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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