Oct 112010

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.

And as was true of the Autopsy of old, just when you least expect it, white-hot bursts of lead-guitar shred erupt out of the songs, in stark contrast to the crushing low-end grind and drone.

“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:

Autopsy: My Corpse Shall Rise

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 . . .

  29 Responses to “AUTOPSY”

  1. There is no doubt that Autopsy is indeed in the upper ranks of death metal and it’s good to see another legend come back from inactivity.

    As for “My Corpse Shall Rise”.

    The music, I like. It’s not overdone, but it’s not too straight-forward. Unfortunately it seems that in spots, it passes near a musical black hole and starts to collapse in on itself. I don’t know any other way to put it. I must admit, the vocals are eluding me. To be… oh, you know already, Reifert sounds to me like a guttural version of Bobcat Goldthwait at times.

    I do like how the exposed ribcage and dangling corpse/mummy form a bloody butterfly on the EP’s cover.

    • I do get what you mean by the Bobcat Goldthwait reference, and it’s an apt analogy — but I like the way Reifert sounds, because he doesn’t really sound like anyone else. And I should have said something about that EP cover, because it’s REALLY good. It’s by a fantasy/horror artist named Matt Cavotta, who’s done lots of art for the Magic game and some other album covers too.

      • Well, it’s good to know that I’m not insane. Okay, maybe I am, but at least I haven’t completely lost it yet. Of course, you can’t lose it if you don’t have it in the first place.

        Reifert may take some getting used but, but he also seems to be of the sort who makes his vocals understandable and intelligible and doesn’t have an earthquake erupting from his throat – for the most part. Based on my knowledge of older death metal and its ilk, the incomprehensible stuff came later. He does remind me a lot of LG Petrov, especially after moving towards more of the ‘death and roll’ material.

        • No question, LG on Entombed’s “Wolverine Blues” sounds more than a little like Reifert. No surprise that it’s one of my all-time favorite albums. I guess I have a previously unacknowledged weakness for gargled vocals. Entombed acknowledges the influence of Autopsy on their sound, as in this funny May 1994 back-stage interview:
          I particularly like this passage (which follows their acknowledgment of Autopsy’s influence):

          Uffe: The new Autopsy album will be the best. It will be called “Shit Eater”.

          Nicke: On the cover there will be a picture of someone eating shit.

          Lars-Goran: It’s cool.

          • Entombed seems to always have had a sense of humor, although I think you kind of have to with death metal. Just listen to the version of “Wolverine Blues” from Hollowman for one example. Like with the goregrind bands, death metal bands often play along with the running gags of fans and critics.

            Actually, I’d have to put them in that list of highly influential death metal bands as well. You’ve featured bands on here that have more in common with them than others, but there aren’t many bands that actually sound like Entombed.

            • “there aren’t many bands that actually sound like Entombed”: Agree completely! I think a pretty good test of metal greatness is whether, 5, 10, or 15 years after an album’s release, it still sounds “current”, listening to it still gives you a charge, and it holds its own with brand new releases. That’s the way I feel about Left Hand Path and Wolverine Blues (and, for that matter, Mental Funeral).

              • Absolutely. Entombed was one of the bands that gave me a glimpse into this side of metal that I actually liked, so even if I haven’t really followed their career since the mid-90’s, they’re still a band I hold in high regard.

  2. I have to agree with ElvisShotJFK…the music is pretty good, but the vocals drive me nuts.

    I have a hard time enjoying older death metal, because it sounds more like a dog barking than…well…demons screaming. (I’m not fond of dogs barking, I guess.)

    I know I should be punished for not appreciating these mighty deities of death metal, but I just can’t help it!

    • Okay, your choice: (1) being drenched in honey and tied spread-eagle over a fire ant nest; (2) being waterboarded with a kerosene-drenched cloth; (3) being forced to attend a Justin Bieber concert, two nights in a row.

      • Oh, dear dog, that’s cruel!!! What did I do to deserve the Bieber treatment!?!? I truly have sinned against the greatest!!!


        Kerosene waterboarding it is! (Growing up on a farm, I have developed a slight affinity for fuel smells. I’m sure that’s extremely healthy.)

      • By virtue of Rule 34, there’s probably a DVD of that first one available somewhere.

        Death by Bieber is crossing the line, though.

