It’s been quite some time now since AUTOPSY‘s colossal 2011 comeback album Macabre Eternal confirmed after their initial toe dip in 2010’s The Tomb Within EP that the California kings of death metal depravity were truly back. An absolute monument of nauseating and lecherous heaviness, it remains one of the landmark death metal albums of the decade thus far, and its follow-ups in The Headless Ritual and especially Tourniquets, Hacksaws & Graves cemented AUTOPSY‘s place as legends who still seemed to be overflowing with quality material that honoured and furthered their legacy. In fact, we were spoiled. Where for the first half of the decade AUTOPSY seemed to be releasing new music like clockwork at least once a year, with albums even coming less than twelve months after their predecessors in the case of Tourniquets, Hacksaws & Graves, the constant stream has for whatever reason now abated somewhat. We are still waiting for a full-length follow-up to Tourniquets approaching four years on, and instead AUTOPSY have taken to releasing so-called mini-albums when the fancy strikes them.
Puncturing the Grotesque is the second of these after 2015’s Skull Grinder, and even down to its ghoulish hand-drawn cover art, it’s a new level of crass and degenerate for post-reunion AUTOPSY. This is by no means a criticism; AUTOPSY thrive off it. Whereas MORBID ANGEL’s infernal majesty and CANNIBAL CORPSE’s unstoppable brutality have made them household names to even those outside of death metal, AUTOPSY are well and truly death metal for the most grisly-minded of death metal fans. Where CANNIBAL CORPSE are a machine, with AUTOPSY, the sloppier the better. Not to say that the musicianship in AUTOPSY is poor (it isn’t), but there’s a charming crudeness in their delivery and especially in their faster moments the feeling that things could fly off the rails at any moment. When the title track kicks in, that’s precisely the vibe on offer, a reckless stampede like MOTÖRHEAD uprooting gravestones after a heavy chemical binge.
There’s very little here that could be described as refined or tasteful. Drummer and vocalist Chris Reifert still sounds like he’s vomiting blood profusely and has turned utterly deranged from the constant spew, and his erratic and wild drum style draws more from punk and early hardcore than the hyper-technicality of much death metal. The Sick Get Sicker is as a title just about a mission statement for AUTOPSY’s career, Gorecrow slathers its riff in prime Iommi-isms, and Gas Musk Lust slows things down for the kind of freakish death-doom that could only come from the band that gave us Mental Funeral. Their closing cover of Fuck You!!! by BLOODBATH (an underground thrash metal band from the 80s, not the Swedish death metal supergroup) meanwhile is AUTOPSY at their most gleeful, that runaway train feeling more prominent than ever as Chris closes the recordings in a state of vulgar near-ranting.
It’s a fairly apt way to end things, because if there’s one thing AUTOPSY don’t care about, it’s being respectable. If that’s the attitude you want in your extreme metal, then AUTOPSY are your band, and Puncturing the Grotesque could not come from anyone else. Its one downside is being frustratingly short. Let’s have a proper album soon please guys.
Puncturing the Grotesque is out now via Peaceville Records.
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