A lot of things have happened since death metal veterans Autopsy last graced us with a full-length record.
For one, death metal has become a lot more acceptable publically, as these types of bands have dotted various major U.S. summer shed tours and the records have sold in the hundreds of thousands. Second, and this has much to do with the first point, death metal has cleaned up its image, the music has undergone more polished pristine production as of late, and much of the imagery has gone away from the blood and guts of years past (even Cannibal Corpse largely have toned down their product, creepy-crawly elements aside). Certainly some bands maintained the grimy edge of death metal’s past, but most of those acts remained underground for the hardcore fans to devour. And that all leads us back to Autopsy.
The last time we were served up a full-length from this band was 1995 with … “Shitfun.” That 21-track, 55-minute album (I refuse to even acknowledge the really disgusting album cover) wasn’t exactly the best swan song for the band – Autopsy dissolved after its release — with some of its members going on to form Abscess, itself a fairly gross, doomy band. One of those dudes is Chris Reifert, who originally gained notoriety for sitting behind the drum kit for genre pioneers Death before going on to form Autopsy with guitarists Eric Cutler and Danny Coralles, and bassist Eric Eigard (bassist Joe Allen, also of Abscess, joined in 2010, after a revolving door of bassists). Their debut album dropped in 1989, the influential “Severed Survival,” and after a split mini-release with Paradise Lost and an EP, dropped their second effort in 1991 with “Mental Funeral.” “Acts of the Unspeakable” landed in 1992, which then led to their 1995 record, that not only shifted their sound but also alienated some of their listeners. And then it was over until they got back together in 2008 to record two new cuts for the “Survival” reissue. From there, they played Maryland Deathfest, put out 2010 EP “The Tomb Within,” Abscess broke up, and Autopsy declared their reformation as permanent.
That brings us to the present, and the band’s brand new record “Macabre Eternal,” released on their longtime home label Peaceville. And yes, anytime a band takes 16 years between records and decides to revive the machine, it’s often met with righteous skepticism. You know how these reunions go, right? But this one seemed destined to be a success from the start, and this new album certainly pays tribute to the band’s legacy and makes up for their 1995 misstep. Last year’s return EP was really quite good, and it was right in form with their earlier work, yet “Macabre” takes things even further than that, showing a band that not only remains well in tact but that has grown.
The album runs 65 minutes, easily their longest to date, and while they often pumped out collections that had oodles of songs that blasted by, they conjure up just 12 here but breath so much doom and grime into them, they feel perfectly paced. The Black Sabbath and Cathedral influences are ever present, as is the penchant for gross-out, brutal death metal on which they used as a foundation. Opener “Hand of Darkness” lets out some start-stop thrashing and a blur of lead guitar play, while Reifert gurgles, “Reaching out to the sick and insane.” Yes, that would be the proper audience. And it’s only the beginning of this glorious, albeit worm-infested, return, as they are equally as vicious and gloomy on “Always About to Die,” an incredible downtuned track that is dark and dismal before erupting into a doomy gallop; the swirling cacophony of “Deliver Me From Sanity”; the power-style “Bridges of Bones,” that dissolves eerily into a mournful acoustic passage before exploding again; the zombie nightmare of “Born Undead”; and the impressive, slow-driven, torture epic “Sadistic Gratification,” that stands out as one of this record’s best songs. There’s not a moment of letdown on “Macabre Eternal,” and anyone who wishes to dine on bones and rotten flesh will gobble up every second of this filth.
For every person who’s ever complained that death metal’s gotten too pretty for its own good, Autopsy clearly heard your call. They’re one of the bands that got the skulls rolling, and they’re back to show the world what this genre is capable of producing. I also can’t remember a reunion that has gone so smoothly and been so satisfying. It almost … almost … gives credence to the idea of reformations. Not only is it great to have Autopsy back again, but it’s even better that they’re hungrier, angrier, meaner and as murderous as ever. Consumers of Hot Topic-approved death metal: Enter at your own risk.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.myspace.com/autopsyofficial
For the “Macabre Eternal” mini-site, go here: http://www.peaceville.com/autopsy/
To buy “Macabre Eternal,” go here: http://www.burningshed.com/store/peaceville/collection/261/