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"Morbid price to pay for a night of fun, a coat hanger will get the job done"
And with that Autopsy popped up on the death metal scene like a nasty spot on the members' teenage faces. Despite the acclaim this release got in the scene, it's often extreme thrash rather than pure death. Drummer/vocalist Chris Reifert's vocals are at this stage a far cry from the indecipherable monstrosity of a style they would become, oftentimes Reifert going for pure volume over anything, and, oddly sounding way more melodic than James Hetfield did in the early years of Metallica's career. Strangely, however, the doom elements are already in place in some seriously good riffing. As a thrasher myself, I love this demo, although I can only hear it via a search on YouTube, with plenty for me to headbang along to, despite the shit sound, but this is expected on a demo released no more than four months after the group formed.
Although in many aspects the demo may stand apart from Autopsy's later work, many of their trademark elements are in place and in practice here. I mentioned the occasional doomy riff which rears its head from time to time, and those lyrics. Back in '87, <autopsy must've been considered sick fucks. Case in point, "Stillborn", whose first two lines open this review. You may have guessed what it's getting at with the title and first two lines, but as if you're in any doubt Reifert hits us with this second verse:
"A bloody pile of discharge flesh
In what you see as you face death
On the ground is the lifeless meat
Stillborn child lies at your feet"
The standout track on here is "Embalmed". I fucking love that song. Every element works for it, including its pulsing energy which just makes me wanna break stuff.
There are, occasionally, flaws here too. As mentioned in previous reviews, I'm not the biggest fan of death metal so the last track would be an example of this. "Mauled to Death" does however give us a preview of Severed Survival -era Autopsy, with Eric Cutler performing what has to be some of the first modern-style gutturals ever recorded. Also, whilst I never expected stellar production, it does make it sound like you are hearing Autopsy rehearse in the room next door to you, and I have a suspicion that it was recorded live, judging by the way the drumming is far less complex when vocals are being performed. The bass is also quiet as hell to boot.
Overall, if you're a fan of thrash, Autopsy or some death then you'll love this, unfortunately (but not surprisingly) there is no sign of official re-release for this, so we just have to savour it on the internet. I can't think of anything else to say really, except that I'm going to go and try and buy this little gem from '87.
Right after Chris Reifert left Death he formed Autopsy with a few like-minded ruffians. Their collective intention, as just a three piece at this point, was simple: to play twisted metal tunes with a certain death-thrash or extreme metal sound, and devoid themselves from the love, life-struggling or politically driven songs at the time. This demo is more consistently fast than their next one, and also comparatively straighter or simpler in direction. To get an idea of what this sounds like, the '1987 Demo' essentially takes off from where Death's 'Scream Bloody Gore' left with some similar structuring such as certain areas of pacing, riffing and vocal techniques.
The production, from the 'Ridden with Disease' comp, has a filthy layer to it but still isn't too horrendous sounding compared to the typical fading-in, fading-out demo release, not to mention when those tapes get frequently overdubbed or just plain overplayed. Though instead of being recorded in their garage or from the limitations of a few microphones in a room, this was actually set down in a studio in California where the band unsuspectingly lurked. This is still a low budget recording, not to mention it has effects dumped on top to distort the production, which gives it a rich layer of slime and in turn your ears get a lingering taste of the macabre the band is hinting at.
The riffs lead you like a pack zombie at a grave site overtaken by resurrected corpses. It can frequent tremolo type guitar lines, to slow moving chords backed by a faster drum beat, and at other times they might just stick with simple palm mutes, power chords and other various thicker oriented notes to get the job done. Every now and again he uses harmonic squeals to upset your nerves, being piercing enough to make nearby stray dogs whimper from its sudden high pitched noise. Overall the rhythms aren't that technical and he might just stick to the fundamental basics of heaviness and aggression, yet is still capable of adding little shifts to keep the music treading forward. Though this includes interesting, moving-around-the-fret-board, diverse soloing tactics to take a particular song into another direction.
Reifert sets the pace mainly at a steadied thrash walloping. His abilities shift from cymbal assailments to simple tom rolls. In later recordings he differs from the on par thrash chops he just displays here, but this is still capable of bringing out a constant onrush of energy to the flow of the recordings, that much you can count on it for. His vocals are higher pitched and very scream-ish. He vocalizes for the first three songs, with the exception of track four done by Cutler instead, who instead uses a deeper gruff/growl. Reifert's projection is pretty wild, often literally screaming at the top of his lungs. Even though he sounds somewhat young, I find it actually fitting to the music of this demo, since it gives this an added notch to what other bands at that time did with similar vocal deliveries.
Luckily for the listeners Autopsy recorded an audible demo with some separation of their instruments, one where you're capable of squeezing in an unimpeded mini-session of headbanging whenever the urge arises. Though the music shows a band at an early point, one that hasn't found their exact nature just yet. I don't mean to say this is recklessly searching for their calling, but this runs more at a basic level with only so many stand out qualities to keep it interesting, not just compared to their later capabilities but to some other contemporary bands as well.
'1987 Demo' is a surge of extreme metal: sometimes playing more primal death, sometimes thrashing about. It builds on some influences from the band Death at this point in select areas and of course a few of their own particular sounds come through. However with their next demo, Autopsy fits into a more interesting placing by having other varied techniques come out or reveal themselves. I have to say this is still better than some other bands' very first outings of the style and the period, I mean they ultimately come together as one "unit," and I can still recommend this for those interested to see where Autopsy came from and for some early, primordial death metal with a tinge of atmosphere that respectively delivers enough to be entertaining.