Carcass are an English extreme metal band formed in Liverpool in 1985. The band have gone through several line-up changes, leaving guitarist Bill Steer and bassist-vocalist Jeff Walker as the sole continuous members. They disbanded in 1996, but reformed in 2007 without one of their original members, drummer Ken Owen, due to health reasons. To date, the band have released seven studio albums, two compilation albums, four EPs, two demo albums, one video album, and six music videos.
Carcass are widely regarded as pioneers of grindcore and melodic death metal. They are also described as one of the earliest and most important of the new generation of grindcore and death metal bands. Their early work was also tagged as "splatter death metal", and "hardgore" on account of their morbid lyrics and gruesome album covers. Their fourth studio album, Heartwork , became a staple of melodic death metal. Carcass were also one of the few death metal acts to sign to a major record label, with Columbia Records handling North American distribution for Heartwork, while the album was distributed worldwide by Earache who released all of the band's albums up to and including Swansong .
The band's lyrics often focus on animal rights issues. Walker and Steer are both vegetarians.
Carcass were first formed as a school band by Bill Steer and Ken Owen that soon after disbanded. Steer then joined the D-beat band Disattack with drummer Middie, Paul on bass and Pek on vocals. After releasing a four track demo entitled A Bomb Drops ... in 1986, the bass player left the band and was replaced by Jeff Walker, formerly guitarist and vocalist of the Electro Hippies. Vocalist Andrew Pek changed his name to Sanjiv after a visit to India. At about the same time, Bill Steer joined Napalm Death and recorded the second side of what became Napalm Death's first album, Scum. Walker also designed the cover art for Scum.
Disattack then changed its name to Carcass as the group changed musical direction. This led to a change in drummer and saw Ken Owen join the band. In April 1987, they recorded the Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment demo, the only Carcass recording featuring vocalist Sanjiv, who left shortly after. Walker, Steer and Owen shared vocal duties for the debut album, which was done in only four days. Despite the primitive production values of Carcass's debut Reek of Putrefaction , with which the band was very displeased, it became a favourite of Radio 1 DJ John Peel. Due to his interest, they were asked to participate in their first Peel Session in 1989, where they debuted new material for their second album. The Peel Session was released as an EP with the band members adopting pseudonyms: K. Grumegargler, J. Offalmangler, and W.G. Thorax Embalmer. Also that year, Steer and Walker appeared as members of Lister's fictional band Smeg and the Heads in an episode of Red Dwarf.
Symphonies of Sickness , the second album, which contained a much improved production quality , featured more death metal structures and longer songs with more slow passages. The second half of the tour in support of Symphonies of Sickness saw the addition of second lead guitarist Michael Amott, whose previous work included Carnage. Amott was to become a permanent member, playing on the second Peel Session and contributing material towards their third album.