’s back, baby! 2011 seems to be the year for bands I love to release new albums, what with Empyrium
planning to release a new album this year as well. So, for those of you that don’t know, Autopsy
is a classic death metal band from the late 80s formed by Death drummer Chris Reifert. They released at least two great, furious death albums in the late 80s and early 90s (I say at least two because I have yet to hear Acts or Shitfun
), and after a 15-year hiatus began to write songs again. And
I was ready from the first time I heard the news—ready to eat up whatever this band put out in the hopes that they would release another great piece of meaty, gurgly death metal.
I liked their 2010 EP, The Tomb Within
, quite a bit, and figured it to be a good indicator for what was to come. Now I know that the EP wasn’t even close to what was going to come out—Macabre Eternal
. This new full-length easily eclipses The Tomb Within
, giving us not only well-executed and creative death metal but an hour-long album that presents us with oodles of technicality and dark, brooding atmosphere.
For me, death metal isn’t huge. Not often do I come off from listening from a death metal album without feeling at least a little bored. Autopsy
has always brought a much higher standard for me, and I think they’re the only death metal band out there that could write an hour-long album and not have it come off as boring. And
to have a band reform after a 15-year hiatus and still manage to pull it off is pretty outstanding, especially when said album is so adventurous. Unlike most bands that reform just for the shits and giggles or a few extra dollars, I really get the sense that this band reformed solely to make something new under the Autopsy
feels rehashed or gimmicky—it all feels totally fresh and there’re a lot of elements here that Autopsy
didn’t use before (an acoustic section in Bridge of Bones
, plenty of groovy riffs, an 11-minute epic), yet the ugly and dirty sound of Autopsy
persists. The songs are longer and much more structured, and a lot of the music really flows into the next moment smoothly, despite the music being so heavy.
There’s a lot of variation in the tone and pace of the songs too—Hand
starts our album off with explosive riffing and maniacal vocals, while Sewn into One has a foreboding doominess that almost outdoes the sludgy doom of Mental Funeral
. Bridge of Bones
has a much creepier chilling tone, especially with such a haunting acoustic interlude that gives the song a huge sense of dimension.
The production, while relatively clean, doesn’t quite reach the ‘sterile’ definition that a lot of us have come to know from modern death/deathcore bands like Suicide Silence
or Job for a Cowboy. There’s still some grit left over to give Autopsy
their signature sludgy/mucky sound.
All of the instruments are in full form here. The guitars belt out riff after infectious riff, some surprisingly technical (opening riff from Dirty Gore Whore
; Bludgeoned and Brained) and swirling between melody and brutality with relative ease. There’re memorable riffs laced all over the place, twisting and spindling their way through the song like bursting veins. Every song has plenty of standout guitar moments. The solos for the most part sound like Eric Cutler and Danny Coralles are having epileptic seizures—they come seemingly from nowhere, sporadic and sloppy, raping the fretboard harder than the girl in the lyrics to ‘Dirty Gore Whore
’, and then stop before you know what hit you. These solos are pretty much old-hat for Autopsy
and other death metal bands, so there are some more structured solos—the later solo in Dirty Gore Whore
, or the solo of Sadistic
Gratification, so there’s some variety with the solos as well.
Chris Reifert, vocalist and drummer, is pretty great here. I admit that I was sceptical about his voice on The Tomb Within
EP, feeling it was going a little feeble, not quite able to give the wide range that he could give on Severed Survival
or Mental Funeral
. But Chris has found his niche in becoming an old fart—he’s adapted his vocal style to something where he can handle the duties of lead vocalist. He’s monstrous here, as animalistic as he ever was, but he’s quite different from what you would hear in the early years. I find he can do a much lower growl this time around, with plenty of sludge in his voice that sounds like he’s talking around a mouthful of dirt, mud and shit. Yeah, pretty brutal alright. There’s also a range of moans, groans, and yelps he does (the chorus of Deliver
me from Sanity), and it sounds totally deranged. As far as his great shrieks go, he can still do them pretty much perfectly, delivering all of the power and testosterone-fuelled rage that he could do before (just listen to that opening wail in Macabre Eternal
—it’s a thing of beauty). Reifert’s voice will not disappoint on this album, and he once again proves that he’s one of the top death growlers out there, despite the walker and the false teeth. You can also understand a lot of what he’s saying, unlike in Severed Survival
where he slurs all his words together. I kinda miss that, but it’s nice being able to hear such choice lyrics:
“Your tears go silent in this place/Blood
tears and cum covers your face
One big slash across your chest/Blood
splatters from breast to breast
I’ll carve you a new fuckhole/And
chain you to my toilet bowl
’t kill you, but you’ll wish you were dead/Keep you as my Dirty Gore Whore
It’s funny, but I’ve begun to picture the vocalist here as the zombie on the album artwork—the one near the bottom right corner who seems to be shrieking at the zombies carrying the giant skull.
