REVIEW: AUTOPSY – “Skull Grinder”
Formative Death Metal band Autopsy have always been somewhat left behind in the catacombs of Metal’s history. Having kicked around with bands like Death and Suffocation in their heyday (SP?) you can’t help but feel that their new album ‘Skull Grinder’ lacks a certain imagination to root it to this side of the century. Where Death began the final stages of their experimentation and execution, Autopsy ended theirs. Having been resurrected in 2009 to release ‘Macabre Eternal’ and ‘The Headless Ritual’, ‘Skull Grinder’ is to be an album that you’ll either adore for its equivalent content of putrified decaying matter, or belie for the same reasons.
Opening the album is the charmingly titled “Strung Up And Gutted”; a chewy gristle of a track that is reminiscent of the 80’s British grind sound and the Autopsy we know and love. With bands like Carcass having long since moved away from this thrashy format, it’s refreshing but loses impact as the album continues.
Notably, it’s the vocals that stand out most, being possibly the best example of “that’s not singing, you can’t even hear the lyrics”. So ravenous are Chris Reifert‘s vocals on the title track and “Children Of The Filth” that he sounds more like a rabid, bloodthirsty, scavenging wolf than a man.
The second half of the album is where my issues start to begin. “Sanity Bleeds” is nearly three minutes of the same guitar loop, and is a tiring piece of filler that would be passable if the first half of the following track, “The Withering Death” didn’t feel mostly comprised of just an intro. However, moaning aside, it’s a heavy chunk of decomposing rot that’s summons the intensity of standing on the hangman’s drop.
“Return To Dead” begins with an intro straight out of the nu-metal arsenal: drenched in flanger and similar to “Sanity Bleeds” inasmuch that they’ve flogged an idea to death. Removing the two near-redundant filler songs leaves the album comprising of five songs and 21 minutes of music which leaves me to conclude that perhaps ‘Skull Grinder’ could have done with another six months of festering on the surgeon’s table. This really works for some albums – ‘Reign In Blood‘ and ‘Reek Of Putrefaction’ being obvious go-to’s – but those albums had a soul and charm that looping a take seven times over on ProTools just doesn’t.
Overall, Autopsy still have all the hallmark sounds of what brought grind and death metal into notoriety throughout the 80’s and early 90’s. It’s an extreme and gritty album, but if your ear tends towards death metal’s future rather than its past, then ‘Skull Grinder‘ is one you won’t miss.