Uncomfortable, disturbing and insidious

When Chris Reifert and Danny Coralles put Abscess to bed after last year’s disappointing Dawn of Inhumanity, it was really just a matter of time before Autopsy would stagger to life once again.

For their first album in 16 years, the California quartet has upped the production values to bring it into line with modern expectations, thus leaving behind the dirty, crusty sound of their early masterpieces, Severed Survival and Mental Funeral.

Macabre Eternal might sound a lot cleaner, but that doesn’t mean Autopsy has forgotten how to be one brutal and evil band. The opening track rips out a path of relentless violence that sets a tone of furious and filthy death metal. Then “Dirty Gore Whore” goes into an almost-Abscess direction with a berzerk riff and a breakdown reminiscent of Slayer with Reifert sounding like he’s gone completely insane. “Always About to Die” and the cuts that follow revert to vicious slabs of brutal death that shift almost imperceptibly between tear-your-face off speed and slower slab-like parts.

Enter then “Seeds of the Doomed”, where Autopsy gears down into a doomy sludge with a surprisingly melodic riff. It’s so different from everything else, but still unaccountably Autopsy and close to the album’s best moment. Following this are some weaker, non-descript tracks of which only “Born Undead” stands out. It’s almost as if the band has used up all their ideas on the first half. Until, that is, “Sadistic Gratification” enters the picture, a sprawling, sinister 11-minute plus exploration of human depravity. A slow, doomy intro builds towards sections of wildly thrashing death metal that recede and then explode again to a gruesome climax of purely evil vocals and slamming riffs underscored by the screams and pleas of a female torture victim. It’s creepy, hackle-raising, uncomfortable, disturbing and insidious, exactly what death metal should be. Macabre Eternal should end there, but Autopsy adds a jarring coda in “Spill My Blood” that veers between blazing thrasher and sludgy drone before a sudden finish.

All told, it’s a somewhat exhausting 65 minutes, making it about twenty minutes too long with the inclusion of the various filler tracks around the middle but even so it is a solid return from some true masters of real death metal.

1. Hand of Darkness
2. Dirty Gore Whore
3. Always About to Die
4. Macabre Eternal
5. Deliver Me From Sanity
6. Seeds of the Doomed
7. Bridge of Bone
8. Born Undead
9. Sewn Into One
10. Bludgeoned and Bloodied
11. Sadistic Gratification
12. Spill My Blood