Autopsy’s Sickening Death Metal Lives On in “Morbidity Triumphant” (Interview with Eric Cutler)
Autopsy are a household name with sick horror freaks worldwide, and are widely regarded as one of the most influential bands in all of death metal history (as I noted in an article celebrating the 30th anniversary of their sophomore album Mental Funeral). As a genre that was initially spawned largely by weirdo teenagers, most bands playing death metal in the ‘80s have long since either stopped entirely or lost the fire that made them good. Autopsy are a special exception, and death metal fans everywhere wait with anticipation for new recordings.
Finally, after a gap longer than any other between new albums since Autopsy reformed more than a decade ago, these Bay Area maniacs are back with a new album and it does not disappoint. The production is morbid, the tempo changes are as extreme as they’ve ever been, and the riffs have a freshness that defies belief given how long Autopsy have been kicking around. Every band hopelessly imitating them over the years wishes they could write like Autopsy still do, and the “triumphant” part of Morbidity Triumphant is dead on. Chris’ voice is as brutal as it’s ever been, and he’s understandable and distinctive as he lays down tales of gore, murder, and horror while somehow also playing drums–something that’s even more mind blowing live than it is in the studio.
While of course everyone knows what to expect from guitarists Eric Cutler and Danny Coralles after years of killer material, their riffs are still devastating enough to more than justify new material. Even more important is that the arrangement of the songs is excellent. There are a lot of bands out there that write good riffs but don’t know how to use them quite right, and Autopsy rises above their imitators not necessarily by having better or fresher riffs (though they do) but by putting them together in a way that helps each riff batter with the more force possible and stick in the brain. The bass from new thick-string-man Greg Wilkinson (owner of Earhammer Studios, and various instrumental roles in bands like Brainoil, Leather Glove, Static Abyss, and more) adds a heft to the material that has always been a large part of Autopsy’s trademark, with an end result that punishes and pleases. This is a classic band at their best, showing the kids how it’s done and satisfying their longtime fans all at the same time.
Morbidity Triumphant comes out on September 30th on Peaceville Records. Mark your calendar and read below for an interview with OG Autopsy axeman Eric Cutler below.
It feels to me that you guys have been experimenting with both faster and slower songs on the last couple of albums, exploring extremes in your sound.
We never have any plan in mind on how we want the sound. As you write music and you do for years, you progress with stuff you don’t intentionally try to do. Whatever comes at that moment is what you’re writing. You can’t force it, you can’t try to do something different, whatever you’re feeling at that moment and that time period is what’s coming. Sometimes we throw stuff out and figure out what we like better from what we’re coming with but there’s no real goal in mind with wanting to play slower, heavier, add doom to it, play it faster, anything like that. It’s just a matter of whatever we want to play at the moment.
Speed is sometimes determined by Chris because we might write something and not have something as fast in mind, and he might speed it up when we rehearse and make changes as we rehearse. Something might be slower and end up faster because it sounds better with the rest of the riffs playing it live, or something might be slowed down a bit because it sounds better as a groove as we play it. It’s not anything we plan.
Is there any planning on albums? Are there ever any goals when you start?
We don’t really have any plans and it just comes together. Once we record everything and listen to it back and decide how a track listing is going to go, that’s when we start planning things with how the album flows. What should open the album, how does that song end, how does this next song begin, how does this go together, that’s the only planning we really do. Sometimes we try things and decide it goes better but it’s not out of a matter of planning so much as people writing stuff at home, bringing it to the room, and making little changes. It really isn’t planning, we get together, work it out, and see what happens.
Do you ever sit down after the fact when doing the album arrangements and make changes to differentiate from a previous album?
It’s not even something we consider. We might sit down and make changes based on what a song might need but we never compare to something we’ve previously done in our minds. It’s never the focus to outdo a record or do something different from a record. We don’t have any thought process at all on what we’ve done previously when we’re working on new material.
Would something like the cold open of the new album when it goes right into the hard riff on “Stab the Brain” be the kind of thing that you’re aiming for, with having a really big impact on the intro?
We have a lot of stuff that starts out kind of fast, that’s one thing that we thought about after we recorded everything, to have the album start like that. Mental Funeral starts with “Twisted Mass” and it’s fast. There’s a lot of openings that we’ve done that were fast. Initially we thought we weren’t going to open the album fast and aggressively, do something a little different, but we didn’t have any process in mind on how that’d be. We wrote all the songs, worked them out and rehearsed them, and when we recorded everything we listened to the songs and thought about what would be good to open the album with. As we went through the beginnings of each song, because we’d heard them all so many times rehearsing them and didn’t want to hear them again, we quickly went through it and came to what the opener should be and that was “Stab the Brain” for this one.
There wasn’t a thought of what should be really aggressive or anything, just what would be appropriate to open the album with. We came to the conclusion that it would be the best opener for the record, fast and aggressive, and it’s not what we were thinking at first but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.
Is your self-editing process why your albums have reduced in length since the band has come back together?
