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The late 80s and early 90s was a magical time for death metal to say the least. Unlike today's death metal which is basically a toilet clog-age of deathcore/slam groups and obscure basement groups ripping off Cannibal Corpse, the first wave of death metal was truly unique because that music had never been made before.
After leaving his original group and fellow death metal pioneers Death, Chris Reifert decided to start his own group. This group would be Autopsy and their first release, Severed Survival, helped pioneer the entire genre of death metal. Since death metal was still rooted in thrash or considered a sub genre of thrash more or less at the time, the result is a fast and rather thrashy record. Chris Reifert does double duty delivering double bass speed metal drumming as well as delivering his vocals which can best be described as a guttural version of Tom G. Warrior's vocals. This would not be the only Celtic Frost element on the record and I'll get to that later...
Steve DiGiorgio's bass is rumbling and goes together perfectly with the crushing guitar riffs and melodic thrash guitar solos. He delivers absolutely sick bass lines and is, thankfully, audible! As we know, many underground metal releases in the 80s suffered from poor production. However, with Severed Survival, this is not the case at all. The record was mixed perfectly which is surprising to say the least. We hear the vocals, guitars, bass, and drums equally and the result is sensational.
Now remember what I was saying earlier about the importance of Celtic Frost to this record? This cannot be stressed enough, especially when listening to the guitars. It seemed that metal in the late 80s, thrash and its subgenres at the time (black and death) especially, was more or less a speed contest. Autopsy is definitely not the fastest, but perfected their death metal craft by going slower! This is especially heard on songs such as “Impending Dread” and “Critical Madness”. These slow riffs sound more or less like something straight off of an early Celtic Frost release and a damn fine tribute at that. Little did Autopsy know that not only were they pioneering death metal, but the sub-genre of death-doom.
Severed Survival is a frightening album musically, lyrically, and visually. It is also a refreshing and unique listen which sounds relevant over 25 years later. Sure Morbid Angel, Death, Possessed, and Repulsion are great in their own right, but when you hear those records, you know it came out in the 80s. Severed Survival would have to be on my list of top 10 death metal albums of all time for this alone amongst many other reasons...most of which you have just read. Just remember that whenever a death-doom band pops up, we can thank Autopsy.
These guys were one of the many early death metal acts to come out by the late-80’s, hugely influenced by Death’s iconic debut Scream Bloody Gore, actually Mr. Reifert was already familiar with this kind of music as he took part on that record, taking percussion duties, recording with Schuldiner a tremendously vital release for the development of the new extreme subgenre, satisfying similar standards on the following year demo he conceived with Cutler & another guy called Eigard. By that time, death metal was still primitive and raw, soon evolving into something more pretentious, so as any other promising new band, they had to go through a preceding early phase to define their definitive sound and essence. That’s what Severed Survival meant to Autopsy, on which they certainly remain stuck on enjoyable mid-80’s death clichés and topics as most of their peers, lacking no motivation or passion, however.
Songs as “Charred Remains” or “Ridden With Disease” clearly reveal these guys’ intentions, determined to provide unadulterated raging death metal of fierce low-tuned riffs, harsh vocals and wicked lyrical issues. They determined here basic characteristics of the extreme subgenre, starting with its innate priority for technique and complication, materialized on the constant tempo shifts, numerous alternative riff series and transcendental instrumental passages. Results are remarkable, Autopsy reach a high level of intensity on anthems like “Pagan Savior” and “Disembowel”, which include certain meticulousness and challenging schemes with their diverse structures and guitar lines’ variations progressing during the tunes. Similar to the formulas Chuck & Chris himself made use of on Scream Bloody Gore, they put big emphasis on velocity, combined reasonably with weighty riffs, attacking real hard and relentless on some crushing sequences, yet slow parts are also vital to design the configuration of their music. We know they’d later put more attention on heavier rhythms but here tempos remain predominantly frantic and loose. All that speed definitely takes inspiration from hardcore & punk, though they don’t incorporate very notable reminiscence from those genres yet as most of these cuts generally obey rather ambitious patterns, some lengthy in contrast with the more concise execution of some of the next record tracks. So Autopsy intend to make their music kinda complex with obvious limitations and performed with attitude and inspiration, eluding occasionally precision and consistency, though. As most subgenre debuts, this material sounds particularly primitive and scruffy, the bad production has something to do with it absolutely, yet as usual, those are weak spots that made early underground death stuff so pure and crude, it didn’t matter it was unprofessional and chaotic as long as it came naturally from its performers.
Severed Survival might not be technically accurate or immaculate, either the most original and innovative record of the subgenre but it provides admirably competent and amusing music, which reflects the unique underground spirit and magic of old school death metal’s early stage without incredible virtuosism or specially fresh ideas. Well, Reifert & co. never put that much attention on difficulty and absolute complication as their pals from Atrocity, Gorguts, Violent Dirge or Cynic, their skills were rather humble and simply good enough to conceive honest tunes in contrast with the excellence of others, so they designed a straight-forward concept that avoids pompous technique to focus on imagery and lyrics instead, because Chris’ raspy guttural vocals and grotesque lyrics along with the album artwork itself also define the group’s identity transcendentally. We could mention many memorable lines here of sickness, gore, blood, which may sound scandalously predictable and typical but back then in those old times they were pretty unexplored (Leprosy came out recently) so Autopsy deserve some credits for the consolidation and development of death metal, both musically and lyrically. No other issues would fit better the aggression, presence and nature of the band’s early incarnation and I insist these numbers are notably faster than most of the upcoming material, at times truly basic instrumentally and simple, some guitar lines are reduced to accompany rhythm section or vocals in the background while other times Coralles & Cutler display good talent and abilities on those persistent riff modifications. That greater pretention for song-structure versatility and elaborated instrumental parts (in their own way) made Severed Survival more let’s say professional and advanced than people like their friends from Repulsion, Nausea, Assück and Defecation or any early grindcore acts, though soon they would simplify their ways.
