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Autopsy aren’t a band who require much in the way of introductions. Nonetheless Chris Reifert announces their presence on stage at Reggie’s Rock Club with the guttural roar of ‘We’re Autopsy… and we play death fucking metal’. This was one of the final live sets at Reggie’s before lockdown took away all we cherish and hold dear. So perhaps in the absence of the real thing a live album isn’t a bad idea during these bleak and barren times for gig goers.
Any Autopsy advocates who have followed the band closely since they formed in San Fran in 1987 should be fairly familiar with most of what they run through on this live recording. Nonetheless, the mid-song chatter and crowd roars of appreciation makes for a pretty solid and endearing hour and a bit of old school pulverising death metal.
“Severed Survival” doesn’t so much as get the bandwagon rolling as yank its wheels off with some sharpened fretwork at the end threatening to take an eye out before the blastbeat overload that signals the much pacier “Twisted Mass of Burnt Decay”. “Disemboweled” sees Reifert in full Dying Fetus chug mode as Autopsy wind things in a little before moving on to the album’s longest piece, “Ridden With Disease”.
Throughout their near 35-year career, Autopsy have been death metal pioneers, progressive enough to mix things up rather than feeling restricted by the brutality of the genre. It is the slightly longer songs such as “In the Grip of Winter” that allows Autopsy to show the full breadth of their crushing control centre, slovenly and monosyllabic at one point before cocking the trigger and plunging into an altogether more animated and deadly dimension. Reifert’s ability to play the drums while also acting as the band’s main vocalist simply adds to Autopsy’s appeal.
Clearly there was a period when their extended hiatus of 15 years or so did mean we could only speak about Autopsy in the past tense. Fortunately, since returning a decade ago with the Macabre Eternal album they have never looked so full of life.
There is also some pleasing symmetry at work with this release. Live in Chicago being released via Peaceville Records, the renowned Yorkshire label also responsible for the band’s seminal early releases such as Severed Survival and Mental Funeral.
A whole generation of band’s have down the years cited Autopsy as an influence, along with Reifert’s previous band Death. Few had previously made the connection between death and doom but once Autopsy spotted the intrinsic appeal of playing it hard low and slow they set about making the sound their own, as exemplified by the pounding march of “Burial”.
With the gore served by the bucketload to the Chicago crowd on the likes of “Torn From The Womb” and “Embalmed”, Live in Chicago makes for an explosive X-rated listen. The one new song is the brief “Maggots in the Mirror”, which may well reemerge when the band next hit the studio.
Ending the set with “Service For A Vacant Coffin,” Autopsy respond to the faithful’s fist-pumping chants, returning to wreak more merry mayhem on “Pagan Savior” and “Charred Remains”, before taking their leave with a breakneck cover of Bloodbath’s “Fuck You”.
Finally, it would be remiss not to draw attention to yet another stunning piece of Autopsy artwork, this time Wes Benscoter (Slayer, Nile, Kreator) allowing his fiendish thoughts to run riot.
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