Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Long Hundred 011/100: Carnage - Dark Recollections which some future Swedish death metal hall of famers released an instant classic before going on to bigger things.

[This is part of a series of posts dedicated to 100 albums I feel lucky to have heard. The full list and a more detailed explanation of the series can be found here.]

Back in the day, sometimes all it took for me to buy an album was a band photo.

In my defense, the band photo on the back of Carnage's sole album Dark Recollections features three members of Dismember, one from Carcass, and the credited singer of Entombed's Clandestine.

It's hard to think back to a time when finding the classic Sunlight Studios style of death metal required obsessive searching. But that's where I was in the summer of '98; Nicke Andersson had abandoned Entombed, not long after the band itself had abandoned death metal; Grave were on hiatus after releasing the limp Hating Life; Dismember alone seemed to be holding down the fort. As I delved deeper into the genre, it seemed that its best days were behind it, and impossible to experience without some dedicated digging.

Dark Recollections (which I'm realizing now would have made a better title for this series than The Long Hundred) was a major find in 1998. Pre-Youtube, and on a college student's limited budget, filling in the holes of my music collection meant spending most of my free time sifting through the "used" bins at record stores. It just took me one look at the back of this CD to realize that Carnage was a huge deal, since it was comprised of Fred Estby, David Blomquist, Matt Karki, Michael Amott and the mysterious Johnny Dordevic (best known for his short time with Entombed, though he contributed little more to that band than some amazing hair; similarly, despite Dordevic being credited as the bassist for Carnage, Amott actually played the instrument on Dark Recollections). Carnage was one of the first death metal "super-groups", albeit one formed before its members had a chance to prove that they were "super".

Dark Recollections was one of three albums released by Jeff Walker through his Necrosis imprint, and licensed to Relativity Records for its American release. The sense of accomplishment at finding such a rare CD was made moot when Earache re-issued the album a few years later; even more so when the internet made every death metal ever recorded available with just a few clicks. [Another Necrosis release was future TL100 entry Horrified, which I similarly uncovered in a used bin before it was re-pressed in mass quantities a few years later.]

Soon after Dark Recollections was released, Michael Amott jumped ship to Carcass, which brought an end to Carnage. A reunited Dismember picked up the torch and continued along the same (left hand) path, taking the songs "Death Evocation" and "Torn Apart" with them. Since then, Amott has surrendered himself completely to Euro-metal cheese, first with some inappropriate string-bending on Heartwork, and then with Arch Enemy's increasingly cloying albums. No idea what happened to Dordevic, but hopefully he's still doing what he does best: Filling up the empty spaces in band photos.

In a way, the appeal of Swedish death metal was its downfall. Revisiting Dark Recollections after a decade of revivalism robbed the style of its excitement, it's easy to take for granted what made this album so special. It's Entombed sans swagger, Dismember without the NWOBHM histrionics, Grave minus groove.

That said, the songs speak for themselves: Each of these ten tracks is a classic, with four actually originating on early Dismember demos. This is Swedish death metal at its most bare-bones and frantic, reduced to its Autopsy-emulating core. [The album is also helped immeasurably by the fact that Amott had yet to adopt the Michael Schenker-isms that characterized the rest of his career.] It's one of the earliest examples of the buzzsaw Swedish style that has since become ubiquitous; but thanks to some obsessive flitting through used CD bins, I was lucky enough to experience it before the horde of plagiarists eroded its uniqueness.

Self Dissection:

Dan Swanö -