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Much as the Retribution for the Dead EP served as a tonal bridge between Autopsy's first pair of albums, Fiend for Blood offered another window into the band's plausible future. The material here is a lot sloppier and unhinged than Mental Funeral, much more a barrage of straight, grisly death with a few breakdowns. Steve DiGiorgio returned to the bass position here, and you can hear his excess noodling all over the songs, a much more central presence than the restraint he showed through the debut album. One the one hand, Fiend for Blood is simply 12 minutes of neolithic torture, with nary a truly memorable hook to be unearthed, and it's the worst release of the band's crucial 1989-1992 period. On the other, there's really nothing all that offensive about it, just don't expect depth outside of Steve's copious, spastic embellishments.
As with Mental Funeral, there are a few very brief tracks here, but these at least carry some vocals. "Fiend for Blood" is a hurried little 30 second, sludgy grind track while "A Different Kind of Mindfuck" returns to a 'narrative' doom not unlike a few of the tunes on the prior two releases. "Dead Hole" is one of the better discoveries, cycling through a savage opening barrage and then stretching its offal stained wings with some swerving, atmospheric grooves. "Ravenous Freaks" is overall forgettable, with one half-decent riff in the center, the guitars colliding with the bass in a favorable pattern, then another burst of worthless insanity, and then another half-baked but pleasurable death groove. "Squeal Like a Pig" establishes a more measured pace throughout, while "Keeper of Decay" features perhaps the best of the EP's faster rhythms, DiGiorgio going fruit loops everywhere.
Aside from the admitted lack of quality riffs that I was so into on Mental Funeral, I also don't enjoy the tone here of the guitars. It simply does not stand out whatsoever. Contrast these droning, sludgy patterns with the thundering bottom end, and it all feels fairly half-assed, as if the band just wanted to fill some space before their next album. The cover art also sucks, where Retribution for the Dead was quite cool; but it's not like many bands put much effort into the packaging of such short form releases. Assuming you haven't already picked this up in the past, then I'd advise you just pick up the re-issue of Acts of the Unspeakable which includes this entire EP as a bonus (and more on one of the versions). Autopsy's third album does continue the wacky trend of dumbing down their impressive sarcophagi of sound, but there are far better songs and less of the bass playing excess.
A year prior in '91, Autopsy captivated those fortunate enough in the metal underground with their release of "Mental Funeral." I can imagine they felt the need to top or go beyond this recording either with more versatility, nastier lyrics, tempo changes or just an uncontrollable urge to add another twyst to the meaning of "twisted."
The music is a blend of death, grind and doom. They essentially switch it up in each placement: one moment it's centered, the next it's unruly or at another it's dark and wavy. For the most part the guitars aren't continuously chugged and in certain areas they might only take a few notes and play them with the simplicity of a grind-like fashion or more closer to its precursor hardcore. Then there are some structured moments that work the fret board a little more and turn out to be somewhat progressive, or even dark and atmospheric for what most people are used to with a death metal band. So, there are moments that lean on aggression, and then others that take it down a notch and are going for more complex playing or just simply a mood. An easier way to understand the manner in which Autopsy does it in is something like running your finger in appreciation over the surface texture of a finished painting, and then for whatever reason putting your fist right through the canvas. They end up doing both here: craft a dark or weaving scenario and then have the tendency to ravage it.
The young man arrived suave, mysterious. Suddenly, to everyone's surprise, he broke wind. One fart, two farts, three farts...really unpredictable that one.
Guest bassist Steve DiGiorgio brings another element to the recording. He might synergize a guitar line with some alternate rhythms alongside, hit similar notes but still stick out by slapping the strings about, even impact certain start up sections by gliding in with a few distinct bass lines. The drums can go with the nomadic flow of the music, but still have some well-constructed moments including those characteristic weaving tom patterns Autopsy's known for. Reifert's chops continue to provide a few interesting environments, not just relying on pummeling double bass and blazing fast speed to get that hair of yours a mess like other death metal groups, but have a few moments here and there of actually reaching out to those little hairs on the back of your neck, like they're building up to something potentially ominous with, --> you <--, the listener caught in the middle. His vocals can be all over the place with different tones and projections: anywhere from using deep and mumbled growls to painful yells; sometimes showing distinct words, at others a puke of syllables.
"Fiend for Blood" does have its moments and a few of them turn out to be creative swims into the perverse—those instances that stick with you after listening and have an actual "impact" on hacking into your brain waves. However, they were evolving and searching here, trying to find the next level of extremity and at the same instance expand themselves as musicians. This caused them to over reach at times with certain transitions, or even entire areas. In turn, this recording has some pieces in their song writing as if part of it was built up, and another part of it was "lett looSe" without actually looking back. Like they wanted it all: a rich flavored cake that was decorated by a baker who has a tendency to fidget, don't forget the sleazy stripper that pops out or even the cherry on top, except the occasion is too much to capture in one single event or was as well planned as they would have hoped. Essentially the issue with this EP is those areas aren't put together as collectively as one would want: Some sections might work in unison and really come together, and then others come across as either forced to fit with attempting to mix this or that genre, or just simply have riffs or vocal projections that turn out to be depreciable beyond so many listens. It's a real whopper of a conundrum with everything combined. On the other hand, the production is actually decently loud and separated for the style, and by having a layer of soiled, reverb-drenched film slightly helps when you switch tracks, giving this the necessary shadows around this kind of hideous blood-hungry monstrosity that Autopsy spawns in our heads from their release.
I felt the previous album "Mental Funeral" was Autopsy's peak, it really came together with a mixture of their take on death and doom, and also a tad of grind found its way inside while altogether making up for the loss of their prior thrash influences. It was a depraved release without going over the mark—their musical timing was top notch and the atmosphere was built up to and consistent throughout. It had peaks and rises without having spikes and plummets, and, importantly, the transitions between simplicity and complexity held together like they were one uninterrupted cohesion. I'm sure none of the mentioned was as easy as it might come across, which is usually when you know a band sat down to tinker and tweak it; when you compare it side by side something else or hear a recording falter or fall short is usually when realization hits. I still recommend "FfB" if you can't get enough of their earlier material because you'll still locate a few semblances and also some new additions, but I'd say to find this EP for less than an arm and a leg, or if this is your first Autopsy outing go with "Severed Survival," "Mental Funeral" or even the EP release "Retribution for the Dead" in place of or beforehand. "Fiend for Blood" is the band attempting to maneuver themselves around a room where they are trying all kinds of ways to carry these buckets of gore: heaving it, methodizing it, walking it, jogging it, running with it. Except when they attempt to do all of this around each other, in close quarters and with the intention to top the last session, it leads to some collisions and spills that your ears aren't willing to do the work and clean up for them each time you might consider giving this a go.