without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
I admit it. This review has been hatched from a simple urge to right the wrongs of some of my fellow reviewers, with whom I must steadfastly disagree. I’m not sure whether this music is simply falling on tin ears, or whether music has become so soulless and based on pro-tools, sarcastic limp-pricked indie-influenced rock, and “breakdowns” that reviewers can’t recognise crushing music anymore.
As more than one of the other members of the peanut gallery has pointed out, this album certainly does not break new ground. Yet this is clearly what Autopsy set out to do: produce a fantastic DEATH METAL album. There are no frills. No effort was made to modernise anything other than perhaps the production. Let me dwell on this point for a moment. I usually despise modern production, but on this album, every effort was made to ensure that the sound was as organic as possible. The album is amazingly warm and has a tube feel to it that would fit right at home with a modernised Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Allen’s bass is up front and seductive, Reifert’s drums pound clearly without overwhelming the music the way a lot of modern jobs do, and the guitars positively shred. Once again, where others hear overproduction, I’m hearing competence. This production wraps around like a putrefying flesh Snuggie, and drowns the listener in a charnel house of sound and story.
This leads us to another point. I truly love early Autopsy, but one of their shortcomings in the early days was their inability to tell a story. Their early efforts were sketches of hideousness; each tune a different snap-shot of the morbid, something that many of their contemporaries were also doing (cf. Repulsion, Death, Obituary, etc.). What has been fulfilling on the more recent Autopsy releases has been to hear how they now flesh out (forgive the pun) an instance of gore-soaked horror into a full-fledged macabre celebration. Tracks like “Running from the Goathead” invoke nothing less than perhaps a Lovecraftian foray into a pursuit dream vortex, and are far more effective at eliciting a chill than simple “pop-the-eyeballs” shtick.
The guitars and riffs on this album are simply nauseating . . . as only Autopsy could make work. The riffs enhance the lyrics and general malevolent atmosphere in a way that other death metal acts have been pining to approximate and failing to consummate for decades. Guitars scramble and twist and instil panic in the listener. The intro/outro of “Coffin Crawlers,” the dreadful terror of “Running from the Goathead,” the tense transition from solo into the unanticipated apex of “She is a Funeral,” all run seamlessly into one another, and create an album woven brilliantly to make the listener feel that they’ve truly listened to something appreciatively abominable.
The vocals on this album are snarling, gurgling narrations to match the lyrics and riffs, and although I’m sure that a bunch of the fanboys here want the rotting roar of Mental Funeral or necropunk bark of Severed Survival, Reifert & Cutler deliver depraved madhouse gibbering chants and gargled dead-bum ejaculations that match the delivery of the spinning whirlpool of flayed flesh and rusty hooks.
One point with my fellow pundits on is the cover art – I wasn’t overly excited about it, as I’ve never been one for the heavy digital art, but it’s not bad, and certainly better than a tonne of other albums out there . . . and most of the asshats listening to music these days just illegally download the album and listen to mp3s anyway, so what do they care? I won’t be buying the t-shirt, but Autopsy have other kick-ass images the discerning connoisseur can choose from anyway, so quit your bitchin’ (check out the awesome “Zombie Nurse” t-shirt they were selling at their shows in 2012).
New directions are often overrated. Bells and whistles are often just that – treats for imbeciles to content themselves with. Producing a gem from a field of soggy coal that’s been over-mined by thousands of hacks for twenty-five years is where true talent manifests. That’s why it’s so satisfying to hear a DEATH METAL album that sticks solidly to the fundamentals of the medium and yet inspires. This reviewer personally found The Headless Ritual to be one of the best albums of the past decade, and certainly an improvement over Macabre Eternal which dragged and tended to be propped up by filler between the Cutler-fronted tracks (although to be fair, those kicked ass).
Hail Autopsy, and actually hail the year 2013. It was the first since about 1996 that I’ve been able to put together a top ten, and The Headless Ritual was certainly in the top two or three. I stomp on the freudenschade of today’s “metal” trolls in celebration of a truly burbling font of supreme death metal joy.
