The holidays are nearly upon us, and your favorite gore fiends are back from the dissection convention with a new EP titled Skull Grinder, perfect for jamming in the stockings alongside the usual yule entrails and raw meat. Apparently intended as a vinyl only release, Skull Grinder offers seven new tracks of raw, sloppy and unhinged American death metal and it’s as endearing and gonzo as ever. Speaking of Gonzo, much of this sounds like what you’d expect to hear if you dosed the Muppets with high-grade meth and tasked them with recording a death metal album on the fly. And at this point in their history, you have to salute Autopsy‘s steadfast commitment to scabby, nasty, bathtub death utterly devoid of polish or class. They’ll make you thrash and laugh in equal doses. You’ll feel like you need a shower and when you take one, this stuff will leave a ring you’ll need an Exorcist to get rid of. And that my friends is what death metal is all about.
By now there are few surprises to be found on an Autopsy platter beyond just how far out into Lovecraftian insanity the band lets themselves wander. And they’ve wandered pretty far off the reservation here, with moments of completely inspired lunacy. Opener “Strung Up and Gutted” is classic Autopsy in most senses, but Chris Reifert’s vocals are becoming more schizophrenic all the time and it makes for a fascinating listen. The music still sounds like a demon trapped in a steel garbage can and rolled down a set of concrete steps and it’s tough not to love them for their Neanderthal silliness. The title track swings unsteadily between slow, ugly grinding and thrashing rage and the crust-poo is strong on this one. The riffs have cigarette butts and bloody band-aids stuck all over them and you wouldn’t touch them with a fishing pole, but they’ll end up glued to your Christmas sweater anyway and your mom will be pissed.
“Sanity Bleeds” features an exceptionally over-the-top spoken word piece alongside ominous and doomy leads, and “The Withering Death” creeps and crawls like a mutant iguana and the doomy scuzziness is a delight, especially with Reifert’s serial killer ranting and raving piled over the chords.
All seven cuts are good, gory fun and at just under 25 minutes, it ends quickly leaving you confused and abused. I’m not sure this is something I’d necessarily need to hear on vinyl, being as rancid and raw as it is, but the production definitely suits the material and sounds ugly and unfriendly.
Chris Reifert once again proves himself the most bombastic vocalist in death metal history with another magnum opus of vomit, spit, demonic possession and random choking and gagging noises. You can rarely understand what he’s saying and I don’t think he’s using actual words half the time, but who cares? He gives the music that maniac on steroids charm we all love and I hope he never changes a thing. Likewise, Eric Cutler and Danny Coralles once again add value by providing a rich tableau of driving, jangled and idiosyncratic riffs for Reifert to vomit all over. This is definitely a band that knows who they are and what they want to achieve and they deliver time and time again.
In a world in constant flux, the existence of an unchanging Autopsy is oddly comforting. Yes, they advocate slaughtering and eating your neighbors and all that killing spree gobbledygook, but they’re almost noble in their defiance of trends and fads. If they ran for President, they’d definitely get my vote. Autopsy 2016: All Deaths Matter.