Autopsy – ‘Tourniquets, Hacksaws & Graves’ Vinyl Review

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It really has been a week for vinyl fetishists everywhere, but for metal fans with a taste for large circular slabs of plastic you really can’t beat Peaceville. With a roster that is any doom, death and black metal fan’s ultimate dream, Peaceville have made their name by releasing editions that cater perfectly to their target audience and this has never more been the case than with death metal legends Autopsy whose exquisitely gory artwork just has to be seen in all its 12” glory to be truly appreciated, whilst their thrillingly old school sound benefits more than most from an analogue pressing.

Having salivated over the gatefold packaging and bowed low before the included poster which demonstrates the full, vile detail of Wes Benscoter’s visceral artwork, it is time to finally peel the heavy, 180 gram vinyl from its protective, printed sleeve and place it on the deck. For vinyl fiends this is the moment that is most anticipated, the sound of the needle locking into the first groove and the first strident blast of toxic guitar tearing into the room. Following on, more or less directly, from 2013’s feted ‘The Headless Ritual’, Autopsy do not disappoint. Since their reformation, their sound has been a constant, the name a guarantee of putrid death metal quality, and on ‘Tourniquets, hacksaws and graves’ the band tear into the same harrowed vein of inspiration that made ‘The headless ritual’ one of SonicAbuse’s albums of 2013 (you can read the article here: http://www.sonicabuse.com/2013/12/sonicabuses-top-25-records-of-2013/).

Opening track ‘Savagary’ is an immediate hit of foetid death metal with Chris Reifert unleashing his deadly primal howl with even more fury than usual, his pummelling percussive assault underpinning the increasingly awesome guitars of Eric Cutler and Danny Coralles with a depth and power that makes it feel as if he is summoning the beat form the very bowels of hell. What an opening number! Short, apocalyptically savage and with typically evocative lyrics detailing the fate of shipwrecked sailors washed up on an island populated by an unimaginable evil, ‘Savagery’ has everything that you want form an Autopsy song and it is over far too quickly. ‘King of flesh ripped’ sees the band adopting a brutal mid-tempo groove shot through with the nihilistic doom flourishes that have always separated Autopsy from (and elevated them above) their peers. A song that trades speed for sheer weight, it is infinitely more sinister as the band bide their time, playing with the listener and honing their attack rather than expending their energy in an all-out assault. The title track opens upon a similarly doomy in aspect, the guitars a slow, grinding weight that suddenly explodes into life as Chris delivers a performance that demonstrates exactly why he is regarded as one of death metal’s most potent vocalists. No death metal fan could listen to Autopsy without feeling a stirring of excitement, and by the conclusion of ‘Tourniquets…’, the adrenalin is flowing freely around the body, set loose by the band’s brutally varied approach and uncompromising devotion to the art of metal, not to mention Eric Cutler’s evil solo which dominates the song’s conclusion. ‘The howling dead’ demonstrates the band’s perverse genius when it comes to lyric writing, whilst the song itself is a strangely muted affair that exchanges violence for an oppressive sense of atmosphere that owes more to sludge metal than it does to the death genre. It is a song that may initially pass the listener by, but as the second verse detonates and Eric and Danny unleash riffs that are pure Sabbath, you’ll find that it lodges itself firmly in your cranium thanks to the sheer levels of malevolent intent on display. In stern contrast, ‘after the cutting’ eschews the funereal garb of doom and executes a frantic death metal assault that leaves the listener reeling, only for ‘forever hungry’ (complete with Eric on vocals) to close side one with huge, searing riffs, Danny Coralles’ sanguine soloing and an atmosphere so thick it chokes and cloys as the needle finally hits the run out groove.

Side two opens with the spirited attack of ‘teeth of the shadow horse’, an epic slab of death metal mastery that lays down a potent challenge to any band who would dare to compete in the arena with the veteran so of Autopsy. ‘All shall bleed’ is a short, instrumental piece of work very much in the vein of a funeral march overlaid with creepy, backwards masked guitar, before Danny takes the vocals for ‘deep crimson dreaming’, his unholy roar a potent combination of Chris Reifert and Lemmy. A varied piece, the track offers subtle, atmospheric elements as well as the more brutal metal which the band have made their stock in trade and it once again shows Autopsy are unafraid to push the boundaries of death metal, experimenting with form and factor where others would be content to simply put pedal to the metal and let fly. The result is an album which offers unexpected nuances and elements of light and shade that mark it out as a truly exceptional release in the death metal category. ‘Parasitic eye’ offers a mid-tempo trawl through the twin realms of Sabbath and Slayer, Chris tearing into the body of the song with furious abandon, his twisted vocals a salacious delight as he recounts a tale of self-mutilation and murderous psychosis. ‘Buriel’ is, without a doubt, one of Autopsy’s most doom-laden pieces with a grinding guitar riff of such potency it banishes the sun from the sky and plunges the world into a stygian darkness that few bands can successfully evoke. The final track, ‘Autopsy’, not only closes the album on a high, but provides the band with an anthem that will surely be the highlight of their live shows in the coming year. A brilliantly realised blast of death metal fury complete with a chorus that will surely be chanted by death metal fans (and Autopsy fans in particular) as a badge of honour at festivals around the world.

Autopsy may be an institution in the world of death metal, but rather than rest on their substantial laurels the band have chosen the harder, but more artistically rewarding, option of pushing themselves at every turn. It is highly unlikely you will not here a more thrilling, gory, intelligent or varied death metal release this year and such is the band’s immense skill that they not only charge their albums with numerous sonic curveballs, but they make it sound easy. The highlight of the album is surely the monstrous invention of ‘Deep Crimson Dreaming’ with its epic soloing, primal percussion and raw-throated screams and its immediate follow up, the harrowing ‘parasitic eye’, but, in truth, there is no weak spot to the album. This is furious death metal, overflowing with gore and played to perfection by a band who only seem to get better as time goes by.

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