Here’s another essential album for the subgenre, still influential and inspiring, maybe musically inferior to its successor Mental Funeral, yet refreshing, intense and solid enough to make a difference among the many promising early death bands of those days. You could hardly find anything more extreme than this (at least in their home country scene), nobody else was singing more unnerving and sinister lyrics than these either, proving the huge relevance these guys had no matter how predictable and primitive their music was back then. Old death metal didn’t require astonishing abilities, outstanding precision or amazingly innovative song-writing ideas, only attitude, determination and honesty, which are what make these titles so timeless and entertaining. Later came the technique, the keyboards, the videoclips on TV reaching a wider audience, the success and popularity controversy always comes with…the subgenre reached next level but if you want the unadulterated genuine product, check out Autopsy’s debut, for instance, unique in its own particular way.
Autopsy are one of the undisputed kings of gore that manage to match their filthy lyrics with a sound that is just as repugnant. Few bands can come close to creating an experience like Autopsy. This album will suffocate you with blood and horrors as it buries you in a shallow grave of twisted riffs and monstrous vocals. Occasionally it will let you gasp for air but not for long as it does not let up until the 38:47 are over. And it will only leave you wanting more.
The first thing one will notice is the production and how murky it sounds. Murky in the sense that its bass heavy but completely discernible with respect to the guitars, bass, drums and vocals. The guitars have enough crunch on them to make not overly distorted or intense and the bass is audible with a bright sound that goes well with the way everything sounds. The bass really adds a lot of depth but doesn't over power anything. It gives the album that unique feel to it. Everything feels natural including the drums and vocals which Chris Reifert does both. This signature sound is what works so well for Autopsy as it is what they were known for; dingy, rotten death metal.
The emphasis as far as the actual music goes with Autopsy is never on speed or technicality but where the songs traverse and the atmosphere they create. They have fast early thrash metal parts (no blast beats to be found here), slow doom sections and plenty of chug filled mid-paced rompers. You can hear the Hellhammer/Celtic Frost influence in songs like Ridden with Disease, Gasping for Air and Disembowel. There are definitely sections influenced by doom metal like the intro to Embalmed and Critical Madness but not in a traditional sense but twisted into a unique way that sounds like a demented Sabbath. Steve DiGorgio's bass playing really adds to the slow sections since his bass is very audible. He tends to play away from the guitars sometimes adding little licks like in Disembowel. The solo's and lead guitar parts are very tight, using a bit of technical ability, some melody and being frantic and crazed when needed. It never feels forced in to make a song longer.
The thing that really wraps this album up is the vocals. Chris Reifert displays some of the most rotten sounding vocal styles in death metal while drumming which is extremely unique. He sounds like a man choking on his blood and guts with his low gruff growls and a madman with his screams. Some may mock them saying they are sloppy but when you match them with the lyrics it matches extremely well. The chorus for Ridden with Disease is a prime example.
Skin begins to rot
Deaden and peel away
From advanced decay
The way he pronounces and enunciates certain parts makes him sound like a victim of biological warfare. The lyrics on this album range from murder (Disembowel, Impending Dread) to death (Service for a Vacant Coffin, Embalmed) to strange situations like Severed Survival where someone is stuck on an island and is forced to butcher them self for food to stay alive. Seemingly typical death metal lyrics for that time but spun in a horror movie sense as Chris usually speaks through the perspective of a victim.
The one thing someone might not appreciate and the reason why this doesn't get a higher score is how inadvertently sloppy it seems to be. Not sloppy in a way that they messed up and were too lazy to bother taking it out but more along the lines of it's not air tight precise like death metal bands today are. The faster drum fills are a tiny bit off, and some of the riffs are a bit odd using a lot of triplet feel. The vocal will probably get on some peoples nerves but it's something that may need to grow on a listener. For someone like me, I enjoy my death metal a teeny bit more polished but overall the sound is still tight as opposed to an album such as Pleasure to Kill or Seven Churches.
Autopsy are legends, taking death metal and making death metal more twisted then what it was . The music is also ahead of its time since the band focuses more on groove and atmosphere rather then being overtly brutal or fast. It's earned them a place as one of the better and notable old school death metal bands and created a frenzy around their recent reunion. Recommended for most old school death metal fans.
The production on my copy (I still have the original vinyl LP from 1989) is excruciatingly bad. The low end is flappy and so high in the mix that the bands bass player Steve DiGiorgio must have spent many a sleepless night planning the execution of producer and ex member of Metal Church John Marshall, well at least I would have. Luckily it’s not as bad as the production on Pray For War by UK thrashers Virus but it’s pretty damn close.
Yet a few listens in and I found myself warming to its unusual sound. Because of the odd noise emanating from my speakers the record broke free from the oceans of copycat thrash about and I found myself listening again and again. It’s pretty similar in speed and ferocity to drummer Chris Reifert’s previous band Death whose debut record Scream Bloody Gore is deemed to be somewhat of a classic around my house although I didn’t know anything about the band members at the time. All I knew then was that both albums sung about cartoonish horror and real life gore. For a spotty long hair like I was then it didn’t take much more to sell Autopsy to me. I remember Atheist and Autopsy getting reviews and add space at around the same time and Atheist always came out on top. In truth they probably deserved it musically but when you compared the record covers it was a no brainer. Autopsy’s depiction of a man’s flesh being pulled apart by surgical tools whilst he was still alive will always be ingrained into my memory. It was just so gnarly; it took some guts for Peaceville to release a package like that. Their reward for doing so of course was that I immediately went out and bought the thing so well done them.
Tracks such as Gasping For Air, Ridden With Disease and Charred Remains are as great (or as rubbish – depending on what side of the thrash fence you sit on) as their titles suggest and I’ve heard these tracks live with a good sound and it’s just not the same without the horrible production. I may be laying a lot of praise on here and most of it is deserved but one thing I would say is that if you played me Embalmed, Disembowel or Critical Madness today I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart at all. I’ve listened to this all day and I still couldn’t. With the likes of Obituary and late 80’s Napalm Death you could name the songs and air drum to the tricky parts. So Because of the very flat production Severed Survival has the odd accolade to be an album that I really love but I couldn’t really justify to anyone the reasons why.
Autopsy's Severed Survival should really need no introduction by now, and that goes double for any death metal fan worth his copy of Scream Bloody Gore. Autopsy's debut is one of the dirtier, more pugilistic pre-90's death metal albums, which along with the aforementioned Scream Bloody Gore, Altars of Madness and Slowly We Rot formed somewhat of an awesome foursome of genre defining classics.
Severed Survival always was the uglier of said foursome, and had these four albums been women; Severed Survival would be the overweight friend that despite looking ever-so-gnarly would probably give the best sex.
There are three things that make this album as great as it is, and contribute to Severed Survival being an essential death metal release. The first of which, are the riffs. This album unleashes a virulent shit-storm of riffs, which caressed via an achingly low-ass tone splatters your innards across the wall. The second of which is Steve DiGiorgio's bass playing, which without doubt crowns the album. He supposedly recorded all of the bass lines on the spot, which is nothing short of incredible, and a damn fine example of "winging it". The bass is perfectly technical, low enough to rumble your bowels and of course highly beneficial to the music.
Thirdly, Chris Reifert. The man really hits the nail on the head here, both with his vocals and drum skills. His vocals are quite obviously in the Chuck Schuldiner school of growling which is great, although I feel Reifert always sounded a little more manic and unsettling. The drums are really cool here, with a lot of obscure fills used, setting off more conventional beats, he controls tempo well and really leads everything forward, some of those double pedal crutching youngsters should take a leaf out of his book!
Another of the more note-worthy elements displayed on Severed Survival is that the band aren't afraid to launch into doom territory, with "Impending Death" standing as an almost proto-death/ doom track. As is normally the case with death metal the lead guitar work is explosive and relevant, with Eric and Danny delivering very well in this department with suitable restraint.
On the whole Severed Survival stands as a disgusting, raw, and dirty ode to death metal. This is the kind of death metal album that is actually horrifying, the production was its best friend resulting in a raw, festering, mucky sound. This gets my highest recommendation to death metal fans, but I feel this album has reasonable claim to a place in any serious metal fans collection. Essential!
It is here that I admit to a bit of cheating, as I've decided to include Autopsy as a part of a project to once again experience the history of Florida death metal through album reviews. Autopsy is not really a Florida band, but there's a clear connection to that scene: vocalist and drummer Chris Reifert was once a member of the infamous Death, performing on the Scream Bloody Gore album and a few of the rehearsals and demos prior. Since I've long found the Autopsy style to be a curious deviation from the structured compositions of Chuck Schuldiner, I can't think of a better time to dive into their recordings, of which Severed Survival was the first full-length and first released through Peaceville.
Obviously, there are a lot of parallels to Scream Bloody Gore, but Autopsy's approach creates a crude aural motif that incorporates rawer guitar tone and thick, plucking Steve DiGiorgio bass lines that offer some distinction. Reifert's growls are comparable to Schuldiner, but more bloody minded and throaty (though not as excessive as John Tardy). I truly love the guitar sound on this debut, fresh and incredibly barbaric as it is, and the drums are organic and virile. From a songwriting standpoint, there is not a huge gulf of difference, as Severed Survival pursues the same, simple floe of notation that is present on much of Leprosy. Slower, haunting passages are interlaced with a simpler lattice of speed bursting, the leads are frenzied rather than melodic, and things are kept largely simplistic, its brutality borne only by the savage throat and unrelenting, unapologetic attitude. That said, I don't find this album to be quite so effective as the first two Death records.
