Ah, Autopsy – the olde school gore hounds who helped birth not one but two extreme genres. Dead in an excrement-filled ditch after the toilet misadventures of 1995s Shitfun, they rose from the poo-mulch in 2011 with their mammoth Macabre Eternal comeback and they’ve been threatening extreme wiolence ever since. Hot on the heels of 2022’s highly impressive Morbidity Triumphant, the scuzz-boys are back with Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts.1 Normally when a band has so little time between releases I’d worry they rushed things, but Autopsy seem to get inspiration in big, bloody blocks and strike while the iron is hot. Does that mean their 9th album is another triumph of caveman death over decorum and good taste? Indeed it does, and yet Ashes is a very different beast than Morbidity. With the same lineup as last time, Ashes finds the band at their most free-spirited and adventurous, taking the classic OSDM style they helped define and playing with expectations, adding bells and whistles to the classic formula. Outside influences new and old pop in and the vibe feels confident and playful. Worry not, this is still Autopsy after all, so many were harmed in the creation of this splatter trash.
There are plenty of classic Autopsy moments here, like the berserk opener “Rabid Funeral” which has all the best meats and cheeses of their influential career pressed into one bloody feetloaf. Their classic punk-thrash gallop provides a lovely foundation for founder/drummer/main maniac Chris Reifert’s “unusual” vocals which only get better with age. Rather than staying one-note, the song takes a hard right turn at the midpoint, slowing things down to a grinding mid-tempo as Chris’ insane vocals are multitracked to approximate a horde of hungry undead. These slower paces give Danny Coralles and Eric Butler space to deliver meandering solo work inspired by horror films. An interestingly expansive take on the classic Autopsy sound. Then they break out the rusty surgical tools for the absolute morgue burner “Throatsaw” which reminds me why I’ve loved these guys for decades. It’s such a deranged ode to all things OSDM with everything as over the top as possible and it’s enormous fun. “No Mortal Left Alive” is equally funtastic with an irresistibly shambling chug groove pushing things off the cliff into a fiery mass grave.
Surprises reveal themselves as the album plays out. “Well of Entrails” sees them revisiting their love of doom, but this is different than the oppressive death-doom crushitude we expect from Autopsy. This is classy, epic doom in the vein of Candlemass and Sorcerer.2 As polished and respectably epic as the riffs are, once Chris shows up, everything gets puked on and those graceful leads lurch into titanic Triptykon-style bending doom leads that will pulp your eggshell skull. It’s quite a wild ride. The title track starts life as stoner doom before slipping into an open grave, and it winds out in such an oddly laid-back way that you’ll feel suspicious and uneasy. Elsewhere, “Marrow Fiend” gets a big injection of early Iron Maiden guitar work, and “Toxic Death Fuk” channels Dead Kennedys as it stomps around angrily. While every track has something fun to offer and I love the restrained experimentation, the album doesn’t hit quite as hard as Morbidity Triumphant did overall. That said, it’s close in quality and the expanded universe of sounds and tempos makes for a more varied listening experience which may give it greater staying power. At a tight 42 minutes, Ashes is a breezy bucket of guts with songs kept short and punchy. The production is good if too clear and the guitars could use increased bite.
More so than any recent Autopsy outing, Ashes feels like a free-for-all for Coralles and Butler. They run amok exploring different styles and moods in the context of foaming-at-the-mouth death metal and their solo work and decorative flourishes are impressive. The band sounds loose and it’s clear they were having fun trying new things. Slayer worship rears its head on “Bones to the Wolves” and Dark Angel-friendly thrash fury is conjured on “Death is the Answer.” They toss in plenty of doom and bits of stoner rock and there’s an increased traditional metal element present too. Chris Reifert is his usual unhinged self and sounds certifiable. He’s a genius at deranged vocals and he makes every song more skull fucking. The whole band sounds extra inspired and spry, like they just came from Countess Bathory’s Day Spa.
It’s great seeing Autopsy find this late-career high gear. They’re the Satan of death metal, releasing some of their best stuff 30 years after their classic era. Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts is another very good brick in their mausoleum of madness and loads of disgusting fun. I hope they keep churning out stuff like this until the dead rise to devour the living. Check out these Ashes.