Music Monday: Tender is the Flesh, by Agustina Bazterrica

The start of a new week means this is the perfect time to listen to a certain Liverpudlian band who can really help brush away the cobwebs. Today I’m pairing an album with Agustina Bazterrica’s novel Tender is the Flesh, in my take on Music Monday, a weekly meme started by The Tattooed Book Geek.

In the chilling world Bazterrica lays out, a mysterious disease has caused the depopulation of the Earth’s animals, including those many of us would happily tuck into at dinner time. In an effort to put meat back on the menu, human beings are farmed and slaughtered at processing facilities like the one main character Marcos works at. Through his eyes, we see the world of the “special meat” industry, with its assorted offshoots – butchers, tanners and game reserves – in a harrowing dystopian world that forces us to question our own attitudes towards the meat industry of today.

Tender is the Flesh was one of my choices for creepy reads for October last year, and it certainly fit the bill in terms of its chilling premise. In my review – which you can read here – I talked about how it “prompts us to dissect our own attitudes and challenge our values” as well as admiring its number of “deeply affecting moments” and “unforgettable conclusion.”

It seems I wasn’t alone in this, and in fact this unforgettable book had a profound impact on some people, who turned vegetarian or vegan in the wake of reading it. When I think of bands who are associated with protesting animal cruelty or advocating vegetarianism, plenty spring to mind. But there’s one that stands out from the rest who will really clear away those Monday cobwebs, as promised.

Surgical Steel (2013), by Carcass

Carcass are one of the most influential extreme metal bands of the last thirty years, regarded as pioneers of both goregrind and melodic death metal. It’s the latter genre that draws me to them; despite my love for a bit of splatter in my films, I’m not a huge fan of it in my music. Their 2013 album Surgical Steel is my choice as an accompaniment to Tender is the Flesh, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there’s the personal history of Carcass stalwarts Jeff Walker (bass and vocals) and Bill Steer (guitar and additional vocals). Both are vegetarians; in fact, Steer was formerly a vegan, whilst Walker was a hunt saboteur well known in the left-wing activist community. Lyrically, much of Carcass’ material focuses on animal rights issues, and that’s obvious from the song I’ve chosen here.

Carcass, back together after over a decade, only to be taken apart again. Literally.

Surgical Steel pairs well with Tender is the Flesh aesthetically too, seen here in both the album artwork and music video. With the album’s cover and recurring motif of surgical tools, it very much calls to mind the stainless-steel killing equipment of Marcos’ factory. There’s also a clinically precise feeling to the music, courtesy of the magic touch of Andy Sneap (highly in demand for his work on records by the likes of Opeth, Exodus, Testament and Megadeth, to name just a few) and the lockstep riffing and rhythm section. Over the top of all of it, Walker growls and snarls like a caged wild animal that has somehow learned to read a medical dictionary, peppering his lyrics with cheery terms like lymphandetitis (enlarged lymph nodes), metritis (inflammation of the uterus) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart). He’s probably pretty handy at Scrabble too.

Unfit for human consumption

An appetite for bovine destruction

A manifesto for mutilation

Manifests in your own dereliction

Unfit for Human Consumption (lyrics by Jeff Walker)

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Music Monday. If you were expecting a different, more mop-topped Liverpudlian band, I can only apologise.


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