Carcass's first album, Reek of Putrefaction, bore similarities to Steer's work with Napalm Death, but despite its primitive production (something the band was very displeased with) it became a favourite of Radio 1 legend John Peel. Due to his interest they were asked to participate in their first 'Peel Sessions' in 1989 where they debuted new material for the second album.
During this time between Reek of Putrefaction and the second album, drummer Ken Owen progressed from a single to double bass drum kit, allowing double bass beats to enter into the song writing process. This is stated by Walker to be one of the reasons why guitarist Bill Steer took Carcass more seriously and left Napalm Death.
Symphonies of Sickness, the second album, along with much improved production (courtesy of Colin Richardson), featured longer songs with more slow passages and guitar solos. The second half of the tour in support of 'Symphonies' 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.
Necroticism - Descanting The Insalubrious showed even more intricate composition, this time with a full-fledged transition into death metal, and further improved production with a slight bias towards Walker's vocals compared to Steer's. Despite the addition of Amott to the ranks, Steer still handled all rhythm guitar duties, despite the album credits, with Amott only contributing leads. Carcass again supported the album with heavy touring, and were part of the Earache 'Gods of Grind' tour with Cathedral, Entombed and Confessor in both Europe and the US.
The Tools Of The Trade EP was released in 1992 to coincide with the 'Gods of Grind' tour. It featured a Necroticism track ("Incarnated Solvent Abuse"), a new track 'Tools Of The Trade', a re-recording of 'Rotten to the Gore' from the first album and a re-recording of 'Hepatic Tissue Fermentation' from the 'Pathological' compilation. Although it is hinted that the 3 bonus cuts were recordered at the same time as 'Necroticism', they show a dryer production/mix to the aforementioned album.
Toward the later part of the tour in support of Necroticism in early 1993, they debuted songs ready for their fourth album which they had demoed around the same time. The 'Heartwork demo' featured Walkers vocals exclusively, although during the tour Steer did sing "Welcome" during the first verse of "Buried Dreams". This tour would be the only time Amott played Heartwork songs live.
Heartwork, released later in the year in 1993 was considered a radical change by many fans, eliminated Steer's deeper vocals and the clinically gory lyrics. Again, Steer handled all rhythm guitar duties to help gain consistency between the many layered guitars that built Carcass' best production to date. Song structures, whilst still containing musically complex parts, were simpler, in some cases using the Verse / chorus / verse formula.
After the release of Heartwork, Carcass received a worldwide deal with Columbia Records, who hoped for a commercial success, even suggesting that Jeff Walker learn how to sing. Fan reaction was split between the charge that Carcass were no longer playing death metal at all and appreciation of the technical accomplishment the album shows. In fact, today some credit Carcass with being a very early founding influence for not just one, but two genres of metal - grindcore (or, more specifically, goregrind), and the modern melodic death metal sound. Michael Amott left the band right after Heartwork was recorded and was for a while replaced by Mike Hickey who was later replaced by Carlo Regadas.
During the summer of 1994 Walker remixed the track 'Inside Out' for a Die Krupps remix album, although the version stayed fairly true to the original with the exception of Owens drum samples from Heartwork replacing the Die Krupps original, and additional mixing from Walker and Colin Richardson at Parr Street studios (where Heartwork was recorded).
Carcass now set about writing songs for their major label debut. During the December 1994 UK tour Carcass showcased two songs from their current writing sessions - "Edge of Darkness" and "Firmhand", both showing a more straight forward song writing approach than on previous efforts. Around this time, 'Edge of Darkness' was recorded for the BBC Radio 1 Rock Show sessions - a session which could be found on later compilation albums.
By late 1994 17 songs were ready and the band set about using their $200,000 advance to record the album, again with Colin Richardson, at Rockfield studios in Monmouth, South Wales in early 1995. During the 6 week recording schedule the record label began to withdraw support, stating that They (Carcass) were not ready to record and needed to write more songs. This advice was ignored, as was the suggestion to have Terry Date (Pantera, Prong etc) 'remix' the album, and the band continued. At the time, Jeff Walker stated in an interview with the UK's Metal Hammer Magazine that the album was taking more of a classic rock approach, with drums, bass and twin guitars a la Thin Lizzy in comparison to earlier 'multi-layered guitar' productions. This has since been put down to Bill Steers unwillingness to perform the time consuming guitar layering (as once again Steer handled all rhythm guitar) through losing interest in the metal genre.