The reason really just comes down to the guitar lines. They're punishing and primitive, truly heavy from a 'fuck you' punkish perspective, but they're simply not as morbid or catchy. There is nary a brilliant surprise anywhere on this album, so it seems to rely more on its atmosphere, and the sludge-like, doom discourse which Reifert and Coralles would later explore through their following band Abscess. That said, Severed Survival is not deprived of a sanguine, ooze like consistency and several cases of grisly, memorable fare. I'm fond of "Service for a Vacant Coffin" with its mix of Repulsion-like grinding and chagrin grooves; "Gasping for Air" for its copious strings of bass and the superb breakdown and lead; "Critical Madness" for the cystic, doomed crushing of the intro and the enthusiastic acceleration therein; "Pagan Saviour" for the arching, obese composition and brutal, godless vocals; the CD bonus track "Stillborn" and its grinding gore stench, lead and breakdown.
In fact, I don't think there's even a single track on the album that isn't fun to experience, they just don't stain the conscience for a long duration. The lyrics are violent and visceral, pure gore akin to Cannibal Corpse, and I favor them over those of Death. I also prefer the production here, it's got a more dynamic appeal to it than the very level, brash resonance of Scream Bloody Gore. The solos never feel useless, and the organic quality of the mix provides a more accessible bridge towards rock, punk, sludge, and doom territories. DiGiorgio also fails to flagellate himself with excess self-indulgence: his performance is distinct, with a lot of solid chords in there, but he reins in and never does a disservice to the rest of the instruments. All told, I prefer the more vile and cavernous structure of the follow-up Mental Funeral, but this is an entertaining debut, and suitable unsafe to bring home to Ma and Pa.
Severed Survival is one of the ugliest musical visions ever put to record and one of the premier old-school death metal albums. The term ‘old-school’ alone goes a long way in describing the sound that one should expect on here, but doesn’t quite do it justice. Autopsy’s approach is crude and dead simple, in the same general realm as Master and Massacre for this time period, but with an unorthodox bass-heavy production that allows this album to stand out amongst its peers. Their goal was primitive brute force, but because of the manner in which they chose to achieve it, they also managed to create an aura of pure malevolence that, prior to this album’s release, was probably difficult to imagine.
The mastermind of this symphony of sickness is drummer/vocalist and primary lyricist/songwriter Chris Reifert. Everything about his contribution to the album just exudes class; ironic considering how tasteless much of his subject matter is. His vocals are in the same league as other greats like John Tardy and Kam Lee, meaning that he raucously spews out what appears to be (after intense scrutinizing) words from the English language. Those who dare take a closer look at the lyric sheet would find the no-nonsense sort of gore lyrics typical of death metal’s earliest days, but written with a subtlety and precision several years ahead of its time. The violence is over the top for sure, but it is delivered in a manner that begs to be taken seriously. Compare this to the boorish perversion of Chris Barnes or the unintelligible rambling of Bret Hoffmann and see the first hints of why Autopsy is a bit more than meets the eye.
For a more complete study on this, one must only examine the music. As stated above, Autopsy’s brand of death metal is of the no-nonsense variety: there aren’t any clean breaks, melodic guitar solos, synthesizers, or stupid Morbid Angel ambient interludes to be found anywhere on here. Nothing foreign to the death metal aesthetic exists to give the listener a breath of fresh air from the pervasive smog that can all but suffocate. But while the presentation is simple, the actual execution is deep and atypical. As death metal bands began accelerating to top speed in order to achieve maximum intensity, Autopsy were one of the few bands to experiment with slower, spine-chilling riffage. And with the exception of a few bouncier riffs (that one in “Gasping for Air” might as well have been on Eaten Back to Life), there’s a complete absence of anything overtly catchy or melodic. The rhythm varies constantly and the meter, though mostly straightforward, is often discretely altered. The result? Utterly inaccessible death metal forged without reliance on blast beats (only CD-bonus “Stillborn” even has them) or modern gimmickry like pitch-shifted vocals and fuzzy shit distortion. Also, as mentioned above, the bass (recorded by Steve Digiorgio, though Ken Sorvari appears in the band photos) provides a constant rumble beneath the riffage that you don’t usually get to appreciate on other albums of the period, creating a natural overall guitar sound that’s just as beastly as anything you’re likely to hear in the genre. Touched off with the ripping solos of Eric Cutler and Danny Coralles, every song on the album is a small monument to this long-forgotten style of death metal and not a minute falls below the margin of quality.
A must-have for those interested in the genre’s glory days and Autopsy’s finest moment, Severed Survival is vile stuff that should not be overlooked.
It's always a pleasure to hear an album that completely surpasses my expectations of it. This album is one of those that just brings a smile to my face. Old school death metal at its finest. Loud, fast, heavy and just full of sick little riffs all over the place. An eerie feel that keyboards and synths can never compete with. This is a very sick sounding album and I love it.
I've never really considered myself a death metal fan but I do like a few bands. I prefer early death metal solely for the fact that it sounds like really brutal thrash without the bullshit. The Scream Bloody Gore sound is pretty clear on this album, but only this stuff is heavier and a hell of a lot darker. For example the guitar focused riff in the middle and end of "Disembowel", it's incredibly eerie sounding and catchy as hell. I've also never liked any death metal vocals and parts of this album are still no exception, but most of the time it's a raspy scream rather than deathy growls so it doesn't bother me a bit. The bass is turned way the fuck up on the production and honestly I like it a lot. Most metal albums in general put so much emphasis on the guitars that it drowns out the bass a lot of the time so it's great to hear such a powerful bass on this one. Not to mention the fact that it makes the songs sound a lot heavier. Pretty good guitar player too, very catchy solos.
