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Carnage – Dark Recollections

1990 was a landmark year in death metal history. Many classic albums were released during that time, including Death’s Spiritual Healing, Obituary’s Cause of Death, Deicide’s self-titled debut, and Cannibal Corpse’s Eaten Back to Life. It was also when the Swedish death metal scene really took off. Entombed released Left Hand Path in that year, but everyone already knows about that. Instead, I want to talk about a lesser-known but just as influential band called Carnage. They lasted just two years, but they made a huge impact when they released Dark Recollections.

This was one of the first death metal albums to be recorded at Studio Sunlight in Stockholm. The production was handled by Tomas Skogsberg. He is the reason why Swedish death metal has that signature buzzsaw distortion. He gave the music a unique quality that set it apart from every other country. To put it in another way, he is the Swedish Scott Burns. The drums are handled by Fred Estby. His d-beats are the stuff of legend. Their precision and aggression served as an inspiration for the rest of the Swedish death metal scene. He doesn’t just do that, though. He also plays mid-paced rhythms that are packed full of thumping double bass, all of which are punctuated by elaborate fills. There are also moments when he plays some stripped-down blast beats.

The vocalist is Matti Karki. He performs a hoarse growl that draws obvious influence from Chuck Schuldiner. Although future vocalists would be far more brutal, his performance is still delightfully sickening. The guitarists are David Blomqvist and Michael Amott. That last name might sound familiar to many of you. After Carnage broke up, he would join Carcass, play on two of their full-lengths, and then join Arch Enemy after that. An interesting thing to note is that Carnage used to play grindcore, and traces of this show up in the fast-paced grinding riffs of songs such as “Gentle Exhuming”. They also play some dark and groovy mid-paced chord progressions that remind me of bands like General Surgery, who are also from Sweden. There are a few moments when they play slow doom riffs, and wild, screeching solos abound. However, the punkish riffs are what really steal the show. They’re very simple compared to what the Floridians were doing, but they’re extremely energetic.

I didn’t really care for this album at first, but it grew on me after repeated listens. Dark Recollections was groundbreaking when it first came out and it still holds up extremely well. The songwriting and instrumental work are excellent and it radiates a primal spirit. One final interesting fact to note is that after the band broke up, three of its members would form Dismember, who would become legendary in their own right.