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Just as I feared would happen, Autopsy got above their station when conceiving their second album and follow up to the all-round enjoyable Severed Survival, trying to incorporate doom and prog rock moments into a confused, nightmarish mess of a sophomore. Good songs (all four of them) need to be teased out of the woodwork carefully instead of being apparent when the record started. The cover art sums this album up perfectly: loud, garish and confused.
In itself, that isn't good but even worse is the fact that there was definitely room to improve from SS, and the band could've made such a good record. They could've used longer structures to expand on ideas exhibited on the first album and MAYBE, maybe, flirted with more technicality. But no, the band must've taken lessons or something because they became hellbent on more prog. This progressivism rapes the album everywhere, the band taking the long winded route, but keeping the songs short so we are left with works of no real substance. Ironically, one of the most enjoyable moments on the album for me is "Hole in the Head", the only time that the band successfully melds prog rock and death metal, featuring a cool instrumental outro with *gasp* technical guitars.
Aside from "Hole in the Head" there are other, occasional good songs, but the trouble is that the Retribution for the Dead EP render this useless. The EP contains both "Destined to Fester" and "In the Grip of Winter" (great song), so we get two new good songs and a bunch of abortions. So what of these non-abortion tracks then? First up is "Twisted Mass of Burnt Decay", which doesn't fuck around with frilly prog. Nope, the thrilling sound of the Autopsy we know and love launches out of your speakers and grips you. It's an explosion of noise in the best possible way, an exhilarating way, and such misleading bullshit as a start to this album. And then we have "In the Grip of Winter", showcasing the band messing around with doom, and then nothing of interest until tracks 8 and 9.
That's where the fun ends, though. The first noticeable issue, aside from the terrible artwork which the band were right in their initial dislike of and should've commissioned something better, are the irksome short tracks. There's the moderately interesting title track, which I do believe is a pretty sweet acoustic closer, but other than that they're just unnecessary, breaking up the pace which I'd need to be more interested in this album. I have particular beef with "Fleshcrawl", since it denotes the point at which this album falls off a cliff and also the track that introduces "Dark Crusade". I can't really point out specific songs because aside from the ones I like I can't remember any of them, they just all blend into one lo-fi 90s death metal misfire. I do vaguely remember one Eric Cutler song which sounded about as original as a track by Drake, but that's about it.
Scratch that, I can talk about one song, a song which many an overenthusiastic death metal fan has played me expecting me to instantly love it. Well its name is "Dark Crusade", and I don't love it, I fucking loathe it. Let me break it down for you: an unimaginative riff which doesn't draw you in at all leads to some stock drumming and Chris Reifert's indistinct belch sounding somehow worse here than on any other song. A slow, faintly interesting bridge/breakdown leads back to the same old shit as a finale, then the album;s done pretty much. And this is played at most Autopsy shows, and the fans go mad for it for some reason. It's such a poor song that it required its own paragraph. That is the strength of my distaste.
Finally, I suppose this is listenable, after all it's only 38 minutes, but it isn't recommended. I understand that this is allegedly a legendary death metal album but if you want quality death metal and quality Autopsy then listen to the debut, or any other earlier release. This is good to visit the occasional song but as an album it leaves a rather sour taste on the tongue.