As for song writing, it's pretty much what a lot of early death metal sounds like. I can't get enough of it though. "Charred Remains", "Critical Madness", "Severed Survival", these guys can write some insanely ass kicking songs. Not exactly intelligent music, but very enjoyable none the less. Some of the riffs on here remind me of stuff you'd hear in a gore flick or something. Very twisted sounding and creative. So far this is the only album I've heard from Autopsy and I look forward to hearing more. If it's as brutal and sick sounding as Severed Survival then I'm sure I'll love it.
When Chris Reifert left Death, after playing on their debut Scream Bloody Gore, he wanted to continue to make music and so he needed to create a vehicle to do this. The result was Autopsy, a band who took what Death had done on their debut to the next step, incorporating increasing amounts of doom and hardcore punk into the equations on later albums. Their first album though, Severed Survival is a filth ridden classic of Death Metal.
After leaving Death, Reifert was keen to recruit new members for his own group. With Reifert handling drums and vocals he decided to recruit both Eric Cutler and Danny Coralles to play guitar. After trying out several bassists Reifert decided to hire Steve DiGiorgio to play session bass on the debut. DiGiorgio played bass and the thrash band Sadus and had also played in Death at the same time as Reifert. With Cutler, Coralles and DiGiorgio on board Autopsy were ready to record their debut album Severed Survival.
Reifert and Cutler wrote most of the music on the album combining killer riffs, high speed drumming, slower doomier passages and sick lead guitar. The guitarists manage to pull of everything with ease including some excellent solos. These solos are some of my favourite parts on the album; no heartless guitar acrobatics here, just some sick, well played leads that help to accent the songs. Nothing on the album is overly complex but this isn’t a problem as Autopsy have written some truly memorable riffs. All the songs have a great atmosphere; they’re played with an almost punkish attitude (something Reifert would explore later on in his post-Autopsy project: Abscess). The drums again are fairly simple, though not in a bad way, although Reifert can reach some high speeds. My favourite sections of the drumming though are the parts on the slower parts. These slower parts help to create the great atmosphere present through the whole album and it was these doomier sections that Autopsy would expand on in their second album Mental Funeral. It’s a rare occasion that I can pick out bass in music, I’m awful at t hat sort of thing, put on this album the bass is quite high in the mix, and it’s great. Steve DiGiorgio lives up to his reputation, giving us a great bass line and some odd little technical thingies (not sure what to call them, just listen to Disembowel).
Chris Reifert wrote all the lyrics for the album and, as well as handling drums, also manages to spit them all out. I’m not sure two the man manages it (I can’t multi-task) but I can only imagine it must take a lot of practice. His vocals are quite hard to describe, they’re high pitched – but not screams, they’re guttural – but not growls. Anyway, whatever the styles called, the vocals work really well with the instruments. The lyrics are pretty standard gore/death/torture ones and because of the vocal style you can actually understand what the guys on about.
I don’t really have anything bad to say at all about this album. Its mix of filthy riffs, disturbing vocals and technical leads seems to have all bases covered.
My favourite track on this album is Disembowel. To me the sound seems to be ever so slightly different and they just got it spot on in this song. It has got all the things that make me love this album including some great bass parts.
The album was recorded at Starlight Sound and produced by John Marshall. I’m not familiar at all with either the studios or the producer but I have no criticisms of the atmosphere or the quality. I actually really love the filthy, punk atmosphere on this album; it’s actually similar to Pungent Stench (who I also like).
Overall this is a great album. It has everything that makes Death Metal so enjoyable, and more!. If you can, pick up the 2009 version of this release, it has some new Autopsy tracks and older versions of the songs and is probably worth getting.
Ladies and gentlemen of all of heavy metal, I would like to introduce you to "Severed Survival," quite possibly the greatest death metal album of all time. The atmosphere, the guitars, the slamming drums, crushing bass, the brutal lyrics, and the spine tingling vocals all come together so perfectly, hence, creating this album, a memorable and mesmerizing gem in the death metal scene.
To me, the most amazing thing about this entire album is the absolutely astounding vocalist. His vocals are so different, so horrific, so inhuman, that you cannot help it but to be drawn into it. The vocals have a higher pitch than most death metal bands you will hear, much like Obituary in that fashion, however, the vocalist puts in more of a puking kind of noise to his vocals, which, in my opinion, add to the intense atmosphere of the album.
The guitar work as a whole is rather simple. Not too technical, not too simple. Though Autopsy is not the most technical of bands out there, Autopsy still manages to pull out some incredibly original, melodic, intense guitar riffs. The solos in this album are also absolutely incredible and flawless. They are intense, fast, and do have a pretty thick groove to them at times. The guitar style used in this album really reminds me of the guitar work in Massacra, which, of course, is definitely a good thing.
The bass in the album adds a whole new meaning to the word "crushing." The bass in this album, though not as noticeable as some other aspects in this album, the bass still adds a crushing effect that can leave a non-death metal listener crying. It is like when someone huge is yelling in your face, and you submit to the ground to him. Yes, it is that crushing.
