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'Mental Funeral'

(Peaceville records)










MARK: 94/100




   

Prologue
   
While ex-comrades Death were on the way to refine their sound, and other Death Metal bands were trying to be faster, Chris Reifert decided not to move to Florida and formed Autopsy with the aim to go the opposite way: sicker, slower, rawer than Death's "Scream Bloody Gore", and he's pursuing this direction to this date!
   

Package
   
The version is my hands is a 4-page CD released in 2009 including 3 bonus tracks and additional photos.
   

Visual aspect and trivia

   
The front cover portrays a repulsive painting by Kev Walker, also author of the alternate front cover of the debut "Severed Survival", on a black background.
High stands the logo formed by a different monster for each letter composing it, each with its snaky tail. All the logo is dripping lots of blood.
The title of the album is written smaller in red and seems to recall a writing made by a graffiti artist with a spray can.
At the center of the front cover we see a monster with 2 paws, and some claws. It's dark green and may somehow remind of certain monsters from the "Berserk" comics. It looks like a toad deformed by radiations or something.
This monster can count tens of faces, some of which are of the same red of some jelly organs deformed in turn and pathologically grown out of the body. One of the faces is pulled so hard that the skin is widened like the one you can see in some cartoons. There might be a reference to the original cover of "Severed Survival", where the unlucky protagonist's skin is extremely pulled by hooks towards different directions homaging the flick "Hellraiser", who the band members were big into.
Then you can see one face inside another face, and every face has monstruous teeth and horrible mouths. One face even has horns/claws in place of the eyes and one more face appears from the back of this creature.
The two inner pages contain a black background, on which the lyrics were written with a type and in a pattern that was trendy during those years.
The fourth page shows a black and white photo of the Californian quartet near an electric tower to increase the feelings of melancholy and depression.
The disc reprises the front cover artwork, and when you pull it off you see a collage of photos in black and white, mostly of the band members and mostly live.
The back of the CD exhibits a picture in color of the band, at whose shoulders stands a giant electric grid. To be noted is the fact that the colors on this page are white, black and red, with the green color missing. The title of the album on the side of the case is vivid green, yet.


Being Chris Reifert a lover of horror movies, he chose this monicker for his band after watching a 1975 flick by the same name, which he considers one of the best-crafted movies of the genre.
   

Lyrics
   


This is not a concept album, still the songs talk about diverse topics which have death in common:

* toxic rain from the sky that burns, deforms and kill men, women and fetuses
* someone lost in the snow during winter finding death after a few desperate survival attempts
* the fact that we're bred to slowly decay and decease
* cannibals torturing, murdering and eating on Slaughterday
* being stiff and cold in a grave
* a female mortician making love to corpses and drinking their blood to be whole
* a twisted mind that destroys the wicked in their eyes as God or some demons said to do
* vermin picking at a decomposing person alive and spreading their disease
* the kill and profanation of certain preachers' and their followers' corpses

All of the lyrics were composed by Chris Reifert except "Slaughterday", written by Eric Cutler.

   

Engineering
   
Recorded at legendary Different Fur studios in San Francisco, between November 20 and 26, 1990 by Ron Riegler, the 12 tracks and the 3 bonus were digitally remastered at Transformation in 2003. Despite the absence of Pro-tools, the sounds here are incredibly good and balanced, even if someone swears the first batch of the album was recorded in slower mode than normal.
   

Track-by-track musical analysis
   


In order to be consistent with the first full-length, "Mental Funeral" (great title by the way!) begins with "Twisted Mass of Burnt Decay", the logical continuation of that album: short, rapidly displaying that guttural caveman's voice we have been loving from the first demos, the track doesn't disdain to use faster tempi, some stopped cymbal work repeated once, and tom fills before repeating the pattern of the first verse. At a certain point there's a very interesting mid-tempo part followed by a slow one enriched by a scorching guitar solo ending wth a Thrash Metal acceleration alà Slayer.