There is no easy way to sugarcoat the fact that Autopsy's releases since their 2010 comeback with The Tomb Within EP have been getting steadily worse. Load this CD up on your laptop and you'll see a promising detail appear in the fact that this new effort is nearly 20 minutes leaner than 2011's Macabre Eternal, but that cover art definitely doesn't scream a classic return to form. Once again they have teamed up with legendary Motörhead artist Joe Petagno who, in spite of having a fresh creative burst in recent years with his Satan's Host collaborations, delivers an absolute turkey here, an overly-digital dated-looking piece that looks like a simple amalgamation of his turn of the millennium work with the likes of Abhorrence and Diabolic. If The Headless Ritual had've been released in those easier and simpler times around 2000/2001 it might have passed muster- but musically, aesthetically and artistically speaking the bar for Death Metal is impossibly higher now- Autopsy simply don't seem to have their finger on the pulse any more.
Everything about the start of opening track “Slaughter At The Beast House” is just spluttered out aimlessly without any hint of that precision that even their sloppiest early material showed. Aside from the dodgy vocal effects that erase on positive point to be mentioned here the second half of this track where things are slowed down to Autopsy's trademark crawl, and even past that to an early Black Sabbath vibe are much closer to where this needs to be, but the band have everything backwards. They really needed to start off with a twisted and sickening dirge and then explode into faster passages, not the other way round. By the time this confused track is finished the damage is done, and too late to reboot the whole album it simply never recovers.
Matters aren't helped by the fact “Mangled Far Below” seems so disparate from the opening track in terms of guitar tone and drum sound, and “She Is A Funeral” fails to provide any continuity by going down an odd sort of lo-fi 90's blackened vibe. Worst of all though is the lack of coherent presence in the vocals of Chris Reifert, constituting a fall from grace to rival even that of the band as a whole for sadness. “Coffin Crawlers” attempts to earn some points back with a B-movie sort of feel but everything is scuppered by those random notes struck in the section before the solo of “When Hammer Meets Bone.” It honestly sounds like an incomplete demo, replete with terribly mixed final fast section and a riff blatantly ripped off from Accept's “Fast As A Shark”- for a veteran band with some absolute genre classics under their belts it is absolutely devastating to see they have fallen so far.
The 1:46 minute interlude of “Thorns And Ashes” may unfortunately be the strongest track on here, but it also highlights one of the major issues which is the production- a spine-tingling guitar lead like this track has deserves a much better tone and mastering job, especially given the hallowed act and reputable label we are dealing with here. It beggars belief at times how this could get from the band's collective minds into the studio, past the engineer, onto the hard drive, past the Peaceville desk and onto disc without someone copping on that it just simply isn't up to the level that a legend like Autopsy deserves. There are shades of their old selves present, especially in the slower moments, but overall this sounds rushed, poorly produced and rife with flat out poor ideas and musicianship that even the likes of Jungle Rot, splatter bands such as Ghoul and Machetazo and even Phil Anselmo-era Necrophagia would have had sense not to release. By far the worst thing Autopsy have done since Shitfun, perhaps ever, and worryingly they are on such a downward spiral that it seems that trend may continue.[3/10]
From WAR ON ALL FRONTS A.D. 2013 zine- www.facebook.com/waronallfronts
Having returned with the mighty "Macabre Eternal" in 2011 death metal legends Autopsy have struck while the iron is still hot and pumped out "The Headless Ritual" to an audience baying for dirty, bloody death metal done the proper way. Opener "Slaughter at Beast House" sets the scene diligently, spending much of its 6 minutes crawling along a bass-driven riff with Chris Reifert's decipherable horror-soaked lyrics darkening the mood immensely and from there the remaining 38 minutes plod along a similar course, albeit with more variable results than the stronger "Macabre Eternal". However the end result differs little: Autopsy stand proud as an antidote to the the infatuations with speed, technicality and sanitised production that developed in their extended absence.
