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I remember it just like it was yesterday when I discovered Autopsy. I was zooming through the metal section in a local record store The Vinyl Room(sells used CDs as well) and I came across "Severed Survival" and "Mental Funeral" CDs and I couldn't help but want to buy them because I was so intrigued by the cover art. I believe I was either 14 or 15, I had already been into the more well known death metal acts like Death, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Morbid Angel etc. but no death metal band quite blew me away like Autopsy did when "Charred Remains" came blasting through my shitty little radio. So needless to say, when I heard they were reforming back in 2009 I was pretty damn excited. "The Tomb Within" was a great comeback EP but "Macabre Eternal" wasn't just great, it was amazing and luckily enough, so is "The Headless Ritual".
Right from the first second of the opening track "Slaughter at Beast House" you are kicked in the teeth with an insane tremolo riff and from there on it's death/doom insanity. This track was an undeniably great way to open up this album, it features everything an Autopsy fan loves about their music and sets the tone for the rest of the album but anyone who is into the band knows what to expect.
Not much has changed musically with Autopsy since the 90's, "Shitfun" aside. Mind you, I like the album but we all know it's 'deathpunk" style is hard to grasp while comparing to their other releases. Though there's a couple slight differences I personally notice, one being Joe Allen's presence. He joined in 2010 and out of the several bassists Autopsy has had I'd say he's the best and you can tell he makes sure his skilled playing is noticed. It stays audible from start to finish, doesn't always follow what the guitar is doing and has some nice moments to shine and not to mention the thick, chunky tone. The only other slight difference since the 90's is Eric and Danny seem to have put more work into their guitar playing. It just seems as if the riffs and leads are more thought out and flow very smoothly, basically they have better structure but I'll get into the song writing soon. If you've never listened to Autopsy, well I'm suggesting you should stop reading this right now and go buy "Mental Funeral" but I'll briefy summarize what you'll find. The guitar work features a good amount of well executed tremolo which you'll notice from the first second of the opening track. Some riffs contain a punk vibe, up and down strummed power chords which undeniably suits their sound and there's some very thrashy riffs too which goes without saying. Last but definitely not least, the crushing doom metal passages that force you to do a slow headbang, many sound pretty 'dark' for lack of a better word. Many people consider Autopsy a straight up death metal band and although death metal is the main ingredient in their music there's an undeniable large amount of doom as well. I feel comfortable saying they're a doom/death band. I already explained the bass so as for the drum work, Chris never fails to please. Unlike most death metal bands you won't find insane blast beats or super technical drumming, his playing is skilled and straight forward plus I really couldn't imagine Autopsy will technical drumming. The vocals are like most old school death metal vocalists, not overly brutal or guttural but enough to sound like a demon. This what you'll find in an Autopsy album, "Shitfun" aside, if you'd like to know what that albums all about just read the reviews.
The production sounds pretty modern and clear which is expected, putting into consideration it's 2013. As much as I loved the dirty, rough sound of their early albums I don't mind modern production either. When comparing this to "Macabre Eternal" the production here is more clean, modern, whatever the hell you wanna call it. but not to the point that it's over polished. The main benefit is that everything is at the perfect volume in the mix whereas before it felt like things were a bit uneven. As a guitar player, when I listen to an album I usually look at the guitar work first and with this production the guitar tone just sounds monstrous and the riffs are more clear. Simply put, if you have heard a death metal album released in the past two years, you'll know how the production is here.
The key to an amazing album is the song writing. Sure, all these riffs can be wicked and blah blah but when it comes down to it, are these songs enjoyable? Are these songs I'm going to listen to in 20 years? Are these songs memorable? The answer is... yes, I'd say so, apparently other reviewers on here may disagree but to each his own. The song writing may not be on par with the legendary "Mental Funeral" which I consider their best release but they still did one hell of a good job on this record. These are memorable songs, worthy of listening to on repeat and most notably the song structures are fantastic. As I said about the riffs, the songs seem so well thought out and it's noticeable that Autopsy put a lot of work in making sure these were amazing tracks not just good tracks. It's also important that this album is far from boring, at least my attention is 100% focused on it while I listen to it, not to mention there's no filler which speaks volumes. Simply put, each track is a chaotic, death/doom metal roller coaster that you just want to keep riding over and over again. Overall, as I expected this album features fantastic song writing.
Despite other reviewers opinions, I believe "The Headless Ritual" is a phenomenal album. It's a fact that Autopsy will never be able to release another "Mental Funeral" or "Severed Survival" but I'm not expecting them to, they hit their peak on their first two albums but with that being said, that doesn't mean they still can't write fantastic music. Overall, I'd say "Macabre Eternal" is slightly better than this but not by much.
Highlights, in order:
"Slaughter at Beast House"
"Mangled Far Below"
"Running From the Goathead"