Eighteen years. Yes, it has really been that long since Carcass released their last album, Swansong. But time hasn’t snuffed out the fire that galvanized these Brits as death metal legends, and if you have any doubts, given Surgical Steel a spin.

This isn’t a rehash of the Carcass of yore, and it isn’t a play by numbers regurgitation of the now-classic Heartwork album. Instead, it is a raging return to form and proof-positive that these guys have plenty more death to dole out. The band hints at the massive melodic guitars that propelled earlier albums with the brief-but-soaring intro, “1985,” before gnashing into an all-out riot with the briskly paced “Thrashers Abattoir.” “A Congealed Clot of Blood” stomps, chugs, and gurgles, before signaling a shift from the overtly aggressive to a more melodic second half of the album, crowned by the skittering closer, “Mount of Execution.” Despite the dual personalities of Surgical Steel, this is 100 percent Carcass.

Most young metal heads weren’t even born the last time the Carcass unleashed a new album, so there is a lot to be said for their ability to not only return, but to re-emerge with such a vital release. Is Surgical Steel the best album of their  career? It’s not, but it doesn’t have to be. It is enough that it confirms Carcass’ staying power and remarkable ability to alter the landscape of metal now, just as in the past.

Surgical Steel is out September 13 on Nuclear Blast Records.

Rating: 4/5 Stars