Can't You Make This Sound Shittier?

Autopsy returns - a chat with Chris Reifert.

Chris Reifert may not be a name that holds a lot of weight for those who came late to the metal. But to the “old school” his name is as revered in the underground of heavy metal as any of the genre’s immortals.

He is a true blue collar metal warrior who can trace a musical lineage right back to the very “birth” of death metal. After drumming on Death’s seminal Scream Bloody Gore record, Reifert decided to stay in San Fransisco when Chuck Schuldiner moved back to Florida to continue the band.

Chris formed a band of his very own, one of death metal’s absolute pioneereering and undeniably influential acts, Autopsy. From 1987 through til the bands demise in 1995 following the Shitfun record, they brought forth songs and riffs that form part of the genre’s greasiest elements.

As a young lad, they were the benchmark for me. Carcass pushed the boundaries of good taste with their early works granted, but Autopsy combined the imagery that Carcass splattered all over their early album covers and gave the music a foreboding gloom and vibe that really has never been captured, but oft emulated.

No Autopsy: no Cannibal Corpse, no Suffocation, the Swedish death metal scene almost universally worships and even seeks to recreate (Death Breath, Murder Squad) the original and irreplaceable Bay Area lords of death mojo.

For me, there can be only one, and when MaF offered me a chance to speak to Chris, there was nothing to do but put on the forensic investigation wear and hit the phone lines.

Reifert has not been idle in the 16 years since Shitfun, fellow Autopsy string slinger Danny Corrales and Reifert formed the band Abscess who have released more recorded works than Autopsy did, but I began our chat finding out what drove the rebirth of Autopsy.

“Well Clint (Bower, bassist, guitarist and vocalist) leaving Abscess was a sad day for us but totally understandable. We (me and Danny) really wanted him to continue with us but that came to an end because he wanted a regular life. At the same time a few festivals were pushing for us to reform, Maryland Death Festival (MDF) being the first and a few others.

We did some new tracks for the 20th anniversary reissue of Severed Survival (the band's famed debut) and began to realise that we really enjoyed doing this again. So we agreed to play the MDF and that got us started back with Autopsy.”

The band has 5 more festival dates all coming up in the next few months but the realities of life that led to Clint Bower’s departure from Abscess affords the guys a perspective on touring. “We don’t want to go out in the van and play a hundred shows in a short period. For one we’re older and we can’t do that anymore, but we also don’t want to do shows to get taken for granted. Its more of an event and special if we space things out and do the shows over time. We’re playing in Texas in a few weeks and then we’re playing our first local area show since 94 soon too. Last year we did MDF which was awesome and we headlined Hole In The Sky in Norway and a festival in Holland, they’ve all been awesome but we don’t want to overdo it.”

So the measured approach to their return as far as live shows go is to help keep the event nature of an Autopsy show going, but this doesn’t mean the band are slacking off in the recording department.

The new album, Macabre Eternal, delivers a record that is not a contrived attempt at recreating the past, it’s an honest record that takes the spirit of the band and the material sits comfortably alongside the bands classics.

There is a certain sentimental familiarity to the record. Kicking off with Hand of Darkness it starts how an Autopsy record should start, without falling into the trap of being predictable. It’s way more fun than a reformed band has any right to comeback with.

While the relevance of the music is inspired, there are welcoming signs of the familiar including the doomy goodness that made the Retribution for the Dead EP such a masterpiece and gives the riffs and vocals space, adding considerable girth to the heaviness of the work.

Always About To Die, Seeds of the Doomed and the kooky awesome flavour of the title track’s signature riff all at once drive the record forward and remind you why this band are just name checked by pretty much every death metal band of note ever as masters of the genre.

“I just got back from rehearsing last night and I remember sitting there thinking “Damn it’s awesome playing with these guys”

He speaks in reference to Danny Corrales and Eric Cutler, in this writers opinion, two of heavy metals most criminally underrated players of all time.

“Writing the record, I wrote 5 songs and Eric wrote five songs, Danny and Joe bought in one apiece. We already have too much music for one album and are writing enough new stuff so that we have an album out next year too.”

In speaking about the album, one thing that came up was the production. The old Autopsy records had a quality that I compared to Chris as sounding like grave dirt tumbling from the speakers, Macabre Eternal features a more modern sound which I compared to sound more like a corpse freshly embalmed in formaldehyde.

“(Laughing) Well back in the old days we went for a sound and we were really happy with what we got. It was the best sound we could get at the time. We used to get a lot of grief for the production of the old records. Now as I’m reading reviews of the new record, people are like “It sounds too good” and “Make it sound shittier!” You can’t please some people”

“We really just wanted to make it so that you could hear everything clearly and hear the guitars and everything and I’m really happy with how the record turned out. We not going to recycle old stuff, we want to bring out a record of good songs most of all”

We finished up our chat exchanging email addresses with the hope that Autopsy may one day grace Australian shores. A scenario Reifert entertains. “We’d love to come out, we’ve never been there and it’s a place we’d all like to play”

Macabre Eternal is out now through Peaceville and you should all go and buy it