Right, so let’s get this out of the way straight away shall we? Yes, they have a band name that sounds a bit like Carcass, and they have a band logo font that looks like it comes straight from the Entombed back catalogue, but French outfit Carcariass have little to nothing to do with the halcyon days of Earache Records supremacy. No, the four-piece are in fact partially named after the Latin name for the Great White Shark. Luckily, they also bear no resemblance to that particular band either.
Their first album in over ten years, it was a great surprise to see this being produced. I am a fan of their earlier albums, in particular 1998’s Sideral Torment, which was a great slab of progressive death metal. They’ve put out some compilations of earlier works since then, and – it would appear – a single last year too. I’m not sure what the chaps have been up to in the intervening decade, but a length of this stature usually means one of two things: either they’ve come back (and really shouldn’t have), or they’ve been quietly amassing enough strong material to make a proper comeback. Which is it?
Well, the good news is that on this occasion, it’s been worth the wait. “Planet Chaos” is a great, if occasionally maddening listen. It begins with the strong opener of “Solar Invasion”, which has more time changes than a Swiss Clock shop, and some great sweeping guitar work on top of the rasping vocals. In general, this is really well crafted and lovingly produced technical, progressive death metal with a penchant for the melodic. It’s often a bit of a precarious balance; get it too light weight and you lose all the heaviness and veer off into cheese territory; get it too technical, and while you might have the guitar-nerds salivating, you’ll be as interesting as a documentary on printed circuit boards. For the most part this gets it right in the sweet spot; there isn’t a musical section that is accomplished without being an integral part of the song. That being said, I could really do with a few more vocals here and there – on the over five minute “Apophis Impact” for example, while the music is really top notch, it does sound a little like a track where they forgot to add the singing, rather than it being an instrumental per se.
…But when its right, boy is it right. On my particular favourite, “Star Implosion”, an improbable mix of 90’s style melodo-death and same-era Samael stomp and melancholy, the curious alchemy of elements produces a sum much more than the equal of its parts. Sometimes, it’s an almost but not quite. If you’re going to name a song “High Speed Fury”, there are a couple of components which I would expect to hear: namely, SPEED and FURY. It isn’t particularly resplendent with either of these factors, and it is another bloody instrumental, only two tracks AFTER THE LAST ONE. These are minor distractors from what is, in all other regards, a really accomplished piece of musicianship. It’s a spacey, sci-fi, very six-string heavy release that has more licks than an ice-cream shop, and a good listen – but on other occasions, it just sounds as if the band could have spent a week or so more writing lyrics and recording vocals. Other than that, it’s all good.
Score: 7/10 (…but +1 for the infectious hook in “Genetic Conformity” so…(8/10 Chris Davison)