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Following their reunion, classic death metal behemoth Autopsy has seen a glorious return to the elite fold of the genre. Their comeback full-length 'Macabre Eternal' received wide praise whereas the follower 'The Headless Ritual' divided the fans, with yours truly belonging in the praising camp. Taking their patented formula into the 21st century has seen no major changes in the Autopsy sound.
We are still fed with the astonishing horror-flick inspired and upright weird riffs and guitar lines that made 'Severed Survival' and 'Mental Funeral' the classics they rightfully are. Backed up by the inventive drumming of Chris Reifert and the mastery of both doom- and up-tempo passages, the patented Autopsy formula continues to be both haunting and utter crushing.
It does not take many minutes of 'Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves' to settle that we are in for another slab of Autopsy's greatness. Reifert's drumming is perhaps the best and most inventive since their 90's albums and has, along with the guitar work, a more thrashy vibe than Autopsy's last two efforts, particularly in the solos and up-tempo sections. The doomy parts on the other hand are focused on the horrific and weird making 'Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves' the direct descendant of 'Mental Funeral' more so than the bands last two offerings.
The vocals follow the more pronounced barking growls known from 'Macabre...' and '...Headless...' mixed with more deep insane-madman-on-the-run-styled growls further reinforcing the 'Mental Funeral'-vibe. Some of the material on this piece is not only their best since the reunion, but among the best the band has ever produced. In theory, everything is set for Autopsy's greatest glory since the 90's, but in practice such is not the case.
'Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves' contains two flaws really. The first being filler material, namely 'The Howling Dead', 'All Shall Bleed' and 'Deep Crimson Dreaming'. Not bad songs per se, they do contain all the ingredients of the tasty Autopsy soup, but simply do not lead anywhere and will not really take off. The latter of the trio in particular falls short in the weirdness arena. Where Autopsy has made art out of the ingenious weird, 'Deep Crimson Dreaming' simply becomes weird weird. Supposedly intended as a breather, it rather disrupts the flow of the album along with the other aforementioned parts of the trio. The base solo in 'Deep Crimson Dreaming' also reveals the second, and more major, flaw of the album, the production.
Said problem can be summarised in one word, flat. The production on this album lacks any proper deep between different instruments. In particular, the bass is annoyingly quiet. One of my favourite aspects of the Autopsy-sound was the notable and enjoyable highly mixed bass lines which strongly contributed to the greatness of songs like 'Charred Remains.' Now, the bass is way too quiet at best and barely distinguishable at worst.
Reifert's awesome drumming is also mixed too low throughout the album, again without the proper deep that can lift even the more silent instruments in the mix. The flat production does not give the weight that could have been to the doomy passages in particular and the album does not take of properly without an effort from the listener. For the first time since the reunion one has to endeavour to see the beast behind the beauty rather than getting it served on a silver platter.
Once overcoming that obstacle 'Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves' do contain some simply astonishing material. Which Autopsy fan can resist the groovy horror-flick riffing in 'King of Flesh Ripped', the intricate guitar work of the title track, the mind blowing drumming in 'After the Cutting' or the rolling galloping riff in 'Parasitic Eye'? No one, I would presume.
Even more impressing is the bold attempt to write a song with the title 'Autopsy'. When writing a self-titled song 27 years after forming the band it should damn well contain everything that defines said band. Autopsy steps up to the plate and gives us a masterpiece with everything we hold dear, the fast and the slow doomy, the straightforward and the intricate, the horror, the aggression and the weirdness. All delivered in the best individual song since their reunion. Had it been found on one of their classic 90's albums it would have been the given closer of any Autopsy show, let's just hope it will get there eventually.
Despite the part brilliance of 'Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves', the incoherent flow and the flat production makes it weaker as an album than its two predecessors. The best songs will undoubtedly kill in a live setting and is reason enough to return to the album from time to time. As a coherent piece of work it does not however truly live up to the Autopsy standard, which might say more about that standard than anything else.
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