Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves reviews
Chernobog on May 20th, 2015
Back to Basic Brutality
It's been quite a while since I was introduced to Autopsy via their classic "Severed Survival", and if you had skipped from that record to their most recent album "Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves", listening to none of their work in between, you would assume they haven't changed all that much. Obviously the production has gotten better, and as a result, the sound Autopsy is going for can now be better represented in the studio. But as far as that sound goes, "Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves" is death metal of the traditional thrash inspired vein that brought us Death and Obituary, and almost never does the band deviate from this basic formula. Whether this rigid adherence to a classical sound raises this album up or pulls it down may be more a matter of taste, though for what it's worth, their insistence on keeping it basic works more in their favor than had they tried to sound like a modern technical death clone.
Which is what brings me to the two best elements of this album, which are the guitar solos and the vocals. Listen to any modern death metal album and both the solos and vocals remain entrenched in one solid territory. In the case of solos, there is rarely a guitarist that will write and play a solo that does not sound like an attempt at emulating Slayer's "shrieking" style of soloing, and there is little to no feeling injected. In the case of the vocals, most modern vocalists work in two ranges: cookie monster growls and banshee shrieks, and there's not much in between. Having said that, what had me so attracted to what Autopsy is doing on this record is the band having an impressive lead guitarist in Danny Coralles, who can do something more with his instrument than arpeggio on the highest possible notes. Tracks like "King of Flesh Ripped", the title track and "The Howling Dead" actually manage to convey some emotion other than pure frenetic energy, and perfectly compliments the uncomfortable atmosphere contained in these brutal songs. He even performs what appears to be a wah drenched solo on "Forever Hungry", which in my experience is rare for a death metal band. Vocalist Chris Reifert has an incredibly versatile voice for a death metal vocalist, going from low growls, to rabid snarls, high pitched shrieks and semi growled shouts (such as in "Deep Crimson Dreaming") that is almost reminiscent of pre-death metal thrash artists such as Possessed. Such a vocal style will be disconcerting to anyone unfamiliar with death metal before Cannibal Corpse, but in an era where very few extreme metal vocalists are immediately distinguishable from the crowd of cookie monsters, vocals such as these are a breath of fresh air.
These two memorable elements aside, the rest of what is on here is standard fair for Autopsy. The riffs are a nice balance between sinister, Black Sabbath doom riffage and late 80s death metal speed and brutality. Indeed, one of Autopsy's big songwriting strengths on this record is how they rarely try to keep their songs at one pace, going from slow and doomy to intense and brutal, such as on "Parasitic Eye". If you know Autopsy, you know the lyrics will be full of blood and gore (the album cover art should have given that away), so there's no surprise there. Being a fan of this particular strain of death metal, I enjoyed this record, but it did not leave much of an impression on me beyond it's nods to age when guitarists could write passionate solos and vocalists could sound unique. At one point in the song "After the Cutting", we have a riff that sounds nearly identical to that in their riff in "Charred Remains" from their debut. Take that tidbit of information as you will; if you are a fan of late 80s style death metal like I am, you will enjoy this record, though I can't guarantee that this will be the death metal record that will stay with you forever.
RondofedoR on May 1st, 2014
Tying another one off.
It looks like a 16-year hiatus is just what the doctor ordered for Oakland’s Autopsy, death metal pioneers who apparently have little intention of slowing their momentum since returning with 2010’s The Tomb Within EP and their lauded 2011 comeback album, Macabre Eternal. After releasing last year’s The Headless Ritual, another faithfully horrific limb of grisly death highlighted by tracks like “Slaughter at Beast House” and “She is a Funeral,” the quartet have reemerged from the crypt with Tourniquets, Hacksaws, and Graves – oh, my – a record that continues their trend of abattoir nostalgia and terrific cover art (Wes Benscoter).
If you’re well-versed in the trade of Autopsy, then surprises should be at a minimum with Tourniquets, Hacksaws, and Graves. The band ply death metal with a concerted focus on graveyard ambiance spliced with meaty riffs and devilish solos. Autopsy have never needed aid in penning riffs, and they don’t here, wielding a mortician’s case of 90’s death metal cutlery and sharpening the saws with a modern edge. As they have across their careers, Autopsy thrive off of their ability to transport the listener to the scene of a funeral or massacre, toiling at a pace never too far from that of a mid-tempo jaunt. It’s old school from the old school and these things, as you know, rarely change.