Like its predecessor, "The Headless Ritual" is a cleaner, more approachable beast compared to the band's decrepit early material but by the standards of 2013 there is still a vinyl-dwelling charm to the sound here. Aided immensely by Reifert's true drumsound, the guitar tones have a well digested, juicy feel to them that adds a requisite touch of gore to proceedings in a more pleasing manner than the fuzzy backwash of their sound on 1989's "Severed Survival", that is for sure.
Musically this time around the band are at pains to greater emphasise their doomed element, with "Flesh Turned To Dust", "Coffin Crawlers" and the short interlude "Thorns and Ashes" all charging at you like a tortoise does, but these results are mixed, too much feeling forced unlike the free-flowing "Macabre Eternal". It is when the speed is notched up in the groovy "Mangled Far Below", "Slaughter At Beast House" and, eventually, in "Arch Cadaver" that the band are more interesting as the menace in their brooding riffs and the Slayer-esque guitar solos have ample more opportunity to grab you by the neck and shake til all life is gone.
Thanks to its reduced palette of blood-soaked gorey gurglings "The Headless Ritual" ultimately does not match up to the target set up by "Macabre Eternal" but what makes Autopsy the underground fascination they are still exists. There is no concession to trends and a dyed-in-the-wool desire to play proper deathly metal as if their cursed lives depended on it, and this is why Autopsy remain an essential band of the genre regardless of the result here.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
It's been nearly thirty years since Autopsy's genesis. Upon inception, Autopsy had blazed the path for the death metal genre as one of its pioneering innovators, and now in 2013, as legends. Despite a fourteen-year void that commenced in 1995, Autopsy officially re-united in 2009; and in 2011, released their first full-length album in sixteen years, as well as the band's fifth total, Macabre Eternal. The gore and horror continue as the band recently released, The Headless Ritual; ten lurid tales as told in unmitigated Autopsy allegory.
The Headless Ritual is, well, Autopsy, pure and simple. It is what you would expect any Autopsy record to sound like; punk-inspired death metal riffs, and horror-inspired lyrics delivered in classic Reifert/Cutler form. It is a commendable effort, especially sure to please fans of the old school. However, as the genre continues to innovate itself, The Headless Ritual is merely an ode to the past. Nevertheless, praise can't be taken away from Autopsy, as the album is a testament to a band that deserves the utmost respect for their legacy, and if nothing else, their ability to remain true and strong after nearly thirty years.
The past two years have been undeniably monolithic for extreme metal. The quality of the bands and albums are at a boom, and releases have been relentless across the board. Fans have been deluged with some of the best works the genre has ever produced at an alarming rate and fortunately, there appears to be no end in sight. And while bands like Autopsy paved the way for today's successes, The Headless Ritual remains dissimilar to that of its peers. The album just feels like a nostalgic novelty, or that Autopsy was trying too hard to make as such, especially in its lyrics, song titles, and physical layout (i.e. cover art). It's a very simplistic approach bordering on banal.
On the contrary, The Headless Ritual does have some appealing attributes. It is not at all a bad record. The music and musicianship of the band are enjoyably solid. It maintains Autopsy's standard approach of quality death metal and is unyielding of anything sub par in terms of delivery. The sound is thick and murky, well mixed, and overall highlights the band's talents in a clearer light than that of the 80's low quality productions. Musically, Autopsy maintains better than average playing abilities and hooks. The vocals are decipherable, guttural and shrieking. The music is delivered in a carousel of interchanging tempos, mostly of mid-pace and slower, grinding grooves. Reifert's drumming continues to be airtight, holding down the rhythms with ease, yet stopping short of any technical virtuosity. Some enjoyable tracks include: "She Is A Funeral", "Coffin Crawlers", and the more up-tempo, guitar fueled, "Running From The Goathead".
