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I liked Severed Survival. Though I never thought of it as a classic. I didn’t like the production much (flat) and I found some songs just dull. I bought it because I knew Reifert from Death’s Scream Bloody Gore obviously and had one old Autopsy demo song somewhere on tape. Severed Survival made its spin every few months when I was in the mood. So by the time Mental Funeral came out I bought it blindly. Green vinyl, great album cover. What could go wrong? This was ’91 of course and all death metal bands were still in great form those days (except Obituary that is)
Played it a few times and actually disliked it. Too many slow parts. Too many melodies played in a way others might call ‘inadequate’ or ‘almost out of key’. And that sound, so basic and un-produced it seemed. Guitars coming from a flooded basement and drums sounding like lumberjacks on booze. It just didn’t get it. Remember: these were the days of either the earliest Skogsberg sound or Morrissound and everything else either came from England or sounded like a demo. Well, I’m trivialising of course but the point is, I couldn’t ‘get’ why a full length album on a ‘big’ label could sound like this.
Eventually I had a discussion with Corinne from Acrostichon about this album. All the reasons I mentioned to dislike this album were exactly why she thought of this as an instant classic. It’s good sometimes to have the perfect opposite (argumentation included) opinion in order to clear your mind. She asked me why I liked Acrostichon melodies and very slow sections but not Autopsy. It was clear autopsy had been a HUGE influence on the early Acrostichon sound. My arguments were swept from the table and it all came down to personal taste. And like any human, personal taste not only changes throughout the years but also grows. And indeed, Mental Funeral did not grow on me but I grew into Mental Funeral!
One has to feel the beauty of second rate horror movies. No budget, practically no special effects. Just use lots of sauces. If your average modern days Death Metal band is a Hollywood production (they sure as hell sound that way these days, bloody hipsters!) then Autopsy’s Mental Funeral is the classic Evil Dead! Cheap camera’s and locations, lot’s of screams, interestingly coloured sauces but it magically works.
“Dead” probably is a perfect example of this. Slow, melodic and with spoken words. Talking about the words. Probably the least imaginative ways of describing death and therefore a perfect contrast to the rest of Autopsy’s messy lyrical content. And! It was completely different from all other death metal happening in ’91. Charming track really and still marvellous to this day. Catchy too by the way.
Other specific changes from Severed Survival were, apart from the already mentioned lower average pace and muddy production, the fact that the thrash-based primordial death metal riffs were exchanged for doom based sludgy chords, semi-riffs and eerie melodies. The band just took a step further into their own magical world of putrefaction, funerals and horror and left all known early death metal dogma’s and boundaries for what they were. And since then Autopsy have always been about that. Fuck the rules, fuck standardisation of (sub)genres. Do whatever you want. Mix doom and death, death and punk, whatever. Screw the critics. Musical integrity above all!