Album Review: Autophagy – Bacteriophage

Album Review: Autophagy – Bacteriophage
Reviewed by Sam Jones

This album was a sudden spur of the moment decision to review. I was pondering it for a time before I decided to add it to my body of current material I’m covering right now. Autophagy, like many extreme metal acts right now, are a much younger band in the metal community having formed only in 2018, out of Oregon, United States. Other than this album, the only other work Autophagy have to showcase themselves is a small Demo from the year of their formation, as a result this record comes off with considerable interest seeing how the band have seemingly jumped straight into the fire and chosen to unveil their debut full length piece effectively void of any prior build up. In addition, the artwork is cool too. Let’s take a peek at Bacteriophage and see what these new and upcoming guys have to offer us.

As if taking a leaf out of Bolt Thrower’s own book, Autophagy unleash perhaps one of the most total and menacing guitar tones a death metal work has seen this year, if not in a number of years. It isn’t merely how bold and powerful it sounds, it’s how its immense scale feels barely held in by the band. As the riffs play out, it becomes an intoxicating listen. You’re not listening to the riffs as you are being subjected to them, you are the prisoner here. For a debut album, Autophagy give us one commanding experience as they immediately grab us by the throat and only continue to tighten their hold on us throughout the record’s duration. What’s more is how the band don’t merely play at faster speeds, if anything their devastation becomes all the more felt when their pacing relaxes and their sheer tone is given all the more room to breathe and thereby expand, assuming grander, malevolent essences as the band are given time to truly settle in an air of macabre evil.

The power this record is able to instil is downright hypnotic. It’s not just the riffs being what they are that has our attention at all times, it’s the band’s willingness to subject us to such a blistering display of annihilation that we can only return for the same injection of adrenaline again and again. Everything about this album is loud and insane and has zero concern for our well-being. This is my kind of death metal for sure; the kind that doesn’t care what your prerogatives are for extreme metal; it’s here to ruin your world and leave you a squirming mess upon the floor. The drums fill any remaining space with their ferocious onslaught and, whether through the bass guitar or bass drums, we’ve got this almighty thundering forever happening that lends the record a side-to-side vibe, as if you can actively feel this record destroy itself through its own violent motions.

Album Review: Autophagy – Bacteriophage

I feel like the band’s performance is so punching to us because their tracks aren’t too long. In the grand scheme of things, Bacteriophage isn’t a long album. Most tracks herein play for around three minutes, if not shorter, so the band are deliberately giving themselves less time to work on their songwriting and therefore more prevalence on ensuring their sound is as destructively memorable as they possibly make it. As a result, Autophagy get down to business pretty quickly, condensing their songwriting into chunks that get right to the point. It’s why their speed feels so adept at times, the shorter runtimes get credence to their onslaught which only makes the record a faster experience which only warrants more determined, repeated listens in the future. Granted, they could have spaced out their songwriting in places and thrown in some more variety like you see with many death metal acts these days, but then the band wouldn’t have as prominent of a punch to their sound as they do within.

The vocals aren’t exactly the focus of this record. You can tell by the way they blend into the background as the instrumentation and songwriting take centre stage to vie for fans’ attention. However, with they said, it’s not like they’re completely inaudible as the mix has still lent them enough of a presence that they can still be interpreted by us as an integral part of the Bacteriophage experience. Making out what’s actually being said is a lost cause, they’re not going to be deciphered during the listening experience either since the songwriting is as ruthless as we’ve already covered. With that said though, the vocal performance can’t simply be discounted in favour for the riffs or drumming. We may not know what is being said but can absolutely feel the vitriol and bile that goes into the delivery. As per the performance it’s deeply convincing; it’s less a man spouting a guttural vocal form and a fully realised monster that happens to be featured on this record. The vocals give believability to the riffs, reinforcing their might and ensuring us they’re not simply going wild for their own sake and the opposite is just as true whereby the manic riffs lend power as a partner in crime to the vocal performance. With the two forces coming together, you get an album that feels legitimately complete and could not see it’s individual elements removed one from the other.

In conclusion, I found Autophagy’s first full length release to be an absolutely wonderful listen. This was a record I nearly passed on and I’m so glad I didn’t. Bacteriophage is an album that is absolutely bristling with power, bolstering one of the fattest yet meanest guitar tones since early Bolt Thrower. This album has absolutely no consideration for how you may feel at the time of listening nor do they stick around long enough for you to wonder what is coming next; Autophagy are relentlessly hurling one riff and block of devastation after another your way, and it helps that their songwriting is condensed and doesn’t run on for too long. Barely surpassing half an hour long, Autophagy unleash everything they have at you in a purified and total assault that’ll leave you breathless and begging for more. The riffs are as chunky as they are frenzied, mulching you up and spitting you out only to find you crawling back for additional punishment. A stellar debut album for sure.

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