Saying that, one of the more unconventional songs on Tourniquets, Hacksaws, and Graves must assuredly be “Deep Crimson Dreaming.” Coolly strummed and wisely drummed, Chris Reifert’s gurgles and a lolling bass from Joe Allen not only lend the song a distinct beauty to its melancholy madness, but it allows it to sound completely different from its rattling brethren. Follow-up “Parasitic Eye” nearly follows suit before eventually ghost-riding into territory a tad more familiar, although it exists as one of the album’s speedier four minutes. “Burial” moves at a dragging pace, offering up a template of fat riffs, plodding drums, and a foggy atmosphere before the casket drops and all goes haywire in the last minute or so.
The impetus to listen to or, perhaps, purchase Tourniquets, Hacksaws, and Graves lies in Autopsy’s ability to create horror-show death metal with a strict old school flair, never overdoing the splatter or the jump-scares, intent on balancing both. There’s pungency and there’s talent, and the band utilize them effectively, although the final result never really makes the listener coil back from stench or versatility. Tracks like “The Howling Dead” and “After the Cutting” cough up precisely the type of slogging and ghastly grue Autopsy fans should be eager to delve into.
Written for The Metal Observer
Twin_guitar_attack on April 26th, 2014
Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves
Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves is legendary death metal band Autopsy’s seventh full length release, and the third since the bands reformation in 2009. With previous album The Headless Ritual having been released less than a year ago, its a very swift return for the purveyors of dirty, sludgy death metal, and they follow up a good album with an even better one. With a decidely modern production, there’s still a good deal of filth and evil on offer in another great album from Autopsy.
Savagery kicks the album off with a vicious assault of thrashy death metal. Chris Reifert roars away in his somewhat unhinged manner against a backdrop of fast pounding riffage with a great dirty guitar tone, and incredible drumming. Refiert’s always been a tremendous drummer, pounding away with a fearsome rhythm and delivering really creative fills, he gives a great, inventive performance throughout the song, and indeed the album, with lots of technical playing. The slower doomier riffs in the middle of the track give it a thick murky atmosphere, and the solos are fantastic too, fast and technical, with a great piercing tone, Autopsy have always had great solos and they continue that here, they’re some real face melters. Following up with King of Flesh Ripped the band continue in the same great manner with their trademark slow doomy riffs, bringing a dense, crushing atmosphere, while the title track is one of the album’s best, with a slow, groovy riff opening up, before speeding up into a thrashy masterpiece. With a mix of catchy riffs of all tempos to force your head to bang, and some great, vicious vocal lines, it’s a really good catchy track. The solo deserves a special mention too, its absolutely twisted and all over the place, in the best of ways. It sounds evil, deranged and fantastic.
The final two tracks on the album are fantastic, and are sure to become classic Autopsy tracks. Burial is a slow, crushing slab of horror, with some of the best doomy riffs on the album. Suffocatingly heavy with an evil plodding atmosphere, and low, sickening growls, it feels like you’re unable to move, watching in fear while a psychopath slowly buries you alive. And the closer, the eponymous Autopsy is a really fun track. With the lyrics paying homage to previous track titles, it’s like a self-penned tribute to everything that makes Autopsy so great. With yet more fantastic catchy mid paced riffs and a brilliant chorus, its simple but very effective. It’s a great catchy track that’s sure to bring a smile to the lips of any fan of the band.
There are however a few weaker tracks in the middle of the album such as the dull instrumental All Shall Bleed, and Forever Hungry, which don’t stack up so well compared to the rest of the album. Feeling a little like filler, they lumber around without really going anywhere, and are easily forgettable. They’re certainly not bad tracks though, they’re just not as impressive as the rest. One other small problem is the production. It’s just a little bit too clean, it doesn’t sound quite as dirty and raw as it perhaps should. It’s not overly so and it by no means ruins it, but a little less polish and the overall sound would definitely be improved.
Ultimately, if their best album Acts of the Unspeakable was a blast of filth, like being dragged into a disgusting sewer, brutally tortured and slowly, violently killed, Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves is like being chased by a vile horde of lumbering zombies. It’s still scary and evil, but not quite up to those lofty standards of ultimate death metal disgust. It’s still a really great release all in all, not their best but damned close, and it shows they’re still one of the best death metal bands around today.
Originally written for swirlsofnoise.com
Tengan on April 25th, 2014
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.
