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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