Due to continuing record company problems with Columbia/Sony causing the album to be delayed from late Summer 1995 to June 1996, in which time Carcass moved back to the Earache Record label and broke up before even releasing Swansong. The move back to Earache was dubbed by Walker as "the second great rock and roll swindle" (Kerrang - June 96) as they had effectively been paid twice for the same album.
Swansong, which featured 12 of the 17 tracks put to tape during the recording sessions, drew some criticism from fans for its melodic riffs which in some ways bordered on late 1980s thrash. This last official album also incorporated more melodic elements (Tomorrow Belongs to Nobody, R$ck the Vote) and some doom metal elements (Don't Believe a Word) which almost completed the Carcass circle of being one of the most inventive metal bands.
The album only featured 12 of the 17 songs recorded in the Swansong sessions (or 13 on the original brain shaped edition with the bonus disc). Kerrang reported in June 1995 that prior to Swansongs release, Carcass would be releasing an EP featuring 2 tracks from what would be Swansong and 3 songs from the sessions that would not make the final LP. However, this Ep was never released, most likely due to the lack of record company support for newly recorded material.
Walker has since stated in interviews that all 17 songs should have been included in a double album, and that some songs omitted from Swansong were actually stronger than some of Swansongs actual content.
During the Swansong recording sessions, Carcass were asked to remix a Björk track - 'Isobel'. This wasn't a remix as such but more of a re-recording with only Björk 's vocals remaining. All rhythm guitars were handled by Steer, and the track saw light of day in March 1996 on Björk 's 'Hyberballad' single.
Carcass also remixed (i.e. re-recorded but kept the vocals of) Killing Jokes 'Democracy', although this time Carlo performed all guitar duties as it is thought Steer had quit the band by early 1996. The Carcass 'Rooster' Mix was made available on the Killing Joke 'Democracy', and if it were not for the vocals, would not be out of place on Swansong.
Around the time of Swansong's release, Carcass informed the press that Carcass were to call it a day without even a farewell tour, but most fans had guessed this may be the case via the album title.
The album sold well, staying near the top of the 'Indie Rock Chart' in the UK for several months above bands such as Placebo (before Placebo exploded in late '96) despite having no touring support from the band. It is rumoured that the band were offered several lucrative tours in 1995, such as supporting Iron Maiden on their "X-Factour 95" which had the album been released as expected in '95 could have improved the bands sales and longevity.
A posthumous compilation, Wake Up and Smell the... Carcass was released in October 1996 to collect together Carcass' rarer material. This included the 5 Swansong session songs that did not make the final Swansong album, 4 tracks from the 1994 Radio 1 Rock Show session, the 2 Heartwork EP tracks, the Non album tracks from 'Tools Of The Trade' EP, and finally tracks from the Pathological and Grindcrusher compilations respectively. Although the CD received mixed reviews, to the Carcass fan it contained true gems such as "Edge of Darkness" and "Blood Spattered Banner".
An accompanying video was released a few weeks after the 'Wake Up' CD with little knowledge from the band or their management (Point Blank Management). The video, later released on DVD, featured 5 of the bands promo videos, a show from the Grindcrusher '89 tour (as a 3 piece) and a show from the 92 Gods of Grind tour. Sound on the two live shows is poor, particularly the latter which Walker has described as 'unmixed'.
Ken, Jeff and Carlo continued with the Blackstar project accompanied with former Cathedral bassist Mark Griffiths, using the second Swansong advance (from Earache) to fund the recording. Blackstar (Later Blackstar Rising) went defunct after Ken suffered from a severe brain haemorrhage. Michael Amott went on to found hard rocking combo Spiritual Beggars and Arch Enemy, a successful Swedish death metal band. In the biggest musical departure, Bill Steer reappeared in Firebird, a Claptonesque guitar-rock trio.
In June 2006, in an interview with Walker, he discussed the possibility of reforming Carcass, but it is unlikely that Owen will participate as he cannot replicate his former drumming proficiency due to his health problems.