Originally written for www.metalcovenant.com
autothrall on April 25th, 2014
Meat the Cleavers
It seems like the further we get into reformation Autopsy, the more the band's records are steadily regressing back to the first material they made their imprint with. So it was with The Headless Ritual, and so too it is with Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves, their 7th overall full-length. Not that this is lamentably generic or lacking much personality. Far from it. In fact, this must be a wet dream for those who'd rather not acknowledge the Californians' output beyond 1992 (or most of death metal, for that matter). But those faint traces of dynamic expansion one might have discovered through Macabre Eternal are all but left by the wayside. Tourniquets... is unabashedly retro, though it avails itself the benefits of current studio wizardry for emphasis on its gruesome, atmospheric mix of vocals and instruments, which is most likely my favorite component of this album and the one area in which it exceeds its two predecessors.
Let me be clear: I didn't wet my sheets over this one, and thus I risk no embarrassment the next time my mother changes them over with the laundry. Tourniquets... is a record I dug for a spin or three, but not one I find myself compelled to reach for time and time again. It's not like Autopsy required yet another reaffirmation of all that they had established over two decades past, but this fills that role nicely, full circle, an orouboros of decayed worm-guts, and much of what you like about this will be what you enjoyed about Mental Funeral and Several Survival. There are at least a half dozen riffs on this thing, like the intro to "King of Flesh Ripped", which I thought were genuinely fantastic...and then a whole lot of other ones that weren't, in particular the doomy death stuff, which seems all too bland, predictable and derivative of about a million other riffs I (and perhaps you) have heard ad nauseum through the decades, and don't really evolve beyond that with the possible exception that they're oft smothered with one of the most wretched and memorable vocalists in the genre.
And I mean that! Chris Reifert is all over this mother fucker like a gang of ghouls whetting their appetites on the local hospital children's ward. His post-T.G. Warrior grunts are on the level, raving and barking corpse-starved lunacy all over the guitars, and in addition they've cleverly layered in a number of rasps and gutturals to create this massive, cavernous sense of intimidation. I liked him so much here that it became mildly easier to forgive the fact that half the guitar progressions bored me nearly to tears. There is so much depth and torment to his growls that it quickly renders anything else in the mix almost pointless, because there's just no way to match this unless you are writing some severely evil, catchy shit, which about 70-80% of the time here they are not, just laconic, sluggish doom steps with mild, mournful harmonization, or nostalgic death metal passages where the last note is all but guaranteed once you've heard the first. Other strong points include the springy, loose guitar tone which lends itself to most of the more compelling riff patterns on the disc, and Reifert's drums which are loud, boisterous, organic, with levels you'd just kill to have in a live setting.
There's the usual sense of variation in how mid-paced death grooves are exchanged with a few faster and slovenly tracks, just like the first two albums (and last two albums). I think they pretty expertly know how to fit the pieces of an album together, even when all those pieces are not ultimately equal in quality. For instance, the opener "Savagery" felt pretty tedious and bare-bones despite its concise length, but they really only use it to generate excitement or "King of Flesh Ripped", one of the best individual songs they've written in the reformation era. Slower, atmospheric, horror-driven pieces will capitalize on the listener's desire for a break after some more intense sequence, and there's absolutely a fleshy sense of novelty to a handful of Cutler and Coralles' performance that I wish had carried through to a broader majority of the songwriting. Again, Autopsy holds the sort of underground status that they could literally record an hour of saws cutting through carcasses at a slaughterhouse and people would find some genius in it, but I felt too evenly a balance of the 'impressed' and 'underwhelmed'.
Honestly, there are probably 15 minutes here, 3-4 tunes which in an EP format would be the most effective material they've released since Mental Funeral and Retribution for the Dead in 1991, so it's not exactly a bust even for me. For many others, who consider them the pinnacle of the medium, this will likely make the end-of-year-list rounds with several triumphs assured. I'm just happy that they still have it within them to create some of the ugliest death metal they know how, and there is no sense of fear or hesitation to channel their grisly essence as far over the top as possible, which is evident through Chris' vocals if nothing else. Compare this to, say, that half-assed new Massacre album, and it seems brilliant by contrast, yet I'm still waiting for the Autopsy record that finally impacts me the way these Californians have inspired so many other death mavens. This is not that year, unfortunately, but to be fair, there are enough glints at grotesque genius here that I certainly still can't write off the possibility of it ever happening. It can. I hope it will.