Although their music is more aggressive and in-your-face then most of the other thrash acts I listen to, for some reason I can't get enough of Carnivore. It could be because of my history with Peter Steele's later act, Type O Negative, as he sung and played bass for both bands, or it could be the thinly veiled attempt at humor many of the songs take on. Whatever the case, I can really get behind these grooves and melodies.
|Louie Beateaux, Peter Steele, Marc Piovanetti|
The group only released two albums before calling it quits and heading to the other side of the genre spectrum, spawning legendary metal doom/dark metal acts Type O Negative and Life of Agony, but I've listened to the second, Retaliation, repeatedly. I am ashamed to say that I haven't heard their debut, self-titled, LP nearly as much, but I'm trying to amend that as I write this article. For a band that basically tried to piss people off, they put out some damn good tunes. If you doubt their attempt at shock and awe just look at their subject matter; songs about race wars and racism, sexism and rape, anti-religion, hate, nuclear holocaust, and a few other touchy subjects. It's one of those acts you can either see the attempt at a lampooning style or hate the blatant message. Sort of like missing the forest through the trees if you ask me, but to each their own.
Even from Carnivore's debut album, some of the dark and drab themes that would populate future Type O Negative tracks are present; none more so then "Male Supremacy." After a straight thrash opening, there is an almost doom breakdown, lasting for the majority of the track, until the trash comes back in with a minute left. This breakdown powers on with Steele's soulful voice leading the charge. Other songs do come close to this doomish-thrash mix, but not with so drastically a change usually.
Carnivore (album) actually sounds better produced and more polished then their final album. Peter Steele's voice takes on an almost 'monsterly' effect throughout, with a slight reverb/echo that makes it sound as if coming from the maw of hell. It actually comes off as really cool, but does take a little bit to get used to, and tends to get annoying when numerous songs in a row contain it. But a neat thought nonetheless. The entire album (their debut) moves from straight-thrash to groove-thrash continuously, and I only make mention of it because this doesn't happen nearly as much on Retaliation. High points to this record are "Predator," "God Is Dead," and "World Wars III And IV," the last of which includes a nuclear bomb going off and a faded and grainy version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" being played over the wind. It's just a little effect and detail, but I think it adds to the 'soul' of the album quite nicely.
I think you'd either have to be a fan of thrash or just a twisted individual to really like Carnivore. Apparently I am one of those, because I love this band, especially Retaliation. Their in-your-face, fuck-it-all attitude is the way I think thrash is supposed to be. The thrash movement was the metal equivalent of the punk movement, I don't mean in style as much as lifestyle and the general disregard for the public. This is something I think modern thrash (and punk) bands are missing, when was the last time anyone did anything truly daring? I know it is harder and harder to pull off something shocking in today's world, but at least every few years someone should come out to shake up major society. Carnivore wasn't the first, they weren't the last, but they may have been one of the most blatant (that is until the era of death metal) acts of the 80s. Fuck yea, Carnivore.