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TheExodusAttack, July 21st, 2010

It's love of the dead…

There is a rare medical condition in newborn babies referred to as gastroschisis, which is an inherited congenital defect that causes the abdominal wall of the fetus to grow only partly or perhaps not at all. This leads to the fetus’ intestines and other visceral organs developing outside of its body. While shadowing at a hospital, I met the parents of an infant unlucky enough to be born with gastroschisis, and they told me horrific experience that their childbirth was: all of the simultaneous greatness and disgust the miracle of birth already provides, combined with the heartbreak and intense worry of your child’s safety due to its organs being strewn about while it is delivered from the womb.

Sonically, Mental Funeral is a lot like that, if the childbirth took place in an open grave in an ancient, rotting graveyard rather than a pristine hospital, and the presiding OB/GYN expert decided that a sledgehammer would be the best tool to use during the procedure.

There's kissing, of course, caressing, blood drinking, the smell, the attraction…

Autopsy’s second full length album is scary good. It’s one of the greatest death metal albums of all time. Just take a look at the cover art: that’s exactly what you have in store for you. Violent, twisted, disgusting shapes of an unknown origin. Broken, jagged teeth sticking out at unnatural angles, twitching claws ready to lash out without the slightest provaction. Perhaps it’s the product of imagination of a serial killer, or maybe it’s borne of some Lovecraftian interdimensional time warp phooey. But all that matters is the fact that you don’t know, you never will and you’ll probably die a violent death at its hands regardless. Autopsy crafts a very specific, very enjoyable and very dirty, disgusting atmosphere on Mental Funeral, and this most noticeable aspect of the album. Yes, its heavy-as-balls death metal with riffs all over the place, dynamic tempos and superfast guitar solos, but the first thing that becomes apparent is how wholly disgusting, dirty, filthy it all is. Autopsy is in control and has you in their grasp, and they’re a bit too deranged to properly answer your shrieked pleas for mercy in ways that don’t involve blunt objects and holes torn in skin.

When you lie on some bodies, blood comes out of their mouth, and the weight of my body pushes it out. That's called purging...

The guitar tone takes the monstrosity that was Severed Survival and brings it to its logical conclusion, promptly stabs it in the gut and goes even further. The production captured here is brilliant: the first opening notes of “Twisted Mass of Burnt Decay” exude heaviness through the fuzzy, distorted death of a guitar sound, as well as the low-tuned bass guitars and megaheavy, skin snapping drum performance by front man Chris Reifert. In terms of each individual’s performance, pretty much every nail is hit well on the head an excess of times. Bassist Steve Cutler has a few highlighted moments in “Torn From the Womb” and “Destined to Fester”, and the generally low-tuned sound of the strings in all Autopsy releases is ideally displayed on this album. Apparently famous 4-stringer Steve DiGorgio played bass on Autopsy’s debut and an EP following this album, but Cutler certain makes due here and DiGorgio is hardly missed at all. But Reifert’s vocals really take the gore-frosted cake here: the man has a sick, sick growl that makes me feel diseased just hearing him. Ever since the late 80s he has used a surprisingly low, brutal voice that comes off rather ahead of its time: there is no mistaking him for the shrieking of Chuck Schuldiner or Cronos-isms of Jeff Becerra. His vocal style can be directly traced to that of Tom G. Warrior; just imagine the vocals of Satanic Rites with 7 years of advancing death metal brutality laid on them, and perhaps some decapitated genitals in Reifert’s mouth as well.

I definitely enjoy swallowing blood. It's very arousing making love with a body and drinking some of the blood…

Miserable pathetic death by hammering guitars are provided by Eric Cutler and Danny Coralles, and their guitar style is more or less of that of the necroguttural nebulous death/black/doom/thrash/bloody vomit stylings of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, forced into a death metal medium like a fist into a corpse’s anus. And the whole thing works marvelously: the end result makes Mental Funeral an enormous, sludgy death metal masterpiece that almost crosses into death/doom territory, considering their penchant for slower riffs contrasting against the upbeat and midpaced sections. Hear the hideous doom and gloom that opens up “Torn From the Womb”; the lead is tense and worrisome, and the verses switch between a crushing, bouncy rhythm and that miserable lead again, with a few unprecedented bursts of speed to remind you THAT THE KILLER IS RIGHT BEHIND YOU! Of course, songs like “Slaughterday” and “Robbing the Grave” bring the riffs and bring them painfully hard, but Cutler and Coralles’ guitar leads are unexpectedly adept as well. Though the solos are very fast, somewhat sloppy and come when you’re least prepared, they don’t sound like chromatic nonsense or random notes taken from basic scales. The lead guitar of Mental Funeral is immensely enjoyable and composed quite well, resulting in many memorable melodies that further boost this album’s overall effect on the listener. “Dead” and “Hole in the Head” are the most notable in this aspect: the former rides some haunting, memorable leads that mesh perfectly with the spoken lyrics and demonstrate the obvious influence Autopsy had on the burgeoning Swedish death metal scene. “Hole in the Head” is possibly my favorite song here, thanks in no small part to that brilliant melody that both opens and closes the song. Sure, the rest of the song brilliantly executes the expected permutations of their “slow/midpaced/fast/DEATHLY HEAVY” formula like most others do, but that lovely guitar lick makes the song particularly notable; why… it almost sounds happy. When I hear it, I imagine the members of Autopsy gleefully frolicking through rolling hills of poppy fields and oak trees, except intestines are strewn about the tree branches, the sky is raining down piss and shit, and there are always children screaming. Always. These are the kind of things that makes Autopsy happy.

There's a difference between fucking and making love. Maybe some people fuck dead bodies. I make love to them…

Something I always found neat about Mental Funeral that helped it stand out are those bizarre little interludes found throughout the running time. “Fleshcrawl” is an unpleasant, doomy thirty seconds using a dismal melody to perfectly lead into the highlight track “Torn From the Womb”. On the other hand, the excellent closer “Dark Crusade” is bookended by the fast, violent and furious “Bonesaw” and the morbid and macabre title track, which flawlessly uses Autopsy unique sense of melody to end this gory, bloody masterpiece of death metal. A masterpiece is exactly what this is: Autopsy’s sophomore album is a perfect demonstration of how excellent this genre can be. Mental Funeral pervades the deepest trenches of the human mind, bringing to light hideous, gruesome thoughts every modern citizen wishes to calmly placate and never admit exist. Every moment of it is immensely enjoyable and fairly memorable, and the masterful summation of all the band’s talents that is “In the Grip of Winter” testifies to this best. This release is a landmark; an extremely influential album that immortalizes Christ Reifert and his gang of amateur pathologists in the annals of history. Pure stillborn, slow-as-fuck dripping death metal insanity that must be heard by every metalhead; you’ll have to clean the blood and burnt flesh out of your ears with a spoon after hearing this.

When I enjoy myself with a corpse, it's a high beyond any I've ever had…