Review Summary: Autopsy hit hard with a fantastic return to the form of their first couple of albums, with some brutal riffing and aggressive vocals and an energetic performance from all musicians.
A band held in as high regard as Autopsy should be a band that rarely slip up in their musical career. Each of their albums should have at least one thing good about them in order to continue their musical progression and uphold their legacy. Sadly, this has not been the case for this highly influential death metal band over the course of their last three albums, all of which have felt a little underwhelming given what came before. Whilst 2011's Macabre Eternal showed a little more energy than the two that preceded it despite the sixteen year gap between that and S*itfun, it still felt somewhat underwhelming. Thankfully, 2013's The Headless Ritual is a whole different kettle of fish.
This is an album that shows off all the elements that made early Autopsy so enjoyable. The riffs are brutal and crushing, and yet remain well paced as the slow and doomy introduction to Arch Cadaver shows off nicely. Autopsy have never been a band to rely on playing as fast as humanly possible, and therefore the Headless Ritual is merely a continuation of their early works. However, this track also shows off the fast and technical side of the band with a nice fill after a cool bass solo that leads into thrashing drums and incredibly fast tremolo picked distorted guitar lines. The vocals merely capitalize on the rest of the mayhem that is taking place, with some low grunts and fantastic higher pitched shrieks that add an entertaining and varied voice for the band to utilize well.
This track is merely the tip of the iceberg however, with the title track in particular showing off how well the two guitars weave in and out of one another. The lead plays a beautiful string of higher pitched notes during the introduction whilst that sludgy atmosphere that the band is known for is maintained by the crushing low-end rhythm guitar, which then continues as the song builds up. This is the sort of album that sounds like the ideal soundtrack for a funeral, and one can just imagine the band sat there in a pitch-black tuxedo, perhaps wearing a dark colored cravat whilst some dude plays a macabre sounding piano as they wrote this album. Such an atmosphere is seldom found anywhere else, and is masterfully put together on this release.
This is nothing short of a violent assault on the senses, with it surprisingly getting off to a thundering start with one of the quickest moments on the album and some fantastic high shrieks on Slaughter At The Beast House. This is an album where pacing means everything, and the band wasted no time in getting the speed out of there system before it is business as usual for a number of the tracks, which involves schizophrenic pace-changes and bludgeoning slower riffs mixed in among the hyper-fast guitar work the opener showcased. The production is very nice, not falling into the trap that albums such as Cryptopsy's self-title fell into by retaining the rawer feel than many modern metal bands attempt. This is overall a fantastic return to form for a band that was somewhat lacking on their past outings.