficient knowledge of the minutiae of death metal as to the differences between, say, the Floridian scene and the burgeoning Swedish scene (if someone could enlighten me then please do), but I can only assume this played a significant part in the latter (along with Entombed's imminent Left Hand Path debut album).

I love the guitar tone here, it's down and dirty enough but still has plenty of bite and the bass fortifies the sound as it seems to be prominently placed in the mix. Fred Estby's drum work, whilst being quite straightforward, is exceedingly effective and vocalist Matti Kärki has a great line in earnest bellowing. I have seen a number of complaints that this is merely generic death metal. Well, I disagree. There are some really nice riffs here and the lead work is rough but energetic, but more importantly, how can a death metal album that is one of the early examples, particularly of the Swedish scene, be generic? Surely the later albums these commentators are basing this judgement on are the generic ones.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that I am much better disposed to early death metal than the later, more technical or dissonant stuff that garners so much praise and this is a great example of youthful exuberance (the musicians were all in their teens still) made manifest. Sure it doesn't have the really memorable tracks of an Altars of Madness or any of the other releases from the big noises in the death metal scene of the time, but it does brutalise and batter with a relentless onslaught of dark and violent metal. And there is nothing at all wrong with that.

Comments (2)

Daniel Daniel / June 23, 2022

The Swedish death metal guitar tone is all about taking a Boss HM-2 distortion pedal & turning all four knobs up to 10. It's really that simple. That's what gives you that wall of sound which allows for far less precision than you'd expect from a US death metal act. For that reason, the classic Swedish riff structures are intentionally kept fairly simple which suited the young exponent's limited technical skills down to the ground. The Swedish sound is built on a dirty punk backbone while the Americans opted for a flashier classic metal inspired technique with a lot more complexity & technicality. The Swedish guitar tone is significantly more forgiving as it can hide poor technique under all those buzzsaws so it's no surprise that we don't have many genuine guitar heroes from that scene. There's more palm-muting involved in the US death metal technique which is natural as the Swedish guitar tone is simply more conducive to open-strings because everything is so overdriven & distorted that the difference between palm-muted & open strings is less obvious. 

Ben Ben / June 23, 2022

Daniel can undoubtedly express what makes the Swedish death metal sound what it is, but the main feature of it is the guitar sound. You rightfully described it as down and dirty, but it's commonly described as the Swedish buzzsaw guitar sound. It's pretty well known that this sound originated with the band Nihilist, and in particular guitarist Leffe Cuzner. Leffe wouldn't go onto big things himself, but Nihilist eventually became Entombed when bass player Johnny Hedlund left to form Unleashed. It's for this reason that Entombed are often cited as being the originators of the sound, despite Carnage's debut being released prior to Left Hand Path.

The other major factor when it comes to the Swedish death metal sound is producer Tomas Skogsberg from Sunlight Studios. He became synonymous with the sound after producing classic albums such as Carnage's Dark Recollections, Entombed's Left Hand Path and Dismember's Like an Everflowing Stream, all of which share the sound. Notably, he also produced Darkthrone's Soulside Journey, which is why the Norwegian's debut sounds a lot like Entombed.

Anything else Daniel?