Overall, The Headless Ritual is an ample work. While it lacks any groundbreaking elements, it is a quite enjoyable experience. However, in this day and age, sadly, it will be an album overshadowed for one of the best releases of the year title. Furthermore, with upcoming new material from Gorguts and Broken Hope, it unfortunately may be forgotten quickly as fans of the old school scramble to those highly anticipated releases. Moreover, with the unparalleled state of the current, more technical bands and trends, Autopsy may not be seen as a legitimate contender among the younger generation of today. Personally, I am afflicted by this thought, but take comfort in knowing Autopsy is a band that is far from a washed-up ghost of the past. After all, bands like this surpass many, much younger bands, and their influence, while under-appreciated at times, remains indelible.
***Originally written for and by www.deathportal.net
I feel bad for Autopsy. I really do. If Abcess wasn't a hint enough that Chris Reifert wanted to tweak his musical style, then Autopsy's most recent albums are a testament to the fact. The bar is set so high after Severed Survival and Mental Funeral, the hope for a new cult classic is tempting. The new Autopsy is punk-doom with not-so-much growling vocals, but more Chris shrieking at the microphone. Sounding more like a horror movie soundtrack rather than the atmospheric doom of yesterday has separated many fans, but Autopsy still brings the attitude when needed and the brutality throughout. It is tempting to fall into nostalgia when thinking about the first two masterpieces that Autopsy has created. Sadly, classics are lightning in a bottle, only attainable during a very small period of time. The truth is that the angst and anger has dissipated and new Autopsy is essentially a tribute band to a time forgotten. The scene is different, the creators of death metal are aging, and Chris Reifert and co. are creating their own brand of death metal with a healthy dose of the classical sound that the fans crave.
The music itself is clean, but a tad murky with a much more audible bass guitar than Macabre Eternal. The guitar work is predictable, but menacing. The drumming of Chris Reifert is simplistic, but precise. He can achieve a great degree of difficulty at times. The vocals rarely differ from that on Macabre Eternal, but the use of high shrieks are more common. One thing that this album does very well is hold your attention, and that is not easy for a doom- influenced band to do. Just when the music becomes a bit stale, a new element is introduced that changes the sound. And when you do wait for that climactic end, they always deliver.
In songs such as "Flesh Turns to Dust", the resemblance to older Autopsy is seen. "She is a Funeral" has a haunting chanting sound about halfway through, something I wasn't expecting from this band.
In conclusion, this album is good, but not fantastic. Yet I have a large amount of respect for them because of their persistence in playing their punk-influenced brand of death metal. We are all secretly waiting for the next Mental Funeral, but this is not a band alternative at all.
Autopsy got into the death metal scene while it was still fairly young and the rules that tend to guide it were not so firmly entrenched in its psyche. There was a general consensus that lyrics would tend to expand upon the gorey, horrific, and occasionally mystical aspects of what defined the mid 80s extreme thrash elements that were making waves in the Bay Area, namely that of Slayer and Possessed. Thus the logical outcome is a rather loosely knit group of newcomers out of Florida and New York who were ratcheting things up to the next level, yet still sticking pretty close to the underlying thrash metal roots that they had sprung from. Where Autopsy differentiated itself primarily was a greater degree of doom influences, perhaps partially brought about by taking a few cues from Slayer's "South Of Heaven", which makes sense given their being from the Bay Area themselves.
This is all relevant because "The Headless Ritual" is a complete throwback to the early sound that this band exhibited in response to the still fairly young Florida scene, while simultaneously having a drummer who'd been involved with it via Death. The mixture of raving yells that are notably close to Schuldiner's and Tardy's early work, the jarring contrast between high octane thrashing with a thicker sound and punishingly slow doom sections (often with little transition to speak of), and the technical lead guitar remnant that was inherited from King and Hanneman are all on full display. The only things that really separate this from "Severed Survival" and "Mental Funeral" is an occasional helping of the more punk-oriented influences that were displayed in their mid 90s material and a louder production quality that is not quite as dense and murky as recent Incantation, but is a bit closer to it than not.
