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Mmmmmm.... This has to be the toughest review I have written. Autopsy, seminal death metal band, originally formed in 1987, and one of THE most influential extreme metal bands ever to exist, releasing a new album in 2011 having got back together in 2010 after being defunct for 15 years.
This reunion is a veritable wet dream for an Autopsy stalwart like me. I always loved the band’s disjointed and dirty, loose and uncomplicated (yet encompassing some very odd time changes and drum beats) and most importantly heavy style of death metal. Late 2010’s The Tomb Within was the initial taster of the new Autopsy, the band complete with all three original members – Chris Reifert (bona fide metal god), Eric Cutler and Danny Corrales. Bass on that EP and the album being reviewed is handled by Joe Trevisano (aka Joe Allan) of Von and Abscess. And what a superb EP that is – fast, heavy and filthy, very straightforward in most respects and utterly death metal. It was a terrific tempter for what was to come...
And now I have the new album Macabre Eternal and... I just can’t figure it out. Gone is the heavy, dirty sound of The Tomb Within and in comes a crystal clear production – the best Autopsy has ever had – and the heaviness is gone. Adam Munoz, who produced the EP has completely changed the sound. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t expect albums nowadays to be given a muddy production deliberately (except some ‘black metal’ albums) but the production has to fit the music and in my opinion this production is way too clean. This would have suited Death Magnetic – it is like an ...And Justice For All sound for death metal.
A detailed track by track review is not necessary here, but let’s touch on the salient points. The album kicks off with the scorching Hand Of Darkness – a full speed full-on death metal attack and a great track as an opener. Yet next track, Dirty Gore Whore, is a complete departure. It is still fast, it is still filthy, but it is TOTALLY different. In fact, if I had been played this and had to guess who it was I’d have said (pre-Dark Scary Tales) Macabre. The underlying riff and drumming is pure Macabre – frantic and insane. Reifert’s vocals, so heavy on the opening track, change to a crazy, deranged tone which is pure Corporate Death and... I’m not sure I like it. Autopsy’s later albums – Acts Of The Unspeakable, and especially Shitfun, are well known for being eclectic and eccentric, and Dirty Gore Whore takes this even further – it sounds crazy. Crucially – it sounds like Abscess.
Yes, Autopsy haven’t been able to completely separate themselves from their Abscess influences, and it’s not surprising considering how long Abscess was around for compared to the original Autopsy. It’s not necessarily bad but the start of this track does not sound like Autopsy. Nevertheless, at 1:14 the ‘rape you, kill you, rape you’ verse is as exhilarating as it gets, completely brutal and grotesque. The track continues in an almost Slayer-esque breakdown until it resurrects itself into the crazy finale.
Following tracks Always About To Die and the title track (complete with Retaliation-era Pete Steele scream) are both much more straightforward mixes of slow and fast and are good chunks of death metal. Indeed, it continues with Deliver Me To Insanity, a track much in the Mental Funeral vein but, dare I say, unremarkable...
And next is Seeds Of The Doomed, an all slow track which is in my opinion the best on the album. It contains something which has never been heard on an Autopsy album before – a melodic riff. And hell it works. This is a great track which pays homage to Sabbath and old Autopsy and is very, very good.
Next track is Bridge of Bones and the intro is, sadly, the first time we hear Trevisano’s bass on the album. Yes, track 7. Very disappointing. The track is slow and gloomy and unremarkable. But we are blasted away by following track Born Undead which kicks off like Bonesaw and just about manages to carry it through to the end.
Next track Sewn Into One passes by without touching the sides, just not interesting enough, and Bludgeoned And Brained passes by as well – a doomy number which leaves my brain intact and aching for some bludgeoning death metal. Sadistic Gratification follows and it begins with some introverted doom/goth passages which are beautifully played, however, the main body of the track is an uncomfortable mix of slow and up tempo with a riff that just about keeps me hooked but no more. The doomy passages continue and the track is resurrected but this really won’t be to a lot of people’s tastes. Neither will the extended sample of a poor female being tortured and killed for sadistic gratification – I’d love Tipper Gore to hear this. Possible highlight of the album.
Finally, Spill My Blood. It starts off classic Autopsy but fuck, the vocals – again Reifert doesn’t like Reifert and the vocal pattern and arrangement is insane, as is the music – it’s actually really fucking good but very challenging to listen to and way different from what most death metal ‘kids’ will be used to.
The album ends abruptly after a punishing 65 minutes (yes, this is too long – 40-45 minutes would have given the album way more punch) and still, after six listens, leaves me thinking ‘Mmmmmmm...’
I recommend this album because it showcases superb, raw musicianship from death metal legends who still have a huge amount to offer, but I also think it is a very ‘difficult’ listen, and it may not appeal to a lot of people who thought they were going to love it. Maybe I’m being harsh, the album still kills, but maybe not in the way I thought or hoped it would. The Tomb Within is a much better example of this legendary band’s latest material.