Arguably grindcore's finest hour, Necroticism captures Carcass hitting previously unheard-of heights of technical proficiency with such jaw-dropping skill that the album sounds absolutely fresh 16 years after it came out. Rarely has a grind band achieved the thrilling, epic majesty of classical music, but Carcass took the cake here. The first Carcass album to feature second guitarist Mike Ammott (now with Arch Enemy), the twin guitar work stuns -- as do the outrageously over-the-top gross-out titles that each came up with for their solos. Necroticism also marks Carcass' last stab at its hilarious fixation with gross anatomy (with an emphasis on gross) -- something that no other band before or since has nailed with such tongue-in-cheek flair. Also the first grind album to bear truly excellent production values (courtesy of Colin Richardson), Necroticism singlehandedly proves why the guys of Carcass are still revered and referred to as "the gods of grind" to this day.
2. Flotsam and Jetsam
When the Storm Comes Down (Metal Mind)
The second and final Flotsam album to feature Jason Newsted replacement Troy Gregory on bass, When the Storm sees Gregory dominating the songwriting process to excellent effect. His lyrics are intellectually potent and almost eerily thoughtful, adding steam and purpose to the classic thrash quintet's attack. Further, here the band partakes fully of the forward-leaning mentality and progressive tendencies that the genre's best and brightest were showing at the dawn of the Nineties. Storm not only captures guitarists Ed Carlson and Michael Gilbert at the top of their game, but also hearkens back to when thrash music had blossomed into a true artform, when the bands were really learning to build and sustain tension over lengthy songs. In a word, essential.
Destroy Erase Improve (Nuclear Blast)
Meshuggah continues to garner raves from both critics and peers -- not to mention musicians, scholars, and fans in the realms of jazz and classical. Still, the band was arguably at its peak of its powers on its 1995 sophomore album. Destroy Erase captures the band's mind-bending sense of rhythm colliding with a frantic, explosive sense of energy that the none of its subsequent releases, however ambitious, have matched.
Clandestine, with Monkey Puss DVD (Earache)
The classic Swedish death metal outfit's second album, Clandestine is the only Entombed release without vocalist LG Petrov. More than just a historical curio, however, the album once again shows the unbridled punk energy that contributed to Entombed's rise to the top of the death metal heap before the band began experimenting radically with its sound. This was just before it arrived at its "death 'n roll" mix of death metal with a rock and roll approach. Looking back, any of the band's albums with drummer Nicke Andersson (now with the Hellacopters) should be considered absolutely essential, as Andersson -- who also wrote guitar riffs and sang -- took a lot of Entombed's vitality with him when he departed in 1997. This reissue should also be considered essential because it includes a DVD of Monkey Puss, filmed during the fabled Gods of Grind tour.
In contrast to Necroticism, this final offering from Carcass sees the band practically abandoning its grindcore roots for a more middle-of-the-road rock album. Confusing and widely rejected by the band's fanbase when it was released (a year after the fact, and after the band's breakup) in 1996, the album has aged surprisingly well. It contains many clues about the full breadth of guitarist Bill Steer and bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker's full musical range. It's worth checking out, especially for the retrospective interviews on the bonus DVD, and also for its historical place in the sudden decline of grindcore as a viable commercial format.
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-- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni