Autopsy’s Mental Funeral turns 20 today, according to Metal Archives. It still bests the hordes of bands and albums it inspired. (Boy, did I hear a lot of them with the retro death metal trend of recent years.) The prevailing line is that it is an epitome of barbarity and atmosphere. It is a rallying cry for the denim-and-leather-and-no-triggers set.
The prevailing line is accurate but incomplete. Mental Funeral isn’t a classic just because it pounds and growls and does the things old-school death metal should do. It’s also a classic because it’s surprisingly musical. Of course, it plows the low end, but it stuffs the higher registers with sinister tritones, twisted harmonies, and fluid leads. These form the vaunted Autopsy atmosphere. Many bands copy Autopsy’s brawn but forget the brains.
Yet Autopsy didn’t let these brains get to their head, so to speak. Mental Funeral is a great example of humans getting out of the way of their art, so that it can shine without ego. The record boasts great individual performances, especially by Chris Reifert on drums and vocals. But it’s not about individual performances. It’s about channeling a force, a feeling, an energy. The songwriting feels fluid and effortless (though likely much effort went into it). This record was meant to be. It doesn’t try, it does.
So here’s to one of the most perfect metal records ever. If the new Autopsy album is even half as good, it’ll reclaim quite a few crowns.
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