Few bands touch upon the soul of death metal like Autopsy. Throughout their lengthy and influential career—formed in the late '80s, broken up in ’95, reunited in ’08—this Bay Area four-piece have shunned white noise and outrageous BPM counts, focusing instead on a looming atmosphere reminiscent of the unstoppable march of the living dead. Where many death-metal bands charge, Autopsy ooze; where others stab listeners’ ears, they melt them with acid. So Macabre Eternal, the follow-up to last year’s critically-acclaimed The Tomb Within EP, is well named, as it continues the band’s long tradition of groaning gore-worship. (I mean, Jesus, look at that cover!)
Opening track “Hands Of Darkness” is perfectly sets the tone, staggering straight to the point with no sign of an intro. Further blood-sprayers like “Bridge of Bones,” “Born Undead,” and the title track bring more and more unsettling creepiness, with thick-toned punkish chug-alongs broken up by plodding melodic breakdowns. Drummer-vocalist Chris Reifert’s gutteral growls sound as haggard as ever, his unpolished vocal style, smacking of old Celtic Frost, is a breath of fresh air from the perfectly measured screams of many modern death-metal bands. But it’s chaotically catchy twin guitar leads of axmen Eric Cutler and Danny Coralles, especially on 11-minute massacre “Sadistic Gratification,” that keeps Macabre Eternal one cleaver hack above the rest.
One or two tracks are less than necessary; where The Tomb Within was five unbeatable ragers, songs like “Dirty Gore Whore” seems a tad predictable. But overall, Autopsy have created an album that easily stands next to the other fetid classics in their musical graveyard. Fans of ultra-technical death metal or two-second grindcore songs may shun this release, but old-school fans of death metal’s sticky plasma-drenched past will die over and over for Macabre Eternal. CHRIS KROVATIN