originally written by Chris McDonald
Despite the fact that this band put out some of my favorite death metal of all time on their first two records, news of a new Autopsy full-length actually went over worse with me than most of the other recent reunions did. Aside from the fact that their last two LPs (Acts of the Unspeakable and Shitfun) were messy and boring pieces of music, the band’s work as Abscess was in many ways the natural extension of Autopsy’s direction, and it seemed a stretch to think the boys could truly differentiate their new material enough to warrant switching bands again.
Macabre Eternal attempts to cull inspiration from all phases of Autopsy’s existence – and much to my relieved surprise, it actually kind of pulls it off. No, it’s not without its own share of stumbles, but when looked at as a collective piece of work and not just a collection of songs (as the bestAutopsy recordings always should be), this album is pretty damned effective and, at times, even spectacular. While The Tomb Within felt slightly hamstrung by its short length as an EP, Macabre Eternal’s lengthy running time allows Reifert and company to explore a multitude of different ideas without being rushed, and they make the most of it.
The band’s doomy side is given ample room to shine on many of the tracks, as is the crusty death/thrash vomiting that they began to embrace on Actsand Shitfun and continued to explore as Abcess. But what’s most exciting is the abundance of trippy, unsettling Mental Funeral-esque harmonies and rhythms that Autopsy delves back into here. Songs like “Dirty Gore Whore” and “Deliver Me From Sanity” are structured around tight, meticulous interweaving melodies and odd time signatures that hearken back to classic tracks like “Hole In the Head,” and it’s a side of Autopsy that I’m very happy to see revisited. There’s plenty of doomed Severed Survivalthrashing as well, and pulled off to great effect in opener “Hand of Darkness” and the title track. Some of the slower moments can blur together, but most of the faster riffs are very distinctive and memorable, and its easy to overlook some of the duller sections as a result. Much likeAtheist’s successful comeback last year, it feels like Autopsy looked to the best moments of their back catalogue for influence while still making an album that feels unique to this chapter of the band’s career.
Unfortunately, some of the problems that plagued the outfit’s last several releases across both eras have stuck around to affect Macabre Eternal as well. The brittle mix is most noticeably detrimental to the atmosphere of the songs. The vocals still feel too loud at times while the guitars sound too quiet and dry, and the drums have an incessant “cracking” tone to them that can get grating as one journeys deeper into the album. It’s also hard not to chuckle at some of Reifert’s lyrical contributions. Autopsy has obviously never been about deeply symbolic lyrics, but some of these lines are too corny to ignore, and Reifert’s increasingly intelligible vocals exacerbates this issue. A song with a title like “Dirty Gore Whore” is bad enough, do we really need Reifert weezing “Rape youuuuuu, kill youuuuuuu” in a breathy snarl on top of it? Instances like this are generally fleeting, but they’re comical and cheesy enough to take you out of the moment when they surface. And while the idea is interesting in theory, the eleven-minute narrations of “Sadistic Gratification” really bogs the end of the album down, and could have easily been chopped in half without a loss.
Still, considering how it could have turned out, Macabre Eternal is a pretty satisfying ride. It covers all of the hallmarks of Autopsy’s sound – frenzied violence, demented atmosphere, antisocial hatred – in a relatively cohesive and enjoyable package, while effectively separating itself from the band’s pre-breakup material. It’s got its faults, to be sure, but if you’re willing to accept that this band’s greatness is a thing of the past and just listen toMacabre Eternal to enjoy it, then enjoy it you shall.