Autopsy – The Headless Ritual


Review by Paul Castles

Peaceville Records

Autopsy….. gory, stomach churning and gruesome. The barbarous American death metal legends have always tried to live up to their name, and, as on latest release The Headless Ritual, usually manage to do so. There’s no symphonic introduction to take you gently by the hand towards this snarling beast of unbridled aggression and savagery. Instead you‘re flipped upside down and thrust head-first into ‘Slaughter At Beast House’. Midway through the album’s opener Autopsy suddenly bring things down to a crawl allowing Chris Reifert to bark his distinctive incendiary cries across a piercing guitar screech that mirrors classic Sabbath while the slow-pounding death knell drum merely turns up the tension a notch. If ever someone sounded in more need of medical assistance I’d like to hear them, or probably not. After a minute of Reifert’s satanic phlegm coughing barrage of vitriol, Autopsy resort to thrash heavy type before immediately slamming straight into ‘Mangled Far Below’ another extraordinarily putrid piece of destructive chaos.

It’s no surprise of course that these Californian legends can continue to come up with material this menacing. After all, they’ve been at it for a quarter of a century. They may have taken a 16-year hiatus when members filtered away into other projects but Autopsy signaled they were back from the dead, so to speak, in 2011 when releasing Macabre Eternal. The Headless Ritual builds on the momentum established on that album and the San Francisco ghoul grind godfathers have clearly got the bit between their festering teeth once more.

‘She is a Funeral’, at seven and a half minutes the longest of the 10 tracks, is a corpse-grinding thundering frightener, with Reifert howling as though he were auditioning for the title character in American Werewolf in London. With Autopsy the splatter, filth and decay is so prevalent you don’t just hear it, you smell it too. You will need a shower after listening to this entrail-twisting package. On the chugging slow-burner ‘Coffin Crawlers’ it almost feels like you’re in that big black car lying next to the mutilated body of someone who met their end in a particularly grisly fashion.

When they want to mix it up then Autopsy can get through the gears as quickly as the next hearse driver. ‘When Hammer Meets Bone’ and ‘Running From The Goathead’ tear things up with about as much diplomacy as a wild boar entered into the ‘best cattle’ class at an agricultural show. Even here though the quartet can’t resist that mid song lull, more warped sermons at the pulpit before Reifert rips off the dog collar and leaps head-first into the dark hands held aloft below. The closing title track is two minutes of sludgy guitar laden riffs with Reifert resting his vocal chords and sticking to his other role, that of drummer, pounding out a heavy dominant beat that darts in and out of the spiralling guitar licks. All we need now is a visit to the UK from one of the US’s most respected and most macabre members of the death metal family.

Autopsy - The Headless Ritual8 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. Slaugher At Beast House
  2. Mangled Far Below
  3. She Is A Funeral
  4. Coffin Crawlers
  5. When Hammer Meets Bone
  6. Thorns And Ashes
  7. Arch Cadaver
  8. Flesh Turns To Dust
  9. Running From The Goathead
  10. The Headless Ritual