Skull Grinder reviews
autothrall on December 12th, 2015
To boldly gore where some men have gored before
When the first tune on your new EP sounds like blistering, vintage Slayer with Chris Reifert vomiting all over it, and coincidentally superior to anything on the latest LP by Slayer themselves, then you officially have my attention. And if Skull Grinder has any defining characteristic at all, it's that it is the most unabashedly primal, old school recording Autopsy have released in this latest era of gruesome productivity since The Tomb Within EP five years ago. I mean, I'm probably not the biggest fan out there of the last three full-lengths. I appreciate them all to an extent, and they do no disservice to my fond memories of Severed Survival, Retribution for the Dead and Mental Funeral, but beyond the loud, abrasive production and obvious personality of the vocals that I enjoy, I just haven't the desire to spin them in any regular rotation these last few years.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, my reaction to this material is much the same. I've had fun with it for a few spins, but ultimately the guitar riffs all too rarely go off in interesting directions, and I find myself relying far too much on its attitude and less on the music. They cycle pretty evenly between their death and doom halves, fronting the record with churning proto-death ragers "Strung Up and Gutted" and the title track, and then about half-way through "Children of the Filth" it slows to a crawl. "Sanity Bleeds" is interesting because it's basically an atmospheric doom piece without the drums, so the guitars wail off all over the funereal landscape and some of the vocals take on this heavily sustained, mourning atmosphere, paired up with Chris-snarls. A coupling that provides for the most unique moments of the EP, and signifies a change in tone since the next 13 minutes are all slower in nature and yearn for that same dreary ghoulishness...like chunks of human flesh swaying slowly on meat hooks, measured pendulums of mortality. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, since Autopsy are experts at that pace, but it wouldn't have killed the recording to have a little more speed/death in there for added balance throughout.
All very straightforward, carnal and ugly stuff, targeted at the band's built in audience and very unlikely to disappoint them. The instruments sound huge, about to tear themselves from the vinyl onto which they're captured, so even when they're playing the riffs that I'd argue are the most dull (like the bluesy doom near the end of "The Withering Death"), they're still vivid and raucous and making the most sonically out of what is fairly uninteresting. Add to that more of Wes Benscoter's colorful artwork, in line with Macabre Eternal and Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves, and you've got a record which fits in flush with the band's yesteryear classics and the incessant meat-train of their recent output. Not their best material by any means, but if you're reading this you probably already know what to expect, and they do not fuck around with those expectations, but grab them by their throats and drag them all down into their gutter of grime and gore. Consistency with its skin stripped off.