"In the Grip of Winter" changes things, based upon a groovy mid-tempo with tasty bass lines, then seeing the two guitars busy embroidering licks or a Doom/Death Metal riff digging deep in our souls. Unfortunately there are two distinct noises (glitches) in the recording which have left a bad taste in mouth as I'm in front of a remaster, which appears not to have been done properly, but it might also be a fault in my copy. I don't know anyone with the same CD version and I haven't found an online version of the CD in my hands.
After these bothering seconds we hear some tom rolls before a new riff and some axe solos. The mid tempo steals the spotlight most of the time, until a break arrives with a slightly distorted guitar and light drumming. Later on, the Autopsy trademark sound comes back during the slow and piercing guitar solo leading us towards the finalè, constituted by a fast 10-second riff closed by a Tom Warrior-like grunt.
This composition may remind of Melvins, proving the influences that Black Sabbath, Trouble, Saint Vitus, Witchfinder General and Candlemass had on composer Chris Reifert.

The first instrumental is "Fleshcrawl", a brief track made out of a guitar riffing in staccato, while a second just performs strokes in contrast.

Without pauses "Torn from the Womb" enters. It's a mid-tempo Death Metal episode sustained by a Thrash Metal riff and ogrish vocals. The almost Progressive time variation that soon occurs controls drums and guitars and then Autopsy repeat the initial riff, interrupted by a bass line. Granitic drums and Doom/Death Metal galore are what expects us afterwards, then a guitar solo bound to crash in the vein of early Death or Morbid Angel follows. The primitive Death Metal regains control once again recurring to punishing vocals often overlayed. A last breakdown and a fast riff conduct us to the end.

Not beating about the bush, "Slaughterday" immediately utilizes coarse and suffering vocals with Chris able to pass from guttural to screaming quickly and smoothly. The ensuing riff is one of the most hypnotic of the album, then we have a Hardcore/Death acceleration that we'd call Sludge today, followed by two even faster structures, the latter in the vein of early Death, as well as the following riff. The vocals don't last long and are as usual ferocious.
A riff similar to one in "Spiritual Healing" and a time change with a lively snare drum and guitars work couldn't have been followed but by a killing Slayerian solo. The vocals return mixed low and not too Death Metal sounding, and a few seconds later it's about time for an inhuman scream and the opening riff used to conclude.

Fading in quick in a rotten manner in the very beginning, "Dead" varies fast so as to reminds us Death's harmonies, then it veers again towards Doom/Death Metal, with drums always slightly falling out of the time beat the listener would expect; just a minimum delay to still sound correct and as human as possible, but never sloppy.
A drum breakdown and riff with the guitar trilling is repeated before reverberated spoken vocals appear in the background, followed by vocal emissions from entitites not from this world, a mid tempo riff and shrieking licks are the most memorable elements from the track closing the first side on the vinyl versions.

Fast Death Metal blastbeats leant on several multiform riffs until a superheavy Doom/Death Metal powerchord riff interrupts all and caveman vocals reminding us of a godly retribution about to fall from the sky are the key moments in "Robbing the Grave". A dynamic time variation follows, the finest vocals of the album are here to donate variety and incisiveness.
A Thrash Metal riff diversifies the recipe, helped by fast kick drums. A punishing riff returns stressed out by Reifert's grunts, then Doom and Death Metal are mixed, united by a satanic laughter, some liquid leaking abundantly in the background (urine, blood?). A tight guitar solo closes before the four piece launches in its last fast rhythmic ride.

Over 6 minutes for "Hole in the Head": Thrash Metal riffs alternated with each other until a wicked Doom/Death Metal break sets in. The rhythm suddenly becomes faster together after a violent scream, ensued by ferine vocals placed on a tight pace fragment. Drums and guitars slow down for a tempo which has little to do with what then-label mates Paradise Lost used to deliver then. This one is rawer, more sulphureous and animal. The vocals here are meant to pierce our ear-drums and parade sheer suffering and the highest degrees of human depravation, till a guitar pops in for some licks and two lightning-like separate solos. More vocals appear and this time they're as patienceless and grotesque as pure evil possessed people's until Doom Metal grabs the torch of the command, in turn robbed by the Thrash Metal riff heard in the opening.