Last and not least, the drum work in this album was amazing. The drum work in this album mainly consists of blast beats. There is nothing really new with the drum work, however, they manage to have this repetitive drum style fit perfectly with their musical style, making the drum work only another plus for this album.
In conclusion, this album is an absolute masterpiece, no questions asked. Every song, every second, every moment of this album is absolutely flawless and amazing. If you are to listen to one song on this album, listen to "Charred Remains," which is probably the greatest song on this album. It has the most interesting structure, guitar work, vocals, and not to mention, some of the greatest death metal lyrics I have heard in my life.
Remember growing up and having the authoritative figures tell you that certain things are "bad" and should be avoided like the plague. However, like mild-allergenic foods, we tend to be drawn towards these things like a slow moving magnet. Pulling us in closer and closer, until these terrible items take a hold of us and pervert our minds (as the parental figures like to make us think). Well, I'm glad Autopsy's parents weren't around to make better choices for them. Because then the band itself might of not existed to rightfully stimulate our distasteful ears.
In another comparative sense, Autopsy was that band that had so many diversities that it was hard to pick one right out of a line up. 'Uh, uh...officer, they ahhhll look so sick and homely.' It's like that summer blockbuster, mixed with multiple genres, but actually working as a collective piece. They keep their mediums, and the overall genre mix works for them. Ranging from early era Black Sabbath, which they blatantly take direct influence from. As well as stated in interviews that they listened to the doom band Trouble, and the 70's era King Crimson. The drummer Chris Reifert, which previously played on the debut of Death. Death's Scream Bloody Gore sounded in a similar way to the previous debut of Possessed. As Autopsy on their first demo sounded similar to Death's debut. Confused? First you get possessed, then comes death, and then you get an autopsy. If you were to mix all of these aforementioned genres together; ranging from traditional doom metal to death and thrash metal, and a stated influence from the 70's. We get Autopsy as we may or may not know them on their debut Severed Survival.
The production on this release has a very primitive sound quality. Often filthy in context compared to later 90's death metal groups. However, all of the instruments are heard equally as loud, including the often excluded bass guitar. Severed Survival has a very analog production as well. Giving it a certain 80's metal charm. Reverb—you'll notice it right away—is water logged into every instrument on this album. The effect further adds to their unclean atmosphere. It is like watching an old dubbed 70's horror movie. Unhindered and unmastered. The dubbing, reverb in this case, almost gives it that real presence. Like watching a second generation tape of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Last House on the Left, and having an over-your-shoulder, lurking uneasiness. 'Hey dude, where did you get this tape...it is so life-like' 'I...uh...rented it.'
The overall record isn't all effect. The music can be quite creative at points. Adding stunning drum work from Chris Reifert himself. His drumming on Scream Bloody Gore was only mildly adventurous in comparison. However, his chops built their way up from demos days. Often adding non-breaking fills and buildups. Typically when a band plays a faster and slower style, there can be plenty of stop-and-go moments. The drumming displayed here is mostly seamless. He will take advantage of a break to add tom rolls, hi-hat and ride count offs, as well as other various fills to whet your appetite. The pace of the music, as a whole, ranges from thrash speed, doom-like depths to mid-pace catchiness. On the thrashier moments, Reifert adds a cool gallop technique utilized by the double bass drums. The most stand out aspect is how he can actually sing and play at the same time while doing all of the rolls and various fills. His screams are more higher pitched compared to later outputs. Like a patient with a multiple personality disorder. He adds a dual half growl and yell/scream technique. There is no strict pattern of where he places these Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personas. 'Jekyll screams in a driven maniacal panic. In the eventual—uncontrollable—transformation to Hyde.' Reifert rather sprinkles them throughout the songs. Mainly matching the overall intensity of the musical pieces. The guitar riffs sound deep and reverbed. His style throws in many different thrashy type riffs, mixed with slight palm muted sections, and slower Black Sabbath like doom sections. There are a few techniques utilized from a past Tony Iommi. Like the slowly played single notes, mixed in with extended hammer-ons. This is especially heard at the beginning of track two. The two guitarists will often use dual lines, mixed together to throw highlights to certain sections. Both throw in plenty of solos throughout the album, which vary in technicality. Some of them sound more traditional and thought through, while others will sound quite improvised and all over the fret board. Autopsy will go through many different bassists through their run. This album is no different. But they keep in mind a louder bass than other groups. The bass lines played are a focused effort, even though they already have two guitarists. Which the bass in the mix can be heard just as loud and separated. It sounds like it may contain a slight distortion effect. But nothing too drastic. With a deep, present tone, often adding different varying rhythms than the guitars.
Deep within the songs, the lyrics display a hidden destructive and grotesque side. They range from burning, cannibalism, self-cannibalism, and many other shocking and horrific, and sometimes down right painful and slow ways to go. Another topic they used is an underlining psychosis on the song Critical Madness. Although, there are fortunately no technical understandings of the condition in the song. Just pure "crazy" thoughts of death. There is a cool part towards the later part of the song where he says, "ok, I'll do it" when the music breaks down. Like a one sided response to an inner influential voice. However, this line wasn't printed in the lyrical booklet, and was probably improvised. Although, it turned out fitting to the idea of this person's deadly obsessive maddening thoughts. Also, the original cover artwork and creative torn flesh and bone logo, I think fits the song about self amputation and cannibalism better. Rather than the gets-the-job-done hideous looking surgical aliens and dripping blood logo.
