Carnage is not just another page, it opens the door to a whole new story. It is a human and personal deliverance for the authors who allow us for 40 delicious minutes to close our eyes and escape.
Unless you were born yesterday, there is no need to introduce Nick Cave, a genius, an accomplished legend in the history of music. The Australian, known under multiple aliases, first as a band in the late 70s in the midst of the birth of Post-Punk and New Wave with The Boys Next Door quickly transformed into The Birthday Party before his greatest notoriety with Nick Cave & The Seeds still active to this day. Nick Cave is one of the rare artists who managed to get through all this time by always staying close to perfection, without ever sagging too much, where almost all the others were sometimes wrong. Even to this day Nick Cave manages to win over young listeners and new generations who will not soon forget him. It is this grandiose career that explains precisely why Nick Cave is an absolute genius, an indestructible monument. While the most hateful people are waiting for that moment when Nick Cave will really falter for the first time, he demonstrates again today with this new « surprise » album, that neither the recent death of his son, nor the pandemic, nor age will succeed in putting an end to excellence for the time being. For the occasion, he is accompanied by a comrade and friend as reliable as him, the faithful, multi-instrumentalist and composer Warren Ellis. More than just a right-hand man, Warren Ellis has been one of Nick Cave's lungs since 1996 when he joined the Seeds, allowing him to keep Nick Cave as big as ever. He was there for his son's bereavement, there to keep Cave alive. While the duo diversified from the band in the mid-2000s by working on several major film soundtrack projects, more than a dozen of which, including "Music From the Motion Picture The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford", finally ran out of steam, they took advantage of this pandemic period to deliver a stunning « surprise » album, unlike anything they'd done before. That alone is breathtaking.
Carnage isn't just another page, it opens the door to a whole new story. After going through hell, which Nick Cave tried to translate beautifully on his last heartbreaking albums about the death of his son, Carnage didn't make sense if Cave and Ellis didn't indulge in new landscapes. On 8 songs and barely 40 minutes long, the duo give a musically absolutely amazing performance. Let's not be blinded again by the genius of the duo that dazzles you no matter what, because I'll stop you right there, Carnage is excellent but not as spectacular as some Nick Cave & The Seeds classics, nor as stunning and upsetting as the latest masterpieces. However, this unexpected surprise sounds like a soundtrack, of which only the writing and instrumentation will guide the listener to create their own imaginative new experience. The writing and themes of Carnage revolve around the human being as a whole, reflecting the global pandemic that affects us all. Whether it is on the interpretation or musically, the essence of Carnage is more like a fusion between revolt, melodrama and positivity. In fact, the aesthetics of the album and the somewhat wild way Cave has of bringing Carnage to life, totally denoting the spirit of the last albums, emphasizes precisely the state of mind of the latter. We have this impression that it brings out, even through the drama of this pandemic, the positive points that will allow us to be reborn after that. We always have a lot of questions about what will happen next, what will the future look like, which we often imagine to be sad and chaotic? What is there after death? Metaphorically, life after death sums up a lot of what humanity has known through time, through wars, the disappearance of a loved one, the suffering of a love. The raw and sometimes animal state that Cave & Ellis retransmit sounds like a return to the wilderness, like a blank page that must be filled in again.
While Carnage offers much more musical variety than Cave's previous albums, ranging from more conventional songs to weightless soundscapes, this experience has no respite from leaving you and without even realizing that you've finished it. Obviously the short length of the album makes things easier, but yet the richness that Carnage offers you remains truly impressive. If we take again in context the state of mind of the writing of the album and its theme, it is not annodin that the introduction of this one begins with Hand of God. Powered by a rhythm box or a rather oppressive synthesizer, supported by an archangelic orchestration, Hand Of God offers several possible scenarios on what this message represents. This is my own interpretation of things, but one can easily make the connection with the arrival of the pandemic, as a kind of divine judgment that came to punish humanity. Metaphorically and philosophically, the price of freedom or being deprived of a few things are two phenomena that a large part of humanity who were fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of them are today privileges that can be calculated at its true value. It is also no coincidence that the album follows on from Old Time and the eponymous song Carnage, dark and melodramatic nursery rhymes that emphasize guilt, remorse, questioning or nostalgia for the past. Then Nick Cave and Warren Ellis try to explore the possible causes of all this misfortune with the arrogant satire of White Elephant. Moreover the evolution and the progression of this song is really superb, with a really unexpected reversal, going from a dark musicality to a pop direction which reminds the end of the 60/70s. Here again the duo plays on several paintings, which can be understood differently metaphorically. One can think of the Karma effect, in the sense of doing wrong and then ending up seeing wrong afterwards. Or the spiritual aspect of life after death, paradise? Precisely the question can be asked, although this is only an interpretation of the beauty of Carnage's writing, for Albuquerque's piano/orchestration ballad seems to touch the heavens. It is truly delicious. Moreover, the second part of the album (which for me is triggered by the overthrow of White Elephant until the end) very often alludes to the "kingdom of heaven" or at least to "heaven", a regular theme, as if the experience had taken on a whole new dimension, moving from chaos to resurrection. The orchestration is then very angelic, very soft and particularly atmospheric. The "story" of Carnage ends first of all with a farewell at the end of Shattered Ground, like night giving way to day, where Nick Cave savors the birth of a new morning.
To conclude on Carnage in a few words, I will say that if many passages of this review are taken from my own interpretation, I would like to say that I just love writing this album that leaves room for imagination. Musically, it's really a pleasure to find Nick Cave and Warren Ellis on a more conventional niche, which is not to denigrate the richness of the instrumentation that draws magnificent soundscapes. In any case, in my opinion it's one of the best album made and thought under the pandemic air, it's both an awareness and an evasive liberation. There are also similarities with Nick Cave's past works, without any real innovation, but opting for an almost flawless content.