The Metal Examiner: Autopsy’s The Tomb Within

Every Friday, The Metal Examiner delves metal’s endless depths to present the genre’s most important and exciting albums.

Autopsy: The Tomb WithinAutopsy: The Tomb Within (Peaceville, 10/5/2010)

Autopsy: “My Corpse Shall Rise”
[audio:|titles=Autopsy: “My Corpse Shall Rise”]

Following his early stint in death-metal progenitors Death, drummer/vocalist Chris Reifert formed pioneering metal act Autopsy. Like other bands in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Autopsy invented its own rules in its quest for extremity, and its blend of doom, punk, and thrash coalesced into a definitive take on the emerging death-metal sound.

In the years since 1995, when the band broke up, Autopsy and other early trailblazers have been worshiped by the metal underground. However, few artists since then have managed to attain the potency of the originators, instead becoming trapped in codified genre paradigms. Formerly great artists have also churned out boring, derivative albums that capitulate to trends or poorly ape past successes.

Autopsy circumvented these foibles by rechristening themselves as Abscess in 1994, adding punk elements to a death-metal style and prolifically releasing albums that, though not always top-notch, were at least consistently weird and fun. Fortunately, the recent resurrection of the Autopsy name brings with it all of the things that defined the band’s classic output.

On this EP, the first Autopsy release in 15 years, the band makes no concessions to modernity, stumbling back into the primitive muck that it was recording more than two decades ago.  The band, however, forces its listeners into a bit of a dilemma, as its over-the-top gore obsession is almost silly. Similarly, Reifert’s menagerie of death-metal voices is loaded with affectations that one might expect from The Crypt Keeper. But despite any surface-level inanity, Autopsy’s music demands to be considered as a relevant, powerful statement. No one ever said that art can’t be disgusting and absurd.

This has always been a band of feel rather than precision, and the sloppy, wet guitar tone coupled with lurching tempo changes is part of the charm. Some moments delve into excitingly melodic territory, as on the opening passage of “My Corpse Shall Rise,” a riff that unavoidably calls up Slayer comparisons.

The meat of these songs, though, lies in the relationship between the swirling of the faster riffs and the bendy mess of the doomier parts. Pairing fast and slow like this is a tried-and-true songwriting technique, but Autopsy offers an idiosyncratic take on it.  Everything feels like it is on the verge of collapsing in on itself, creating a palpable tension that permeates the album. This type of intuitive playing is refreshing in the current landscape of click tracks and replaced drum sounds. Autopsy songs simply would not work if they were mapped out on a tempo grid. This recording is saturated with bizarre styles and clever songwriting techniques, making for a reunion album that is sincere and exciting.

Leave a Comment