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Album Review: AUTOPSY The Headless Ritual

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Autopsy are elders of death metal – their 1989 debut Severed Survival being preceded by few others, and founding member Chris Reifert played drums on Scream Bloody Gore, for fuck's sake! – but for some reason a new Autopsy album doesn't elicit the same breathless anticipation as a new effort by other staunchly loyalist peers such as Cannibal Corpse or Suffocation. Why is that?

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An Autopsy record is very frankly a no-frills affair. They lack the technical chops of the aforementioned bands while also failing to write catchy songs with anthemic choruses like Napalm Death. Those who are into death metal for the fretboard histrionics will likely find Autopsy plodding and insecure, whereas those who fall on the melodic side of the fence are more likely to prescribe Arch Enemy or In Flames instead.

Where Autopsy does excel is in laying on the grime factor pretty thick; "Running from the Goathead" is ostensibly a death metal song, though one channeled through a sludge-like patina of intensity. Reifert's vocals seethe with a feverish quality not often found in a lot of midtempo death metal, a constantly building and receding vacillation between guttural stability and unhinged howls of rage sympathetic with many strains of slower black metal.

"Mangled Far Below" rocks a riff out of the old Roadracer days, straight up Florida death metal with bottom heavy doom proclivities. "She Is a Funeral" doubles down on the doom metal, and let's not forget that Autopsy were one of the first bands to mix the two genres.

And that's basically what you get with Autopsy: a legacy act playing to a following of devotees that either reject change or recognize that there are plenty of places to get it elsewhere. As with many such bands, though, there is the question of catalog interchangeability to contend with. The Headless Ritual is certainly one of the more consistent recent entries in the band's catalog, though that's going to mean a lot more to the choir than the uninitiated.

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