For the most part things tend to be fairly conventional, not many risks are taking in relation into past work, and the album is possessed of a raw yet fairly mechanical feel. It works well given that the lead guitar work and vocals tend to be all over the place, thus necessitating that the riff work and drums act as an anchor. In fact, one of the things that kind of holds this album back a bit is that the vocals get a bit too exaggerated at times and almost become comical. Nevertheless, exaggerated tremolo infused mayhem of "Slaughter At Beast House" does it's part to rivet the ears in a manner akin to "Angel Of Death" on crack, followed by a somewhat more measured degree of thrashing before going off into a plodding doom break. It sets the stage for a whole album of mixed up songs that will either begin on an extremely fast or slow note and then shifting completely to the other extreme at several points, almost like a mangled corpse being pulverized at full speed in a meat grinder before being slowly rolled out on a broken down conveyor belt. It gets a bit scatterbrained at times in comparison to the tighter feel of their early 90s material, but it exhibits a similar overall sound.
Anyone hungry for old school death metal will find a decent album here, though at times it seems like between the blurring riff work and disheveled vocals gives the impression that they are trying just a little too hard to be edgy while simultaneously avoiding the inhuman "brutal" sound that's become so popular of late in death metal circles. This is essentially a good attempt at turning back the clock to the days before Suffocation hit the scene, and it would have been better for it had they not tried to one-up them in terms of how extreme they sound within their own set style. Then again, even an overly elaborate death scene will still get the intended reaction out of its target audience, even if after the fact some of said spectators question if the gratuitous nature of the violence viewed robbed it of some staying power.
Whereas its predecessor, Macabre Eternal, was a comeback album wrought with a few new ideas and 'progression' for the Californian cult Autopsy, The Headless Ritual is more of a direct return to the style of Severed Survival and Mental Funeral. Can't say I'm complaining, as those have already remained my favorite in their canon of carnage, but at the same time, though if I was only slightly warm on Macabre Eternal or The Tomb Within EP, I admired that, even after 15 years of studio absence, speculation and the on- and offline accrual of a wider fan base than they ever originally had, this was a band still willing to expand itself and take a few chances, which in conjunction with the rise in popularity of nostalgic death metal aesthetics, really paid off with one of the most buzzed-about revival records in the genre. The Headless Ritual certainly doesn't take as many chances, and thus it's by nature a little 'safer' than its older sibling. Yet, curiously enough, I found myself enjoying this a bit more...
Probably due directly to the fact that my only substantial connection to their music had come and gone by about 1991. Gruesome and timeless, indeed, but Autopsy were just never one of my top tier death metal acts, simply due to the fact that a lot of their doom-dowsed riffs (of which there were plenty) bore the brunt of familiarity with a lot of other Sabbath inspired music, and the faster riffing sequences, while filthy and effective thanks to their production, were just not as impressive and mind blowing for me as Autopsy's more surgical and/or evil sounding contemporaries on albums like Consuming Impulse, Leprosy, Scream Bloody Gore, Symphonies of Sickness, Left Hand Path and Altars of Madness. Personal preferences aside, though, Severed Survival and Mental Funeral have never lost their charnel lustre, and they absolutely deserve their pedestals in the pantheon of festering flesh where they remain. The Headless Ritual pays tribute, and often rises to a similar level of quality, thanks to a superb balance of death and doom riffing progressions, but as loud and capable as its production allots, I can't say that I come away from it feeling as viscera-soaked as I might have when younger.