"Destined to Fester" sets forth with a Doom Metal guitar riff and lick, replaced by a transitory part, and then by a scalding piece of Doom/Death Metal. Vocals like the ones from a mad giant go on and then a bass line arrives. The drumming grows rapid again, accompanied by guitar and well-performed vocals pretty soon. Everything is modified when a guitar reshuffles the atmosphere, a mid tempo influenced by Swedish Death Metal arrives. An acceleration like only Autopsy know to create, pungent guitar solos at full throttle, a speedy section and an annihilating mid-tempo are what lies in the last chunk of the composition.

46 ultrafast seconds of instrumental Thrash Metal alternated with a Death Metal riff without mercy and a short ferocious riff at the end are all that composes "Bonesaw".

Fast and brutal as it is for Autopsy's standards, "Dark Crusade" begins by offering involving and sundry rhythmic alterations before the voice appears. Then there's a fairly technical Death Metal frame with brisk tom rolls preceding a Doom/Death Metal one showing all the might of the guitar tone.
A non-human scream comes before a Slayer-like solo are followed by other high malevolent ones, as well as other guttural ones; a stock for all tastes! A special mid-tempo riff arrives to outclass all the previous ones before a memorable Thrash Metal riff closed by Reifert's vomiting throat emissions.
One of the best conceived riffs is a Doomy one at the closure, sustained by monolithic drumwork and sporadic bass strokes.

All of a sudden a second guitar, an acoustic one, gradually grows in an arpeggio while the rest of the instruments is being faded out, giving a steady 90's touch to the picture as a whole. We're in front of the last instrumental piece, the title track.

Among the 3 bonus tracks, "Retribution for the Dead" is the one I consider the most valuable, as it is the only new track from the homonimous EP released before Autopsy's comeback. There are two more songs that have been used on "Mental Funeral" actually, but besides a re-recording on the album there's not much difference to notice about them.
The title track of the EP decidedly stands out due to its powerful and clean sounds, and the guitar solos are also more refined than the ones in the Californian combo's second offering, maybe because the band had more time to work on them, as the EP contains only 3 numbers.

"Ridden with Disease" is a demo track with the typical compressed sounds resulting from a demo recording. The vocals remind me of Chuck Schuldiner's early ones, while the amount of headbangable axe solos is real impressive for just one song.

The hostilities are ended by "Service for A Vacant Coffin", here presented in a live version. I find the nicest aspect within this track is the bass parts, along with the drumwork during the dynamic structures, which seems less hazy than in the remaining ones.


   






   
Value
   


Only now can we see that the songwriting value and the historical one are paramount whenever referring to "Mental Funeral", so it is a great thing to fill this gap by catching hold of this or another re-release that keeps the spirit permeating these songs alive should you not be able to find a vinyl copy. I myself admit I didn't pay enough attention to this full-length when it came out, as I wasn't ready for such an extreme product. I was ready for other extreme styles, and yet Autopsy seemed to me a minor band that I could remorselessly skip in the ocean of releases that flooded the genre. How wrong I was! The point is that you need time to appreciate Autopsy, a few albums by other contemporary bands before understanding why it was written like this, what happened in the minds of Reifert and company when they were inspired during the songwriting process. Autopsy don't put together your typical Death Metal album, although their records contain all of its traditional elements.

   

Available versions
   
The album is also available in digipak or slipcase, as there've been several reissues with diverse remasterings, or even as a CD + DVD.
   

Conclusion
   
This platter has never achieved a big following because when it was released most Metal fans were interested in the latest releases by Earache, Nuclear Blast or Roadrunner records, and Peaceville records used to sell more Paradise Lost albums than Autopsy's. Still, the Californian act has been able to create its own niche where a restricted, but very devoted number of fans was waiting for a comeback to "Severed Survival", seen as one of the most extreme records of the time when Thrash Metal was beginning to be respected enough in the scene.
One could easily sum up these songs as a balanced mixture of US and Swedish Death Metal, more or less Death melted with Exhumed and early Dismember and finally Unleashed immersed in a waterfall of downtempos, tremolo picking over heavy powerchords delivered with a fuzzy distorted deep but clear guitar tone, and matched with disgusting, dirty, scary, sadistic and insane lyrics. But there is more hidden in the songs that make this sophomore album far more than 'the sickest shit imaginable' to quote Reifert: odd time signatures seamlessly laid out, non-conformed tribalistic drumming, clean and essential production with some reverb to every instrument that guarantees a darker sound in comparison with the debut, versatile singing style that uses guttural roars absent in the previous album, differentiating the two guitars during the slow portions.
The feeling is what matters first here, not being the fastest, most brutal or most technical act. Secondly, the intelligent improvement in the songwriting that allows each of the 12 tracks of the album to be a distinct entity allowing track differentiation that lacked in some of the debut album's compositions.
Manic Death/Doom Metal that is also generous in darkness and is played with incredible power and conviction. A true massacre Autopsy have never been capable of repeating!
   


   

MARKUS GANZHERRLICH - July 12, 2022
   























Tracklist:

1. Twisted Mass of Burnt Decay
2. In the Grip of Winter
3. Fleshcrawl
4. Torn from the Womb
5. Slaughterday
6. Dead
7. Robbing the Grave
8. Hole in the Head
9. Destined to Fester
10. Bonesaw
11. Dark Crusade
12. Mental Funeral

Bonus tracks:
13. Retribution for the Dead
14. Ridden with Disease (demo)
15. Service for a Vacant Coffin (live)





Discography:

-1987 Demo (demo - 1987)
-Critical Madness (demo - 1988)
-Rehearsal 09.04.1988 (demo - 1988)
-Severed Survival (full-length - 1989)
-Eternal/Twisted Mass of Burnt Decay (split - 1991)
-Retribution for the Dead (EP - 1991)
-Mental Funeral (full-length - 1991)
-Fiend for Blood (EP - 1992)
-Acts of the Unspeakable (full-length - 1992)
-Shitfun (full-length - 1995)
-Tortured Moans of Agony (live album - 1998)
-Ridden with Disease (compilation - 2000)
-Torn from the Grave (compilation - 2001)
-Dead As Fuck - Live in 91 + 93 (live album - 2004)
-Dark Crusades (video - 2006)
-Horrific Obsession (single - 2009)
-Awakened by Gore (compilation - 2010)
-The Tomb Within (EP - 2010)
-Macabre Eternal (full-length - 2011)
-Mauled to Death (2012 unmastered version) (single - 2011)
-All Tomorrow's Funerals (compilation - 2012)
-Born Undead (video - 2012)
-Peaceville Presents...Autopsy EP (compilation - 2013)
-The Headless Ritual (full-length - 2013)
-Introducing Autopsy (compilation - 2013)
-Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves (full-length - 2014)
-Skull Grinder (EP - 2015)
-After the Cutting (compilation - 2015)
-Skin Begins to Rot (boxed set - 2017)
-Puncturing the Grotesque (EP - 2017)
-Autopsy vs. Bloodbath (split - 2017)
-Critical Madness: the Demo Years (compilation - 2018)
-Sign of the Corpse (compilation - 2018)
-Live in Chicago (live album - 2020)




Line-up on this album:

Chris Reifert - v., d. (also in Siege of Power, Static Abyss, Painted Doll, Violation Wound, ex-Abscess, ex-Burnt Offering, ex-Death, ex-Desecration (live), ex-Doomed, ex-Eat My Fuk, ex-Frightmare, ex-Guillotine, ex-Mirror Snake, ex-The Ravenous)
Eric Cutler - v., g. (ex-Dark Hall, ex-Doomed, ex-Funeral, ex-House by the Cemetary, ex-Necrosic, ex-Scolex (live))
Danny Coralles - g. (ex-Abscess, ex-Bloodbath, ex-Doomed, ex-Mirror Snake, ex-The Ravenous, also in Eat My Fuk)
Steve Cutler - b.










Contacts:
Oakland, CA - USA

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Website: 
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DON'T MISS THIS ALBUM'S VIDEO REVIEWS IN ENGLISH AND ITALIAN:

English video review:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFV3VRJZEsQ

Italian video review:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdiBT4v5NHs



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