Overall musically, Autopsy proved that they weren't a mere effect. Rather a force, and not easily imitated. They would have overall worthy musical qualities; ranging from a drummer who boldly vocalizes, dual guitarists that pump out primitive and calculated rhythms, also the presence of a bass in the mix. There would be bands that would have similarities to Autopsy that would come and go. More than likely coincidence, Sweden's Nihilist at the time was one of these bands. With early songs that resembled from where Autopsy came from. As well as the graduated mainly slower, doom like song 'Morbid Devourment'. Looking at the later band Mausoleum, which would purposely emulate a sound that was a little too close to Autopsy's. I've read even Darkthrone, in an interview, was really into Autopsy's releases. So it isn't surprising that they had/have a respectable following. After Autopsy's break in 95', two particular bands were started from primary members: Abscess and then The Ravenous. Both have varying degrees of listenability. Abscess was the band that was started right after the split-up. They incorporate a simplistic death-grind approach. The Ravenous is similar to the early Autopsy era, with a close resemblance to this release of Severed Survival through Mental Funeral releases. With all of their extended reaches of influences, whether it was chance, or just their playing style or musical approach that caused these other bands to be attracted to their aura. One thing is clear, Autopsy's music in itself, has been a valid center for comparison.
Autopsy had a somewhat lasting existence. At an early point they sounded like various, at that time, current bands. For instance, their first demo sounded like Reifert's previous band, but shifted to a more creative second demo output. Which found a few aspects of Autopsy's more doom metal side and varying degrees of vocal changing. They moved on, and had found their niche per release. But towards the end of their existence would still challenge people's ears with a different musical approach. Even though I didn't like this sudden plummet into a dark-comedic-like grind metal approach on their very last eventuality. However, going back, these early releases show us a succession of grotesque qualities. They did in fact have a non-conformed sound compared to the mainstream, with their against the grain approach of explicit lyrical concepts, and nasty, raw production qualities. Furthermore, some bands around that time, that would later be called death-grind, would use these different musical outlets to spout their political agenda. Notably Napalm Death, also bands such as Terrorizer, Carbonized, etc. These bands would take what early punk groups like Discharge and others were doing, with rougher and harsher music, and further add politically oriented lyrics. Through all of this, I respect Autopsy for keeping it just plain twisted and ugly on their debut Severed Survival.
Autopsy is possibly my favorite Swedish death metal band, perhaps in part due to the fact that they’re American. I could never entirely get into the likes of Entombed, Grave, Nihilist and the rest, and I’ve even had my share of difficulty telling them apart. I could never grasp the elitism of fans of that scene, either… those bands were quite “unpretentious,” to put it charitably, and the Norwegian black metal scene of the early 90s was justified in railing against them. If not in threatening to kill them constantly…
Regardless, Autopsy were a big influence on that scene, and on plenty outside of it, and were quite unpretentious themselves. What they have on so many of their protégés is their uniqueness. One might not think that a band could be both widely influential and unique, but it works out that way more often than not. Presumably there’s some advantage in getting into the game before all the idiosyncrasies have been ironed out and all of the stereotypes have been formed. Certainly Autopsy’s weird bass-heavy production has rarely if ever been replicated in death metal, and Chris Reifert’s hoarse screams are still a rare sound (Chuck Schuldiner and John Tardy are in the same ballpark, though).
Autopsy are often called doomy, or very occasionally even branded as death/doom, owing to their reliance on prominent riffs and occasional slow tempos, and it’s their distinctive riffing style that I enjoy the most. They don’t give off a feeling of clean, elegant, Satanic evil: it’s more like pure filth and decay. On later albums the lyrics show coprophagic tendencies, which matches well with the band’s “ideology,” such as it is.
This first album has them playing somewhat more memorable and song-y death metal than what they were doing on Mental Funeral, the other classic Autopsy album. Really you should have both of them.
Blood, guts, the sound of chainsaws and hellish screams announce the coming of Severed Survival. Autopsy’s debut combined the growing Swedish death metal sound and the emerging American death metal sound. One of the first to actually put out an album, Autopsy carved out a bloody piece in history alongside Obituary and Necrophagia. Severed Survival starts off with speed of a deranged killer and flows in between moments of intense speed and mid tempo, doom dirges.
“Charred Remains” races through with the energy of a serial killer chasing you, never giving in while “Service For a Vacant Coffin” plods along as if the killer was just in a corner, striping bones...slowly. Many of the songs presented here of in the style of tremolo picked passages and lot of chucky palm muted riffs, like most early death metal. Not one passage strays to far from this sound. But sometimes death metal doesn’t need to sound new or inventive. Sometimes they just need to sound good.
One of the standout features, good or bad, is Steve Digiorgio’s loud and nasty bass. Some have mentioned how is doesn’t mesh well with the guitars and stands out a little too much. Maybe. But alongside Eric Cutler and Danny Coralles’ utterly ghastly guitar tone, it all meshes here.
Chris Reifort’s drums technique isn’t exactly great, but he doesn’t need to be. His double bass and admittedly horrible snare drums sound fits well with Digiorgio’s bass. Puts one backs the helm of Possessed and early Death. Reifort also delivers a great performance vocally, screaming and straining out narratives on death, blood, gore and guts.