It's a cleaner record, but that doesn't exempt it from sounding heavy as fuck, especially when they lurch into a morbid groove like "Mangled Far Below", an excellent if mildly predictable fusion of death and doom in which the vile harmonies and writhing, serpentine lead-work really help to balance off Reifert's raving and growling, which frankly sound no less over the top than any of the past album, especially when he angles his inflection upward into a more snarling delivery. A number of the tunes like "Coffin Crawlers" and "When Hammer Meets Bone" are fueled by that same hellish punk foundation one can recall from several of the older albums, but at the same time they don't enjoy the most memorable of chord progressions, simply barreling over the listener like a trolley car full of flailing zombies, while Reifert's grotesque and charismatic microphone spasms steer them up and down the San Fransiscan landscape. There are a handful of surprises here, like the melodic death metal interlude "Thorns and Ashes", which is almost entirely built of Maiden-like guitar harmonies and barked out lyrics, or the closer, "Headless Ritual" itself, which is similar but with more layers of rhythm, but neither is necessarily all that exciting. Interestingly, where The Headless Ritual branches off towards its most melodic material, I am heavily reminded of Arlington's Deceased. Not a bad thing!
Pacing is meticulous, or I might even say masterful. No two songs in direct succession sound repetitive or redundant, and most are kept concise and centered around only a handful of riffing ideas, with the exception of "Slaughter at Beast House" and "She is a Funeral" which are drawn out largely because they are among the slower, death/doom pieces. There are definitely some bum riffs in there, especially the first few minutes of the latter, but eventually you get some payoff in the bridge. Bass playing is thick but very often follows the rhythm guitars, which are themselves only inspirational about half the time, despite the broad, effective tone. Reifert has no choice but to occasionally feel hokey, since he places so much emphasis on grimy syllables that they tend to fall overboard (nothing new, really). However, the guy's drumming is still among the most organic and natural feeling in the genre, tinny or raw where it needs to be, but feisty as fuck during the more charged segments like the storming early riffs in "Slaughter At Beast House". Lead guitars are probably the most central and adept they've been yet in Autopsy's career, but I will admit that many of the rhythm riffs are sorely lacking in creativity or compelling chord progressions, and they don't often stand out.
I've seen a few individuals butt hurt over the cover artwork, probably because Macabre Eternal had a great color scheme and looked fantastic; but hey, it's better than earlier Autopsy like Acts of the Unspeakable or Shitfun, right? Still, veteran Joe Petagno has had better showings (Angelcorpse's Exterminate, Mammoth Grinder's Extinction of Humanity, and many of his Motörhead covers, for example). I think this one still gets the point across of the ritualistic, occult horror that informs a lot of the lyrics, but some folks probably won't be satisfied until they get another Severed Survival. Ultimately, some people just aren't going to dig on The Headless Ritual much at all, since it doesn't necessarily capitalize on Macabre Eternal so much as it's a regression towards their older works spiced up with a cleaner production and a lot of melody. But for what it's worth, I've had a pretty good time listening through it. Didn't impress me nearly as much as, say, the latest Incantation, or what newer 'old school' bands like Tribulation, Horrendous and Necrovation have been churning out in the past couple years, but I felt satisfied that I paid for an Autopsy record, it sounded much like what I expected off the samples I had heard, and I got some giggles and headbanging out of it. Sometimes that is enough.
Overrated, uninspired, generic, and pointless release.
Bringing now almost as many releases than before their breakup, Autopsy (or a more brutal Abscess version) releases one more time a really forgettable album.
Autopsy is easily one of the most brutal and legendary death metal bands ever, but their reunion has seen mainly sub-par music being created; repetitive moments trying to sound totally "Mental Funeral", shitloads of riffs not well-connected between them, and the fast-slow-mega slow-fast-orgy in solos formula in most of the songs, as if they simply cannot conjure the obscure, brutal, and sick atmosphere like in the old times.
Starting from the lame excuse to reform Autopsy and ending in the rain of EPs, DVDs and whatnot, everything seems to point towards a not so good retirement plan/pension for the good ‘ol fellas, hence the need to cash some last bucks from the fans' pockets whilst possible. But that’s not the real “sin” in here, but the fact that such intentions have moved into their sound: it is not dirty and the arrangements range from average to poor. They even replay a couple of tricks right out of that classic album of theirs trying to sound “old” and inspired.
