If you’re a death-metal freakazoid like me, then you need no introduction to Autopsy. But in case you’re not, how ’bout an introduction?
Autopsy was originally formed in 1987 by Chris Reifert and Eric Cutler, shortly after Reifert left the legendary band, Death. Danny Coralles joined Autopsy a year later, and after a couple of demos, they released their debut album Severed Survival in 1989. Three more influential albums followed, but Autopsy disbanded in 1995. Before its dissolution, Reifert and Coralles had begin a side project called Abscess, and that became their main musical vehicle in the many years that followed.
All sorts of death-metal icons, including Entombed, Cannibal Corpse, and Deicide, have named Autopsy as an influence on their music, and many more have covered Autopsy songs, including Immolation and Dismember. If there is a death-metal pantheon in hell, Autopsy reigns proudly within its smoking pillars.
So much for the history lesson. Fast forward now to June 3, 2010, the date on which Chris Reifert announced (a) that after 16 years of performing, Abscess had officially broken up, and (b) that Autopsy had been resurrected “to resume their mission of gore-soaked death metal brutality.” That cackling sound heard in the dark places underground on June 3 was the rejoicing of the hellish hordes at the rising again of Autopsy.
Now, fast-forward once more to October 5, 2010. On that day, Peaceville Records released an EP of brand new Autopsy music called The Tomb Within — five new songs, which we have now heard. Those hopes that burst to life on June 3 have been fulfilled: Autopsy has risen again in a display of monstrous death-metal glory. (more after the jump . . .)
The EP is not the first new Autopsy music since 1995. When Peaceville issued a remastered 20th-anniversary edition of Severed Survivor in 2009, the band included two new songs on the second CD included in that special set, “Horrific Obsession” and “Feast of the Graveworm”, which were recorded in September 2008. The new songs on the EP further show that Autopsy has lost none of the demented genius that made them so influential 20 years ago.
It goes without saying that the music is heavy and primal, with the guitars tuned to subterranean depths of distorted reverberation and a thundering low end courtesy of Reifert’s drumming and Joe Trevisano‘s bass. Reifert’s vocals are also hair-raisingly inhuman, veering from throaty, bestial gutturals to spectral shrieks and agonizing groans. It’s the soundtrack to an exorcism gone terribly wrong.
But there is much more to set The Tomb Within apart from the legions of current old-school imitators. The rhythms are intricate, the tempos unpredictable, the time signatures inconstant. This is not tech-death extremity, but an organic, earthy variability that enhances the interest of the music without sacrificing its primal groove.
“The Tomb Within” begins with twitching, growling guitar noise, building in volume and culminating in a scream. Reifert begins growling out the lyrics (“you’re dying inside / every heartbeat closer to the last”) amidst the crash of cymbals, the pounding of reverberating riffs and the shrieking of guitars. Then the bottom drops out, and a doom-metal crawl takes over, dark and heavy like thunderheads threatening rain. Finally, the clouds burst, the pacing jets upward, and the song careens toward an explosive finish (“thank the blood red skies / for with death you have been kissed”).
A whining, harmonic guitar fanfare announces the start of “My Corpse Shall Rise” and periodically returns to knit this arresting song together. In between, the pacing alternately trudges and grinds, with dirty, fuzzed-out riffs, intricate drum fills, more bursts of boiling-hot guitar leads from Coralles and Cutler, and Reifert’s truly hellish vocals (“I’ve been waiting here for you / now it’s time to see you die”). This song should have been called “My Corpse Has Risen“.
“Seven Skulls” launches with ringing guitar chords and a heavy, stomping gait. The pace lurches downward to a stumble, and then the guitars start spooling upward again as the vocals shriek and howl. Those big, heavy, stomping chords return again to drag the song to an ominous close (“my brain was filled with voices / as I picked up my gun”).
“Human Genocide” is a fascinating addition to the EP. It’s an old song, originally recorded as a demo in 1988 for possible inclusion on Severed Survival. Autopsy decided not to use it on that album, though that lo-fi demo version was included in the second CD of that 20th anniversary reissue. On The Tomb Within, we can now hear the song performed more than 20 years later with the benefit of sharper production.
It kicks off with a thrash-paced drum-beat and increasingly rapid riffing. It’s a chainsaw that’s running hot and fast, and badly in need of a lube-job because it’s starting to smoke. The rhythms slip backward and forward like a timing chain is loose. It begins to jerk to a halt, but then finds a new burst of speed as one of those Cutler guitar solos erupts into a blaze of hellish glory.
“Mutant Village” finishes the EP with a dark, sludgy, death-doom crawl, accented by Reifert’s random shrieks and groans. Eventually a rhythm of sorts emerges and Reifert’s strangled vocals evoke the end times. The song stays morbidly slow until about 1:45 left, and then the drums begin to clatter and the tempo jumps upward briefly — but it’s a head-fake, because the doomy crawl returns quickly. Another surprising burst of guitar mayhem closes it out.
Mutant zombies will bang their heads to this last song in slow motion (“a vision of hell, their food you will become / cannibals beneath a sickened sun”), and of course their heads will come off.
All the songs on this EP would have been right at home in Autopsy’s stupendously good 1991 album, Mental Funeral. It’s as if the band never left us, and their return on The Tomb Within has made a memorable mark on the list of 2010’s best releases. Check out some 2010 Autopsy:
Oh yeah, one more thing: Autopsy plans to release their fifth full-length album early next year. Fittingly, it will be called Macabre Eternal. Here at NCS, we’ll be counting the days . . .