Monday, May 19, 2014

Autopsy - Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves

I was the of the few Autopsy fans who was not especially thrilled with the band's return-from-retirement album Macabre Eternal. Then last year, I totally missed The Headless Ritual, because I just wasn't paying much attention to new releases at the time. Consequently, I came into the band's new album as someone who loves their classic records but didn't give a crap about anything they'd released in the past 20 years or so. Despite the lukewarm reviews for this release I decided to pick it up, and I'm glad I did.

Autopsy at their best have a unique way of blending warped, cavernous doom elements into gross-out gory old-school death metal, creating a sound that has been aped at by many imitators but never truly captured. To put it bluntly, for the first time in decades, I think this is Autopsy at their best. Chris Reifert's tourtured, wailing roars encapsulate the insane horror the band sets out to create. The instrumentation is heavy, but it's a little more open than what you hear from most death metal bands. Autopsy give their songs room to breathe, creating an organic atmosphere without having to include soft passages or rely on gimmicks like keyboards.

A real standout feature on this album is the guitar soloing. Contrary to the typical (for death metal) rabid shredding, which has its place but seldom feels to me like it adds very much, the solos here are better structured and feel like actual coherent and well-formed inclusions in the songs. They're still very heavy and aggressive, but fundamentally I feel like they fit into the songs in a more natural and beneficial way than most death metal solos. It's similar to the kind of soloing you'd hear from a classic rock band in the way the guitar grows out of the songs and builds to an apex rather than just sounding like random notes being tremolo picked as fast as possible. I know I'm going on a lot about one aspect of the music, but it's an uncommon approach in death metal, and it's a big part of what sets this album apart from most of the pack.

In terms of negatives, I can't really think of anything that bothered me. Some may call it a bit samey, but considering how long it's been since Autopsy released a really strong record in this vein, that seems like a pithy complaint. This didn't latch onto my brain with the force of the recent Triptykon and Morbus Chron releases, but it was a very good album that I have no hesitation in recommending to any fan of old-school death metal.

Grade: B+

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