“Waterlogged Corpse, back from the dead. Rips his eyeballs, from his head” – Gasping For Air. He makes unintelligible a compliment.
Production, of course, is shitty. If you don’t have a great stereo, it’s going to sound as is you were watching these guys on TV. A shitty TV.
But the dreadful production is what gave the early death metal albums their charm. As with Obituary’s Slowly We Rot and Cause of Death, this should be listened to again and again.
Stop reading and go buy this.
I would have loved to give this album a higher rating, but the production on this album is a real detriment. I know that in 1989 death metal bands didn't exactly have that super-polished sheen that we've been spoiled by in this era, but the way I see it if Terrorizer could put out a death metal album of superior production quality this one should have gotten the same.
The music is very good, it's enjoyable old school death metal, a lot of fun and really some ass-kicking stuff for the day. I agree in that the riffing sounds reminiscent of Scream Bloody Gore (yes, I know Reifert was on that album). It maintains it's own identity though, and it has a very disgusting (in a good way) edge that I think a lot of death metal bands took from here and ran with.
...but that production. We all appreciate the talents of Steve DiGiorgio, but he stands out in front of the guitars, which wouldn't be so bad if the guitars had more low-end and a little more crunch to them. The bass and the guitars just don't seem to mesh well here. The vocals are pretty sick for the day and the drums are excellent. With the guitars in front of the bass it wouldn't have been so bad. I always enjoy hearing the bass in a death metal album, but it shouldn't be the only thing I hear.
This is a classic death metal album. If you're a fan of the old school, this is it right here. The songs shine through the production, thin as it is. Reccomended.
It might have been sixteen years since Autopsy hit the death metal scene with their debut "Severed Survival", but the afformentioned album is a staple of the genre and has influenced many bands, and will undoubtly influence many more. When this album was released the genre was young, and needed some strong albums to define it and set a high standard for the inevitable barrage of imitators inclusive with the birth of any genre. This album does just that.
From the very beginning the formula to follow is apparent. Mushy production slightly hindering the album, but not taking away the quality of the guitar riffs or Reifert's drumming. The vocals courtesy of Reifert aswell are intresting; he has more than a hint of insanity in his voice, but he is still comprehendable to a certain degree. His voice and delivery compliments the music and chosen lyrical themes well.
One of the most important part of any death metal release is a constant assault of great riff followed by great riff - and this album is no exception. The riffs can range from the agressive ones played to the faster drumming of Reifert, or the heavy chord hits at a slow, dragging tempo. The guitar sound is a little to warm and undefinable for my liking, occasionally is is even obliterated by the bass. The solo work is good; succint solos that hit the music well without seeming indulgent and pointless. The bass guitar is pretty high in the mix here, which is a good thing as there are some nice lines. The prominence of the bass in the mix is quite an important factor in the intresting overall sound produced on this album. The drumwork is great, but it's Chris Reifert, what else did you expect? He knows how to use his double bass pedal, but he also knows that a little variation in the drums can make a world of difference, and he uses his drums well to compliment the accents of the guitar/bass combination.
The only drawback of this album is the lack of diversity, the songs are great, but alot of them are forgettable. There's still plenty of great riffs to keep you going here, and the music and vocals are both of high quality. I'd recommend this album to fans of old school death, and I'd recommend listening to 'Pagan Saviour', 'Critical Madness' or 'Embalmed' if you need more persuasion.
...would be a more than accurate description for this classic masterpiece of absolute heinous death metal. It's both sharp and savage, tearing away at your face like a rabid pitbull. The guitars are sludgy as hell, at once aping Tony Iommi's classic metal blueprint, while heaving up gobs of mucus-ridden vomit and filth. Then there's the solo's - shredding, harmonized, and purely fucking metal. Make no mistake here - Autopsy were one of the most utterly METAL death metal bands ever. Every riff and lead break on this thing is an expertly crafted sledgehammer to face, but it's never brutality for it's own sake.
Then there's the rhythm section, which is where the brutality factor comes into play. Chris Reifert doesn't play a single blastbeat on this album, but his drumming is an animalistic pounding menace, constantly mashing your skull with it's barbaric power. Not to say he's just hammering away like a mongoloid though - the rhythmic structures constantly shift to perfectly complement the riffage, always appropriate to the musical needs of the songs. Whether he's backing up an insane tremolo attack with a volley of thunderous rolls, underpinning a sludge-ridden crawl with a double-bass hammer, or simply bashing away under thrashing insanity, Reifert owns all over this disc. All the while, the legendary Steve Digiorgio provides his trademark fretless shredding, weaving in and out of the guitar framework like a man possessed.
And of course, no Autopsy review would be complete without ranting about the vocals and lyrics. Conveyed as they are in an inhuman vomited bark, this was one of the first death metal albums ever where a lyric sheet was an absolutely essential component, because you're not going to be deciphering anything much from listening. Autopsy seriously set the standard of gore and sickness here, covering all sorts of insane topics - necrophilia and corpse desecration ("Service For A Vacant Coffin"), violent death ("Disembowel", "Severed Survival"), plagues and sickness ("Ridden With Disease") and of course, insanity leading to violent death and corpse desecration with some necrophilia thrown in (mostly everything else).
Basically, if you like death metal, you need this album. If you don't like it, you're a dick and would be better off listening to metalcore.