As far as Reifert’s drumming goes, it’s still great; Tons of fills, stylish beat-keeping, and a fair use of all the drums in the kit. He may use the snare a bit too much at times, but he doesn’t do it enough to make the music suffer. It all holds up pretty well, and it’s definitely some great drumming. Too bad I’m not a drummer myself, or I could get into more detail on how well-done they are.
The bass is lout and gnarly, and it has a few moments where it comes out front to play slow, doomy solos, like in the intro/halfway point in Sadistic
Gratification and in the song Bludgeoned and Brained.
Then there’s the 11-minute track, Sadistic
Gratification. Wow, did this song ever impress me. I have to say I wasn’t sure how Autopsy
would ever pull off writing an 11-minute track when the longest they’ve ever written previously was just over 6 minutes (Hole
in the Head
from Mental Funeral
), and even that one seemed to drag a little bit. But this is a very well-written song, and it’s full of great doomy riffing mixed with all-out thrashing. It’s structured to be an epic track, starting with a low, grimy bass intro that is soon accompanied by a winding guitar riff that transitions into a short pause before kicking up the pace and giving us some more wild riffs. As the song progresses the riffs get more involved and confrontational, and there’re plenty of hooks to satisfy any metalhead, death metal fan or not. The flow of the song for the most part flows like water, consistently churning and bubbling like boiling blood. The theme of the song (torturing someone for information) and it’s gruesome details are hammered home by the tortured screams that play over a slow, sludgy, ominous chord progression. They sent shivers down my back, and they push the song into new territory. The woman sounds like she’s at some point between death and orgasm, but it sounds incredibly freaky paired with the rest of the music, especially when you can listen to the lyrics so you know exactly what’s being done to her.
The only part in the song where the pace is sort of lost is when there’s a pause that’s followed by the rehashing of the bass intro. I find this to be just a tad self-indulgent, but I guess if you’re following along with the lyrics it kinda fits with the song (it comes in just a little bit before the point where Chris starts whispering to the person being tortured, and the screaming begins shortly afterward).
The song ends after the 11 minutes, and I’m left feeling totally ecstatic, thinking the album must be over. What else could top a song like that, right?
Well, it turns out there’s one more song—Spill my Blood
. If there was anything to be sceptical about in this album it’d be this. After hearing the epic that was Sadistic
Gratification, I don’t feel like I need to hear another song; the album should’ve ended there. Instead we get Spill my Blood
, which is a balls-out thrasher for half the song, and a slow droner for the latter half. I wish this song had been placed somewhere else on the album, because it really does kinda wreck the atmosphere that Sadistic
Gratification presented. I don’t understand why it’s even there, but whatever. It is still a nice song, so I guess no serious harm done.
Before I close, just for the hell of it I want to talk about the album cover. I'm really just rambling here, so feel free to take this with a grain of salt. Anyway
, I wasn’t really fond of the album artwork at first, but it really is an interesting piece, and it directly relates to the title of the album. We see two zombies dragging a giant stone skull across a ravaged land of other corpses. Behind them are other zombies that look like they’ve carried the skull as well, and then I notice that the right side of the album art features a giant monolithic grim reaper—with a missing skull. The zombies appear to be dragging the skull away from the statue (if you look at the way the two zombies are holding it you can make out the direction it’s being carried). It’s almost as if they’re trying to discredit death, trying to get rid of it, trying to sweep it under the rug. At this point I look back at all the dead zombies, who may have died because of carrying the skull, or attempting to detach it from death. The album cover might be saying that even though we try to do away with death to prevent it from happening (anti-war, raising money for curing diseases, etc) it’s still all around and part of a cycle. The zombies die in the process of doing away with death, like soldiers in an unwinnable war. I guess the main point is that Macabre
—it’s always a part of our nature.
...Or maybe I’m breathing way too much into this whole thing. I think I’d prefer the cover if it had tones of red and yellow rather than blue and green, but anyway. Macabre Eternal
is a great death metal album, and a great Autopsy
album. It progresses the band forward dramatically, which leads me to believe there may be more Autopsy
releases in the near future (fingers crossed). I was highly impressed with this album, and I think it could be the death metal album of the year. If you haven’t heard this album yet, go out and get it, because you won’t regret it. Or if you’re too afraid of wasting money on an album you don’t like, sample a few songs. Songs I’d recommend would be Dirty Gore Whore
, Bridge of Bones
and of course, Sadistic
Gratification, although you couldn’t go wrong listening to any of the tracks here. A very solid album, and I eagerly await more from Autopsy