Was it really needed to begin the album with an almost 7 minute track? "Slaughter at Beast House" is not so bad, but it could have been easily shortened to 5 minutes and still sound fine, but to sound sloooow by endlessly repeating some riffs is not really tricking anyone.
"Mangled Far Below" is a track that could fit easily on the latest Abscess albums. The ending for "Coffin Crawlers" is so laughable and amateurish, and as well some really weird leads come from "When Hammer Meets Bone". I mean, it shows that the guys haven't lost technique or their musical skills (to say that would be a blatant lie), but a good album is not just about skills, but inspiration.
It's so funny to know that "Severed Survival" was recorded after just a few practices with Danny Coralles. So obviously he got the talent, but also was inspired enough to come with some really filthy and brutal sound(s) for the album(s). Now all of that is gone.
"Thorns and Ashes" hosts one of the most generic death metal riffs, something worthy of old Dark Tranquillity. "Arch Cadaver" is not a really bad track, but Reifert is not really growling anymore, but screaming like an old pissed drunkard, and most of the "peaking" moments from this album sounds like a mixture between Necrophagia, the latest Ravenous album, and Abscess on steroids. How someone can listen to "Running From the Goathead" and not to think Abscess is beyond my mind.
Not to mention the modern production ruining every good riff/moment of the album. The sound is just like one of the many death metal out there: generic, clean, and over-produced. At least it is somehow better than "Macabre Eternal", that's for sure, but is still quite far from the quality that Autopsy used to put in every one of their releases.
I was not expecting another "Mental Funeral" or anything like that, but an inspired album including some of the old school sickness mixed with new ideas/experience from the band members. Did I mention the UGLY and lame Photoshop artwork?
Definitively a worth to listen album (okay, just a couple of times), but nothing more.
No more good death metal albums such as "The Headless Ritual"? Something no one would ever say.
In the budget for their 6th studio album, Autopsy apparently was given the money to rent a truck, a truck used at high speed to crush the listener when the very first note of opening track 'Slaughter at Beast House' strikes and then is used to back up and pulverize what remains when the tempo drops after two minutes. Changing the tempo ranging from a mid-tempo base with doomy or up-tempo lines added throughout songs is nothing new in the Autopsy book, but on 'The Headless Ritual' the overall variation and dynamic in the music reach heights unheard in the past.
The key previous albums all had their distinctive elements in the rather straightforward thrashy debut, the horror flick-inspired, doom-laden 'Mental Funeral' and the weird and vocally twisted 'Macabre Eternal'. This time around the Autopsy beast has digested all of these efforts and spewed forth a deadly volley of insane death metal. With variation being the key, 'The Headless Ritual' is filled with brilliantly memorable riffs ranging from straightforward and thrashy as in 'When Hammer Meets Bone' to horror flick-sounding and upright weird as in 'Coffin Crawlers' and 'Flesh Turns to Dust'. The bass is varied, but is generally high up in the mix and pushes the music forward along with the drums. The guitars partly fall in line with the rhythm section and partly battle against it, creating an eerie atmosphere throughout the album.
The vocals are a direct descendant of predecessor 'Macabre Eternal' and Reifert/Cutler partly scream and partly vomit forth their messages of gore and horror. The production is quite stripped in an old school fashion and makes the music seem sincere compared to a modern all-in instruments to the max production. Adding a bunch of endangered, shrieking, chaotic, and thrashy solos makes for the cherry on top of this brilliantly dynamic effort.
The one problem I can find with this album is the lack of new elements in the Autopsy brew. All ingredients have been used before, but quite frankly that is a minor problem when the band treats us with such a twisted behemoth of an album. Were it not for the calming effect of the closing instrumental title track, death metal fans all over the world would go berserk when the last notes of 'The Headless Ritual' fades. This is on all counts Autopsy's best effort since 'Severed Survival' and is an essential release!
If you confess to having even the slightest interest in death metal, it is your bloody duty to walk...nay, run down to your local record merchant and purchase this monster on the spot. You still there? I said run!
Originally written for www.metalcovenant.com