After a long sojourn, splat metal heroes AUTOPSY returned to much favor in 2010 with "The Tomb Within" EP followed by their fifth full-length, "Macabre Eternal", a year later. This year, Chris Reifert brings back his clatter and his pukes along with guitarists Eric Cutler and Danny Corrales plus current bassist Joe Trevisano for the band's latest grind and doom venture, "The Headless Ritual".
AUTOPSY has historically been an insiders-only metal act. Reifert and company have always tested the constitution of their listeners with meaty left hooks and slow trampling interludes with the express intent of maximizing the squishiness of their implied gore. Not that CANNIBAL CORPSE is accessible music by any definition, but they're easier to catch onto because of their shameless speed. AUTOPSY frequently takes their time and switches gears to the point they reveal occasional sloppiness, which is obviously their intent. They're one of the dirtiest death metal acts on the planet, all so their riffs come across appropriately horrific and the solos glowering and gloomy.
Case in point on the opening numbers of "The Headless Ritual". "Slaughter at Beast House" and "Mangled Far Below" churn and chug with bookended velocity and plodding doom measures in-between. The doom section of "Slaughter at Beast House" is especially lengthy it feels like being banished to a cage with no key.
Chris Reifert never was the prettiest vocalist of his ilk and expect nothing but his nastiest, most sickening ralphs on "The Headless Ritual". On "She is a Funeral", Reifert belches and barfs the lyrics to such repugnance one thinks The Great Wakkorotti went death metal. Comedic to the point it nearly becomes a put-off as much as a put-on, Cutler and Corrales bail the track out with gnarling solo sections that segue into the creepy intro of the subsequent cut, "Coffin Crawlers".
The album's best-written track, "When Hammer Meets Bone" moshes like a Wendigo on the loose following a revolting, acid-filled projection from Reifert. The stamping rhythm and haunting melody in the brisk opening section is immediately skidded to another doom foray before cutting loose once more in the bellowing third stanza.
Following the paranoia-inducing ostinato of the interlude "Thorns and Ashes", the album switches between thrash and poke-about courses. "Arch Cadaver" and "Running from the Goathead" stay in speed mode longer than most of the album's other songs. Cutler and Corrales toss out flurries of gonzo solos on both tracks while Joe Trevisano and Chris Reifert keep rumbling undercurrents beneath them. Reifert's fortitude for multitasked drumming and wallowing has always been one of AUTOPSY's signatures, but "Arch Cadaver" really lets him show off. Ditto for the messy but undeniably devastating "Running from the Goathead".
Not for the weak, "The Headless Ritual" is everything an AUTOPSY record is reputed to be: moist, repulsive, brutal and filled with spectacular six-string bloodletting you feel almost craven for savoring it.