        • From Texas historian J. Frank Dobie’s book “Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver”, writing about the Yaqui Indians at pp. 157-159: “In their Sonoran desert is an immense ant — black, voracious, venomous. When he stings you, you feel a hatpin jabbing to the bone, and the poison makes you faint and sick all over. Not for enemies in war is the ant; he is reserved for traitors, for wrongers of the Yaqui people, for betrayers of the tribe. A man — a Mexican yori, let us say — is stripped naked and spread-eagled over an ant bed. The ants work at night as well as by day. If the naked yori is tied out over the ant-bed when the sun goes down, by the time it comes up only the gristle ligaments fastening his bones together and the cream-yellow bones — soon to become glistening white — will be left. After a dozen or so of the ants have stung a man, he is probably anesthetized for the remainder of the operation.” Fucking metal.

          • See, they should make that into a metal video or album cover instead of the same old shit each time. Band playing on mountain. Band playing in warehouse. Band playing on stage. Entrails of dubious origin coming out of orifices that don’t really exist. You know, the usual stuff.

            Devoured by ants. That’s what we need. Maybe I’ll start a band called vagoo and that’s what our* first album will be.

            *our meaning it’d probably be just me trying to come up with something awful that the goregrind kids will gladly buy. Or download. Probably the latter.

            • Please stop saying “vagoo”.

              • It’s funny, when you ask me to stop saying va- well, you know. With that icon of your with your arms crossed. It feels like I’m being scolded or something. Next thing you know, you’ll be grabbing a plank of wood, a leather belt or a Justin Bieber album to punish me.

                • Scolding is not metal. I am not scolding. However, punishment is metal. J. Frank Dobie is putting more and better ideas in my head. From p. 159 of that book:

                  “If there are no ants, there is the sea sand ribbed by the tides of the Gulf of California. The tide rises high on that shore. It comes up lapping, lapping, edging in, receding, but all the time rising, rising. The victim is pinioned so that he can see the sun-silvered breakers coming nearer and nearer and so that his eyes and mouth will be the last part submerged. A few swallows of the salt water will be his last drink, but he can be a long time expecting them. That night he will not see the phosphorescence on the breakers, bright enough for one evanescent moment to line the sights of a rifle by.

                  “If there are no ants or tides, there is always the sun. With his eyelids cleanly cut off and his head fixed so that the Sonora sun glares into his staring eyes . . .” Well, enough of that . . . for now.

                  • Put the book down. Go listen to some more metal, preferably of the kind that isn’t going to give you any further ideas. Wait… how much extreme metal fits that description?

                    • “. . . glares into his staring eyes, it, white hot and blazing out of a cloudless sky, must soon grow black. Less torturing is a green cowhide wrapped and tied around a victim placed in teh sun to wait until the unyielding constriction that rawhide is capable of cuts into muscles and body and finally strangles the very insides to death.”

                    • See, if there’s ever an upside to illiteracy, this would be one of those moments.

                      Hey, wait…

                      Green cowhide?

  3. I assume “green cowhide” refers to the fresh skins, not dried or “tanned”, maybe soaked in some solution, that will shrink considerably as it dries. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

    • I suppose that makes sense.

      Green typically means fresh, new, rookie or anything like that, but I thought it wasn’t used that way until mid 20th century. I looked it up and the book is from ’39, so it’s not a stretch for green cowhide to mean that.

      Although imagine the carnage of exploding green bovine? The fun of tipping a green cow. Plus, it adds another color to the vivid imagery that thinking about literal cattle decapitation.

      • Dobie grew up on a ranch and returned to work on a ranch again later in his life, so he probably knew first-hand what he was talking about. He was a vivid writer (as you can see) and lived a remarkable life. From the intro paragraph about him in The Font of All Human Knowledge: “James Frank Dobie (September 26, 1888–September 18, 1964) was an American folklorist, writer, and newspaper columnist best known for many books depicting the richness and traditions of life in rural Texas during the days of the open range. As a public figure, he was known in his lifetime for his outspoken liberal views against Texas state politics, and for his long personal war against what he saw as bragging Texans, religious prejudice, restraints on individual liberty, and the assault of the mechanized world on the human spirit. He was also instrumental in the saving of the Texas Longhorn breed of cattle from extinction.”

  4. The more I listen to “My Corpse Shall Rise”, the more I like it. While Chris Reifert’s delivery may not exactly be to my liking, it’s not enough for me to dismiss Autopsy. Everything else is more than adequate. The Tomb Withing and <Macabre Eternal are going to the ‘maybe’ list, and I should explore their past discography some more.

    Considering that they disbanded after I had started to get more into death metal and the like, I never got to Autopsy or Atheist, among many others (Cynic comes to mind as well). There are only so many bands that one can get to, especially at a time when it took word of mouth and sometimes the occasional gamble in buying albums to expand the musical horizons.

    • I didn’t know about those bands when they were starting out, because I didn’t get into underground metal until later, but they were a big part of my education as I started to figure out where all this started. And man, with new music from both Autopsy and Atheist becoming available within the last week, it’s been like a dream come true.

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