Album Review: Autopsy – Ashes, Organs, Blood And Crypts

Album Review: Autopsy - Ashes Organs Blood And Crypts
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Autopsy. The name alone is steeped in death metal royalty, instantly recognisable as one of the early stalwarts of extreme metal. Formed way back in 1987 out of California, United States, Autopsy rose to prominence amidst death metal’s formative era with classic records like Severed Survival and, my personal favourite, Mental Funeral, soon contributing towards the backbone of death metal’s early days. The band broke apart in 1995 not long after Shitfun released and it wouldn’t be until 2009, following a brief attempt the year prior, that Autopsy would at last return to full strength. With records like Macabre Eternal and The Headless Ritual, the band slowly clawed their way back to international acclaim and went to show their name was far from dead. Lately, the band released their 2022 record, Morbidity Triumphant, to universal praise after a lengthy album drought, so imagine my joyous surprise when the band announce another follow-up so soon titled Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts. Hot on the heels of their success last year and continuing their partnership with Peaceville Records, the band’s tenth album is slated for an October 27th release date. So, lets dig through the bones and guts and sinews to see what Autopsy have created, barely more than one full year after their last full length release.

More than thirty-five years on from their inception, it’s reassuring to note how Autopsy haven’t tried to reinvent themselves at any discernible point: the bass and drums still feature greatly within the mix, and the guitar work is as classically ripping and dirty as any of their early material. I think it’s why so many have such adoring love for this band; Autopsy’s signature sound has always been rooted in the dripping, macabre side of death metal and this tenth record demonstrates this notion is far from being tossed aside for something “more modern”. If anything, sticking to their guns ensures their fanbase will be pleased by the band’s commitment towards old school death metal. Whether the band are playing more rapidly or slower, the sickening bile their riffs possess are present at all times. Some bands might, and have, change things up throughout the years but, such attempts are often greeted with negative feedback. If something isn’t broken, don’t fix it and that’s precisely what Autopsy showcase herein. It worked for them in 1987, and it’s working with this record in 2023; some styles and soundscapes of death metal never appear to age out of fashion so the band are wise to just keep doing what they know works for them.

But that isn’t to suggest the band can’t bring things down to a more ripping and shredding level as they’ve become older. “Throatsaw”, the first single off this record, displays a ferocity and streamlined songwriting that honestly took me by surprise; if anything, it shows that a band should still be allowed to simply get their teeth into the thick of things without delay, without fanfare, then move on. Autopsy are amongst the forefathers of US death metal but, in 2023, its great to see they’re still prepared to bring a straightforward two minute song to the forefront of our attention that doesn’t do anything overtly special or unique; it’s just a fast and energetic track to keep the pace going, since it’s immediately followed up with “No Mortals Left Alive”, a thoroughly more nuanced songwriting example, yet harnessing an attitude that’s tongue-in-cheek.. The fact we have two tracks, so juxtaposed against each other as differing approaches to songwriting, clearly epitomises Autopsy’s evolution; the rabid bloodlust is still there after multiple decades but the desire to craft sickening, adventuring songs has never waned, all without taking themselves too seriously. This isn’t an isolated case either, for the band return to this ethos later with “Toxic Death Fuk” as vocals and songwriting bring back the blunt, punk-infused death metal this record’s opening half is brimming with.

Album Review: Autopsy - Ashes Organs Blood And Crypts

Band founder and vocalist Chris Reifert’s vocals are back in a big way, and may perhaps be at their strongest for some time now. The depravity is still there, the evil they emit has never vacated Autopsy’s style but it’s through this record they take on a greater life of their own. Reifert has never been the fastest vocalist in death metal but owing to Autopsy’s approach to music, he’s never needed to be. If anything, as he’s aged, the molasses in his voice has hardened and scraped to create a delivery that’s all the more scathing than he was in his youth. Considering he’s able to throw out these vocals whilst drumming like a maniac is testament to his ability to balance skill with energy. I’d go so far as to state that, during his prolonged utterances as he seemingly screams beneath a cesspool of bile, his vocals have assumed an altogether putrid and poisonous calibre that reeks and reviles as his voice just keeps going and going. But there’s additionally a showmanship to his performance which is deeply unique; there are instances, especially during the more punk-infused segments, where his vocals almost detach off the main band themselves and become their own entity. It’s like they go on their own warped adventure, turning what would otherwise be controlled and disciplined into a sadomasochistic perversion. It’s almost comical, as we recognise the vocals too are exuding fun and joy towards subject matter where joy really would not be the ideal emotion to feel. It gives this record that sense of unhinged mental affliction that has pervaded throughout all of Autopsy’s catalogue.

One of Autopsy’s longest running signatures has been the bass, it was what helped draw me to their earliest works in the first place. The same can be said just as strongly with this album too, for the bass is not only audibly playing but claims such a grip upon the record’s sound that to deny the impact of the bass would be folly. Yet, this is an instance wherein the bass has a grand presence without it completely taking over the album overall; the bass permeates underneath every riff and drum strike, and is just as prominent when other elements strip back to leave the bass as sole champion of the instrumentation, but it’s not like the bass assumes total command of the record either. This is no cavernous cacophony, the general directive is clearly for the full band to share the spotlight and the bass is happily reserved to share that stage alongside the riffs and vocals etc. Mixing this, in the way that it has been on record, was no doubt exceedingly tricky as you have to ensure the basslines are powerful and vibrantly acoustic without them overreaching themselves, for while the bass is thick it still moves without hindrance through each aspect the band throw up. For what is on record, I’d say the band did a stellar job because here, for the first recognisable time since Mental Funeral, the bass truly feels to be a secondary force in the guitarist’s arsenal as it equally reinforces and projects the band’s harrowing performance.

In conclusion, Autopsy have somehow managed to top themselves over what they achieved with last year’s Morbidity Triumphant. More than three decades on, the band are still able to throw out a record that is bound to raise eyebrows and turn heads upon younger audiences. There’s something morbidly intoxicating about this record, for after the fourth full listen there’s a distinct homely vibe here that I wasn’t anticipating. The variety and pacing by which the band give us these tracks is excellent, for while they’ll throw us a quicker piece like “Toxic Death Fuck”, they’ll follow it up with “Lobotomizing Gods”. Every track they play has something genuinely unique going on which naturally prevents their sound from growing anything close to stale. There’s equally classic and new Autopsy moments occurring within which I think is why this record doesn’t impose itself as simply a “modern” Autopsy record because it doesn’t feel any different than Severed Survival would have done back in 1988. I personally loved this album and every playthrough was sheer joy. Potentially their finest full length since Mental Funeral, albeit with a slew of otherwise exemplary records populating their back catalogue, Ashes, Organs, Blood And Crypts is a deliciously murderous slab of old school death metal, performed by one of the very best ever to do it. Autopsy are far, far from done yet.

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