Autopsy, ‘The Headless Ritual’ – Album Review
Autopsy have been a busy bunch since drummer/vocalist Chris Reifert reanimated the group four years ago. With a single, an EP, a full length, and four new songs added to a compilation, one would be hardpressed to say there’s a lack of inspiration in the once defunct band. With plenty of life left in this old corpse, 'The Headless Ritual' is the latest addition to their ever-expanding catalog, stringing together 45 minutes of their best work since they blew the dust off their inactive status.
‘Slaughter at Beast House’ rubs the chest paddles together and gives a jolt to the heart. The familiar faster pace that the death metal pioneers have been laying down lately warms up the listener before they slow things down in traditional Autopsy fashion. The degradation of the riff at the halfway mark culminates into the gloomy drum, bass and agonized vocal torment that are the meat and potatoes of the band. Things are sped back up with the introduction lead playing the band's slow tempo off and we get the sense that Autopsy are truly back to their old form.
As 'The Headless Ritual' continues, we're treated to tracks that have the classic feel of the first two legendary albums. The tracks ‘Mangled Far Below,’ ‘When Hammer Meets Bone’ and ‘Flesh Turns To Dust’ all have that reckless nature as the band muscle their way through swinging rhythms and the spastic fast vs. slow approach Autopsy have become famous for. The turn-on-a-dime riffing is what really throws the listener around the room, being man-handled by the pace.
‘Coffin Crawlers’ displays an intro lead that sounds straight out of a cheesy horror movie in the best way possible. It’s always exhilarating when a song title corresponds to the feeling that the music evokes. Between the pace of the song and the aforementioned lead, it’s difficult to scrape away the image of maggots eating away at the band’s instruments and bodies as they play until the larvae are satiated.
Not all of this album is just a feel-good nostalgia disc. Though Autopsy certainly do nail the feel of their early material, they put a fresh twist on things with ‘She is a Funeral.’ The song could be considered a ballad of sorts with the chord progressions and mock arena rock sway. Naturally, this isn’t the type of ballad that will receive airplay considering Reifert’s gargled pus-like voice, but could encourage some playful raised lighters in a live setting. ‘She is a Funeral’ is even reminiscent of ‘Funereality’ off ‘Acts of the Unspeakable’ and finishes with a bit of a Sabbathian riff to make for one of the highlights of the album.
'The Headless Ritual' sees a remarkable return to form for the San Franciscan quartet. Stylistically, fans can place this one between 'Mental Funeral' and 'Acts of the Unspeakable.' Autopsy's sonic straightjacket approach is something unique and should be cherished. The listening experience is like watching a madman in the confining garment trying to violently free himself between brief periods of hopeless abandon. These 10 tales of torture are best listened to surrounded by four white walls with that lone bright light hanging overhead, silent, but mocking.