Autopsy: Tourniquets, Hacksaws And Graves

San Fran’s death metal pioneers stage an ambush

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“We were there, then we were not, then we were there.” So runs the official biography on Autopsy’s Facebook page, and the maverick, trailblazing San Franciscan foursome’s 14-year hiatus now happily seems a distant memory – albeit one full of great Abscess albums. Since 2009’s comeback seven-inch, Horrific Obsession, the reactivated death metal luminaries have been feverishly making up for lost time with compilations, DVDs, an EP and three new studio albums, this latest emerging just eight months after 2013’s The Headless Ritual.

So Tourniquets, Hacksaws And Graves is a surprise of near-Bowie-sized proportions; it seems nobody knew Autopsy had already recorded another 50 minutes of foul-stinking horror-doom-death shot through with caustic dollops of aggro punk. These are immediately evident on crusty two-minute opening salvo Savagery, beginning like Twisted Mass Of Burnt Decay on 45rpm before bursting into d-beat frenzy with jittery razor guitars. This is counterpointed against King Of Flesh Ripped, a more moody headbanger with twisted gothic harmonised guitars.

The title track contains surprisingly elegant melodies and tricksy structures behind its simple, bludgeoning main riff, while Deep Crimson Dreaming edges closer to the bestial psychedelic death-sludge of Abscess. Burial is out-and-out snail’s-pace doom – until a final minute of frantic Slayerized grind – and The Howling Dead drunkenly molests the rotting corpse of early Sabbath. It’s moot to question whether post-2009 Autopsy are spreading themselves too thinly; there’s plenty to get your teeth into here.

Although rough edges continue to be polished off of this once-legendarily stoned band’s performance and sound, there’s a wild, spontaneous and human chemistry to Autopsy’s derangement – refreshing in a genre where clinical mechanical dexterity often seems the highest priority. You can’t really get away with the under-production of early classics like Mental Funeral and Acts Of The Unspeakable in 2014, which might continue to peeve some underground purists, but 25 years since their seminal debut Autopsy remains one of the most fearsome cult names in extreme metal.

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.