EXTREME music in all its forms is challenging to the performers and the audience alike – musically and lyrically the subjects are not for the faint-hearted, but the flip side of this can induce a manic devotion; and with that an intensity that sees both sides in the live experience amply rewarded.

Thus, when a packed Limelight1 in Belfast’s Ormeau Avenue came to The Distortion Project’s presentation of Coldwar and Carcass there could be no doubt that only the performance could seek to match the febrile crowd on Friday (September 19th).

Carcass were making their appearance on these isles for the first time in two decades; but before the vileness could be unleashed in a musical maelstrom, Dublin’s agri-metal act Coldwar carved a path through a world where anger and hate are focussed against oppressive forces including church and state.

While a few were familiar with Coldwar following their show at Monsters of Rot and their recent release of the furious ‘Pantheist’ it was a night when they gained new fans.

As Paul and Dave (guitars) and Andy and Marty (bass and drums respectively) built the atmosphere, Trevor stalked on to the stage to deliver polemics and power, hymns of hardcore and a meld of punk and extreme metal. Equally as the set ended Trevor stalked away, his compatriots wrapping up proceedings with a stylish outro.

With the venue packing out nicely, beer taps running at maximum an amalgam of awe was palpable as the strains of 1985 rang out, as the surge of roars rolled acclaim for the four-piece well into a tour that has seen them trek the length and breadth of Europe on festival line-ups and headline slots.

When Carcass last appeared in Northern Ireland it was a significant year for this small country. After years of bloodshed and tension the Provisional IRA and six weeks later Loyalist paramilitaries announced ceasefires.

Metal crowds had been on the wane – and worse those purveyors of mediocrity and morose music Snow Patrol was formed by remnants of Satan’s stale cum by people claiming to be Northern Irish while studying at the University of Dundee.

But, the much foretold demise of metal spat back into the face of adversity and despite wrangles with labels ‘Heartwork’ was emerging filled with venom and discontent.

The 2014 version of Carcass comes on stage balanced and brutal; and strangely happy with their lot as Jeff Walker alternates between ferocious growls and beaming behind his bass. The front man seems to be at ease and both he and Bill Steer – as the two originals who emerged from Liverpool many years ago – are wielding the putrefied remains of the mainstream around the heads of the crowd its decaying corpse a weapon of extremity.

With Daniel Wilding (drums) and Ben Ash (guitars) now permanent fixtures for some time Carcass created an awesome meld of older material and Surgical Steel songs.

Beneath the veneer of vomit inducing titles such as ‘Genital Grinder’ and ‘Reek of Putrefaction’ is a heartfelt challenge to the norm, to the status quo, to suits and faceless bastards who try to control our tastes.

What makes the show – and the devotion of fans – is remarkable given that there were those not born in ’94 or barely out of short trousers joined in acclaim with those who were there (even if memories are hazy).

From ‘Buried Dreams’  to ‘Ruptured/Heartwork’ this was a tour de force of fury, delivered with a sneer and a smile. But, while the classic Carcass tracks stood out, the material from Surgical Steel shone.

With the ‘Granulating Dark Satanic Mills’ and the mystifying ‘Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard’ * Carcass claimed the souls of those there, mauling with a ‘Captive Bolt Pistol’ and delivering them on the ‘Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System’.

But despite the power and precision of the live show the question has to be asked: Are Carcass still pertinent to metal in 2014?

With a back catalogue showcasing youthful exuberance and turbulent times of their lives, and with an album filled with depth and measured depravity on their Friday Belfast showed that not only are they still relevant, but they are at the very leading edge of development in extreme music; not re-treading what went before, but tossing back a greying mane and spitting back against any who stand in their way.

‘Keep on Rotting In The Free World’ –  fuck yes!

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Photography by MetalPlanetBelfast
Carcass’s Surgical Steel is now available on Nuclear Blast
Coldwar’s Pantheist is now available on Candlelight
 
* ASTM F 899-12 is the standard for surgical implements, including their metallurgical components.