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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