It’s not really about that. We thought Puncturing the Grotesque was probably long enough to be a record but it was put out as an EP. We really didn’t think about that for several years as far as what we want to do for recording an album or EP. Everybody had a lot of things going on in their lives for several years and so we were chugging along and doing what we were doing but the band wasn’t the main focal point of everybody’s lives, but we’ve come to a point now where everybody has passed all of the things they were dealing with and the band is our focus now.
We’ve got this full length to put out and we’re starting to work on another one now. The one thing we did think about is that we don’t want to put out any more EPs or short lengths, we want to put out full lengths, make them more than 30 minutes long. If they’re 30 minutes or less record labels want to bill it as an EP. We don’t want to make records too long as well so that’s something we think about. Macabre Eternal was very long, it was a double record, and we really had no idea how long it was when we recorded that. We weren’t recording the songs at practice and trying them out or anything but it is something on our mind now.
You said that everybody is back in the game and ready to attack, and you’re already working on new material. Should we expect a release cycle that’s more like what was between Macabre Eternal and Skull Grinder that was back to back to back releases as opposed to the wait between Puncturing the Grotesque and Morbidity Triumphant?
We don’t plan on any long waits. Our goal right now is to get another record out next year. We’ll see how it goes because we’re just starting out with the new stuff and just got through the last one, but we had a pretty busy year for Autopsy. We don’t tour or play a lot of shows but in 2022 we have nine shows that we’ve done, a few out of the States, recorded an album in there, and got a new bass player in the mix. It was a busy year for us but we don’t plan on sitting back and waiting, we’re in that moment where we feel that things are coming easy and we want to go ahead and do what we can do. We like it, we enjoy it, and the band is very cohesive. We want to move forward and not sit back. We’ll probably be doing more with this next record that we have planned to record next year and I don’t see us having a big wait after that between things.
When did you actually finish recording Morbidity Triumphant?
It was in July. We finished up in July and it takes a little bit of time to get everything out there.
And then you guys recorded again with Adam. I was a little surprised to see to see that you got in a pro producer like Greg in the band that you’ve worked with before and then continued working with Adam like you did for the last few years.
Greg is a studio owner and engineer, but he’s a musician first. We’ve known him for years. He runs Earhammer Studios, that’s him, and a lot of other bands go there and we’ve done a lot of stuff there with recording other projects, I recorded Necrosic there, Chris did Violation Wound there, we’ve done stuff with Greg as an engineer but foremost he’s a musician. He’s a longtime friend and it was really funny, we always wanted to go record something with him at Earhammer because we love the recording he does and he’s a great engineer, but we never considered that he should be in the band, but when it came that we needed somebody he was number one on the list to see if we could get him. He was on board and wanted to do it so it was an easy process.
It wasn’t like we got Greg the engineer slash musician in the band, it was that we got our friend Greg that played bass in the band that happened to also own Earhammer Studio and do that as well. It was an easy transition because he’s such a great guy. It’s really helped the band out, I think, with just hanging out with him and playing with him. We’ve always got along great with him and it was a perfect scenario and timing to have him come on board.
Since you mentioned Necrosic, is there anything going on with that band?
Right now I’ve got it on the backburner, no plans to do anything. I don’t really feel like I’m into playing in other death metal bands right now, with writing this kind of music I’d rather just focus on Autopsy and not do anything else that’s the same kind of music. It might happen again, it might not, but as of right now there’s nothing happening.
Does that mean that something that’s not death metal might be on the table?
Sure, I play other kinds of music and I always have. There’s other things that I’d love to do at some point if I have time to do it. I haven’t had time to do it, but that may change. It’s possible I’ll do some other stuff. Playing Autopsy and death metal, and Necrosic as death metal, and it’s fun, but writing death metal I’d rather focus on Autopsy, but I do write lots of other types of music. At some point I’d like to look into doing other types of stuff. I’ve talked about it with Chris a little bit and he’d like to do it too so maybe at some point we’ll venture into something else. Right now there’s no time for that with doing Autopsy. We all have lives and kids and families and stuff so there’s not a lot of time if we want to really peddle down on Autopsy to do that. That’s where we’re at right now, my mindset and the whole band.
That’s fair. Are you already looking at stuff for next year?
We booked Stonehenge and we booked a show in Seattle, Washington for next year. We’ve looked at other things but we haven’t locked in on anything else yet. We don’t want to do anything early in the year because we want to maybe record another album before May if possible. We don’t want to overbook stuff right now. We did that this year and it was tough to do everything. When we were recording the album we were working on new songs, practicing those, and rehearsing to prepare for live shows as they’d come up, go home and work on new stuff, have another show coming up, switch gears, and it was busy for us to do that. We’re looking to not do that next time and ease back a little bit, make sure we can get everything done with the new album and not book stuff really early in the year. We are looking to book some more stuff later and discussions we’ll have soon.
Do you have any closing words for sick horror freaks that are going to read this interview?
I appreciate everyone listening to this garbage. Stay sick and be the scumbag that you are!
Morbidity Triumphant releases September 30th via Peaceville Records.