DB HOF NO. 50
The making of Autopsy’s “Mental Funeral”
There is influence and under the influence. California’s Autopsy were both. Formed after Chris Reifert split from Chuck Schuldiner’s Death in 1987, Autopsy, through two heavily traded demos (1987 Demo and 1988’s Critical Madness), forever scarred teenagers from California and New York to Germany and Stockholm. Mostly Stockholm. Warped by Death, Genocide/Repulsion and Black Sabbath, and corrupted by horror movies (Fulci’s The Beyond is considered a group fave) and horror-comic magazines like Creepy, the inevitable sound to emanate from the San Franciscans was a gurgling stew of year-old bongwater, uneasy determination and fuck-you, turned sallow from Reifert and crew imbuing the fetid liquid with carrion, human femurs, bile and ballsack scabs.
Autopsy’s debut album, Severed Survival, curdled and polluted the blood of many. Entombed’s classic Left Hand Path might have been more “Strutter” than “Charred Remains,” Unleashed’s first full-length foray, Where No Life Dwells, could’ve ended up like “One Rode to Asa Bay” and Like an Ever Flowing Stream would’ve sounded more like Left Hand Path if Severed Survival hadn’t slimed its way onto wax and into grubby collections of folks who reveled in Autopsy’s purposefully unperfected putrid form. Revered as Severed Survival is, it was follow-up Mental Funeral that would herald a thousand plagues and unmentionable THC-induced nightmares in 1991. In fact, then-mayor Arthur Christ Agnos shut down entire districts to protect San Franciscans from Autopsy’s foul cadence. Well, the former and the latter ain’t true, but Mental Funeral does rule. Warts and all. Darkthrone’s Fenriz and Nocturno Culto thought so, too. Riffs from “In the Shadow of the Horns” bear resemblance to Mental Funeral cut “Slaughterday.” As did Germany’s Fleshcrawl, for obvious reasons.
Sway aside, Mental Funeral is incredible. Rustic, rude and full of rancor, Autopsy’s second splatter-platter jogs brains into submission. It reminds us of death metal forebears and their original intent. Of Autopsy’s intent—to frighten, repulse and rebel against the common, the good. Listen to the baked doom of “In the Grip of Winter.” The killer tones at the end of Stockholm blueprint “Dark Crusade.” Or Eric Cutler’s shrieking solo trills in “Torn from the Womb” and the tumultuous cascade of fills, near-misses and caveman beats from Reifert in instrumental “Bonesaw.” Imbibe heavily in the drummer’s sewer vocals. Mental Funeral is badass. It’s ugly and menacing. There’s no escaping it. No alternate route to safety.
Autopsy (rounded out by guitarist Danny Corrales and bassist Steve Cutler) were never loved by the press. The group was largely regarded as death metal luddites—a dilapidated product of a distant era. Morbid Angel, At the Gates, Carcass and Suffocation—three of the four are Hall of Famers—have long enjoyed godlike status, but not Autopsy. The Californians never got their due. Until now. With Mental Funeral, Autopsy are permanently etched into Decibel’s flesh-bound and fingernail-spiked grimoire otherwise known as the Hall of Fame. Welcome, Autopsy. We’ve been waiting for you.
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