Coffin lids creak open, the sounds of moaning and scrabbling nails against rotten wood intensify and the stench of the grave creeps ever nearer. These unmistakeable signs can mean only one thing…. the fiends from Autopsy have returned and no-one is safe!!
Now, we don’t cover much in the way of death metal here at The Shaman, but there’s always been a deep vein of doom running through the Autopsy sound – creeping, crawling tempos and shades of Trouble and Paradise Lost’s mournful harmonised guitars given a sickening twist by undead guitar tag-team Eric Cutler and Danny Coralles abound. Classic tracks like ‘In The Grip Of Winter’bring colossal amounts of pure crushing doom that no other death metal band can touch.
Ever since resuming their disgusting business with ‘The Tomb Within’ EP in 2010, following a near-fifteen-year lay-off, the loathsome foursome – completed by drummer/vocalist/legend Chris Reifert and bassist Joe Trevisano – have delivered an increasingly virulent series of albums, from 2011’s great-but-slightly-sprawling and a-bit-overlong ‘Macabre Eternal’,through 2013’s plenty-much-better ‘The Headless Ritual’and now this razor-sharp, tight-as-a-beggar’s-grasp offering, the totally focused and gruesomely named ‘Tourniquets, Hacksaws And Graves’.
With no atmospheric moody intro and zero fucking around, the quartet get straight down to business with the one-two one-two opening punch of ‘Savagery’, a track that does exactly what it says on the tin. Cutler and Coralles grind as though their lives depend upon it, Trevisano holds down the depth-charging low, low end and Reifert batters away maniacally, all the while spitting, wheezing and growling his throat raw, and we’re done in a shade over two minutes. That’s how you open a death metal album – viciously and mercilessly.
Moving straight into ‘King Of Flesh Ripped’, the tempo drops and the savagery begins to ooze out via hanging chords, askew harmonies and some ripping leads, presided over by Reifert’s bestial, impossibly throaty snarl – a snarl that reaches new lows of depravity during title track Tourniquets, Hacksaws And Graves, a track that lurches between taut, vicious death metal and mournfully massive early-Paradise Lost harmonies with aplomb.
The pulsating motorik discord of ‘The Howling Dead’s intro features some low, close-to-the-ear narration from Reifert, backed by an eerie drifting swirl of backing hisses, before launching into an unsettling gait that takes its tack from classic Autopsy tracks like ‘Robbing The Grave’and ‘In The Grip Of Winter’, and is quickly followed by the uptempo ever-tightening-razorwire dementia of ‘After The Cutting’ – a definite highlight for me – the bruising creep of the pummelling ‘Forever Hungry’, and the relentless ‘Teeth Of The Shadow Horde’ – which features some totally ripping lead guitar.
The short, funereal interlude ‘All Shall Bleed’’ – all harmonies and backwards atmospherics – sets the scene for the ambitious ‘Deep Crimson Dreaming’, a track that covers one hell of a lot of ground within its five minute span – from howling backmasked guitars and Bastard Noise-style guttural spoken word, through beautiful, crystalline snaking guitar parts backed by acoustic guitar and into something that passes for ‘big-ass rock’ in Autopsy-world – albeit smeared with Reifert’s biting bark – before turning up the atmosphere again and heading for a ‘Dead Skin Mask’-style creepfest and astringent solo section to take us out. The bitter end is nothing more than a pained, dry-throated shriek from the shredded throat of Reifert. Quite a fuckin’ trip!
The final triad of tracks take us through the tumbling pummel of ‘Parasitic Eye’and close with the self-referencing epic driving death metal of ‘Autopsy’, with what is, for me, the definite album highlight on an album chock full of highlights, sandwiched in between ’em – the lumbering, chunking, sickening doom of ‘Burial’, in which Reifert’s revolting voice hits new lows that make him sound like a phlegm-filled bear attempting to gargle molasses and Coralles and Cutler really drag their bent notes and chords out into sludge nirvana. You’d swear their guitars were strung with rusty cheesewire at some points. ‘Burial’is just plain fucking nasty.
With ‘Tourniquets, Hacksaws And Graves’, Autopsy have absolutely solidified their legacy and justified their reputation as both legends and very much still the pre-eminent force in death metal. Seriously, this one is up there with ‘Mental Funeral’ as far as I’m concerned, and if some were to ask we “What is Death Metal?”, I’d play ’em this whilst gutting them like a trout and cackling madly.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson