Review by Rosh on October 29, 2021.
One thing that, to me anyway, is a good mark of an influential band to the underground scene, is when they have a lot of deep, non-album cuts. It makes sense, as the underground did, for a long time, thrive on demo tapes and 7" EPs. Moreover, prolific, hard-working bands will write killer songs but not all of them will make it to their full-lengths. On this point, although Autopsy is one of the most famous old school death metal bands today, they have been quite a studious force since their reunion, releasing not only new albums but also EPs, which means that their compilations like All Tomorrow's Funerals feel well deserved and not like a cash-in (especially given that they included some new material).
However, of their new material, 2015's Skull Grinder mini-album has stuck with me the most, since it features not only some of their strongest songs but also a spacious production job which suits Autopsy's filthy sound. Opener 'Strung Up And Gutted' is similar to 'Twisted Mass Of Burnt Decay' from Mental Funeral in the same way that 'Turn Up The Night' is similar to 'Neon Knights' - similar progression and riffing without being a rehash. On the topic of traditional heavy metal, Chris Reifert's vocals are soaked in a mic-reverb more reminiscent of bands like Judas Priest than the usual "cavernous" echoing of death metal. However, his vocals are, as always, well-balanced between hoarse barks and gurgling growls, which suit the freakish atmosphere. Not to mention, there's also his occasional signature high wails.
The title track of this EP is nothing short of essential and rivals everything Autopsy did early on, while also feeling relevant in tone to modern death metal entities such as Cerebral Rot. Mid-tempo madness accented by sickening guitar melodies that feel all the more effective due to natural production. The rhythm guitar here follows familiar riffing patterns but the momentum is undeniable, and the same could be said for fan-favorite 'Children Of The Filth', although the latter also features an outstanding dirge section in the middle, which just gives modern Autopsy so much character and sick charm, especially with Chris screaming his head off.
'The Withering Death' is a cross between a few songs on Mental Funeral, namely the slithering doominess of 'Slaughterday' and the snail-paced bite of the verses of 'Robbing The Grave'. An effective piece of proto-death/doom metal that few bands could replicate, but Autopsy just goes for the throat here as well as in the unnerving climax of 'Waiting For The Screams'. The latter track is actually the first post-reunion Autopsy song I ever heard, and from that I knew I had to hear all of their newer releases.
Don't tell me that Severed Survival and Mental Funeral are essential death metal but Skull Grinder isn't. This is music for ravenous freaks and it doesn't matter that much of it has been done before by these same dudes. It never borders on self-plagiarism at any rate, largely because the material here is still so lethal and rotten, and it shows the masters of gore still doing what they do best. Lastly, this is a classy slab of old school death metal and a sure highlight of all that the niche stands for due not only to the gnarly music, but also due to Wes Benscoter's instant classic cover art.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10547
Review by Brian on November 28, 2015.
Autopsy is one of the founding fathers of U.S. death metal. Their sophomore album Metal Funeral is the second best death metal album all time only behind Entombed's brilliant debut Left Hand Path. In 1995 after the sub par Shit Fun they split for 15 years, releasing an EP in 2010. After that they've released 3 very good full lengths taking their spot once again at the top of the death metal ladder. A vinyl only EP titled Skull Grinder is set to be released on Black Friday. I am assuming this is a record store day special.
Skull Grinder is Autopsy in all their death metal glory. 7 tracks of slow, fast and mid-paced debauchery only the way Autopsy can do it. Side A starts with "Strung Up and Gutted" a blazer of an opener with Reifert displaying his tremendous screams, growls and groans. Side A's 3 tracks are all amazing and will satisfy any Autopsy fan, with the title track being the stand out on that side, and probably the albums best track. When the turn is made to side B the album slows down the pace. In typical Autopsy fashion they bring out the heaviness with their doom laden brand of death metal. The second side opens with "Sanity Bleeds" which is this strange atmospheric almost intro type of piece. the 2 songs that follow "The Withering Death" and "Waiting for the Screams" are crushing slow tunes that are followed by an instrumental to end the journey.
Autopsy continues to be among the best death metal has to offer. They're one of the few founding fathers, if not the only one left that is still putting out high quality music. In fact with the string of mediocre albums and the last one that was down right bad, Morbid Angel has relinquished their spot at the top of the hill to Autopsy. If Skull Grinder was a full-length, it would most likely find its way into my year end list. I never put EP's in those lists, but I may have to make an exception this year. Regardless, this is a must buy for Autopsy fans and it being only available on vinyl means you get to enjoy it in the best format.
Rating: 9 out of 10