Autopsy is remarkably consistent. For the fourth time in as many years since reuniting, the Oakland band has released another full-length, the awkwardly titled Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves. Autopsy has now reached a point where post-reunion output nearly matches the initial catalogue in size, and it’s easy to forget they were absent for fourteen years. That’s because Tourniquets… falls in line with the rest of Autopsy’s sound, and your preference in terms of their past works will determine if you like this one.
So what does Autopsy continue to do extremely well? They can turn a funeral trudge into a death metal barrage that’s sickeningly visceral. Their sludgy death metal is always threatening to fall apart, songs shambling like doomed, hungry corpses until slimy riffs suddenly swarm into punked-up, puked-up, grinding hordes of rottenness. Solos from all are plentiful and inventive, even verging into classic rock heights. All this is abetted by Adam Munoz’s production, which cleans up the cobwebs but none of the dirt from expectations formed by 1991’s Mental Funeral. See thrashy opener “Savagery,” or the locked-in “Teeth of the Shadow Horde” for thrilling examples.
Tourniquets…’s very fault might be its consistency as an Autopsy album. Most songs meander between a slower tempo and a frantic death pace, which results in a familiar jigsawed feel to them. As always, Chris Reifert’s unhinged scum-gargling voice is probably the tipping point. Not all of his vocals (or experiments) are a success. Rasping and grunting like a swamp beast works for most songs, but the spoken word sections of atmospheric “The Howling Dead” or “Deep Crimson Dreaming” drag on beyond credulity.
It might have been better for Reifert and co. to wait on these songs a bit longer to lend them more distinction. With time comes appreciation, but like those hungry corpses, Autopsy seems to be on the verge of overwhelming us.