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For Autopsy, new life

Underrated death metal pioneers return with new music

Joe Gross
jgross@statesman.com

Let's face it, reunion albums are a total crapshoot.

When a band that hasn't been together for a long time gets back together, it is inevitable that comparisons will be made between then and now.

But these days, we are in an era when bands and, more importantly, audiences don't seem to mind so much. Witness the amazing success of reunion tours by the Pixies, Pavement, Slint and the Jesus Lizard.

However, with the exception of a Pixies song called "Boom-Thawk" that nobody remembers, none of these bands wrote new material for the outing. They performed old material, people loved it, the end.

Autopsy went the more difficult route. The death metal pioneers disbanded in 1995 after eight years of hideous roar. They made some terrific albums ("Mental Funeral" is an all-time classic of the genre) and some not-as-terrific albums. After they broke up, Autopsy drummer/vocalist Chris Reifert and guitarist Danny Coralles went on to found the more punk-sounding Abscess. An Autopsy reunion looked all but impossible.

But times change and people change and old bitterness goes away. In 2010, Autopsy released the EP "The Tomb Within," a shockingly excellent return to the classic unpleasantness of pure death metal. The similarly stellar album "Macabre Eternal" arrived in stores this week.

"I didn't want to do Autopsy stuff for a long, long time," Reifert said. "But we did a few songs in 2008 to get back into it, then Abscess split up."

Reifert almost laughs when I ask if the writing process is any different. "Nah, we write exactly the same way; there's not really a lot of science to it. We know what an Autopsy song should sound like, and we're not trying to change things up."

A little fandom can go a long way. Among the death metal illuminati, Autopsy is "known" for being underrated in their own time. "It is definitely cool that we are appreciated more than ever," Reifert said. "We had no grand plan for any of this."

The nice thing about metal is that fans stick around even as new ones are made. As Ken Sanderson, the founder of hardcore punk boutique label Prank Records said recently, "People grow out of punk. They never grow out of Satan and partying."

"All the old farts are still hanging around," Reifert said, "but there's also a whole other crop of kids that might not have even been born when a lot of these bands were ongoing things. And the thing about death metal is that people who go to these shows are well-informed. If they are there at all, it means they really like death metal. They are not the sort of shows that people casually wander into."

And note what Reifert said about knowing what an Autopsy song should sound like. Most metal bands, especially sub-genre metal bands, are very good about not throwing their core audience curve balls, at least not without a lot of warning, and especially not after 15 years off. Remember Metallica's "St. Anger," the 2003 album that radically changed their sound and lyrics? Any possibility of one of those in Autopsy's future?

"Hell no," Reifert says. "No, we don't do anything like Metallica."

jgross@statesman.com; 912-5925