Proto-death pioneers, doom death influencers, true masters of gore, probably genre’s second wave main inspiration, even “Scream Bloody Gore”’s legacy inherits and definitely repugnant beast of Death metal, you name it, Autopsy answers it!
Autopsy was formed in August 1987 by Chris Reifert and Eric Cutler, shortly after Reifert’s departure from Death. Reifert was the drummer in “Scream Bloody Gore” and had also recorded the 1986’s “Mutilation” demo with Death. After Schuldiner moved back to Florida, Reifert decided to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area. So as he wanted to continue to make music in the same motif, he decided to start a new band of his own, this led to Autopsy birth. His vision was to take what Death’s debut had built, a step forward. His new band recorded a demo that year, Demo ’87, before Danny Coralles joined in 1988 immediately prior to the recording of their second demo, “Critical Madness”, and along with Reifert and Cutler, would create a solid and constant lineup. After trying out several bassists Reifert decided to hire Steve DiGiorgio to play session bass on the debut. DiGiorgio played bass in the cult Thrash heroes Sadus and had also played in Death at the same time along with Reifert.
The band signed to Peaceville Records and released their debut album in 1989. This was one of the first records that the famous label had ever pressed.
32 years after its original release “Severed Survival” remains a brutal gem, a raw diamond of extremity and pure hate. If you have listen Autopsy’s live album “Live in Chicago” that was out in 2020 and recorded just before the COVID-19 lock down, should recognize how vivid and timeless it’s songs still sound.
Could a better production that would hold the bass lines a bit back and not so high in the final result make the album better? Not a chance. All instruments are audible but Steve Di Giorgio’s bass here helps to create a wicked atmosphere despite the fact we are dealing with an «overkill situation» (As the back cover of New Jersey’s finest Overkill’s debut learned all us that English isn’t our mother language, “overkill” is to kill with more capacity than needed. Like killing a fly with a bullet or something. Well Di Giorgio’s bass is so thick and heavy and it’s volume is so loud although sometimes it’s like playing a bit away from the guitars that explains why I used the term “overkill situation”). The murky and raw production is full of reverb and 80’s analog feeling makes the whole album sound primitive. The slow and mid tempo helps on creating this dark and sick atmosphere.
Technically speaking we are not dealing with something extra ordinary or progressive. The Hellhammer/Celtic Frost influences are obvious and charm-fully given. As guitars flow with ferocity, the solos are well crafted and putted in the right place and time between the raspy, choked vocal lines that Reifert spits out. Chris Reifert is also the drummer on the album and his performance is a highlight both behind the kit and holding the mic. His screams and growls are excellent, violent and brutal. Of course the vocals are also in harmony with the extreme and totally gore lyrics on this album.
Lyrics (all written by Reifert) range almost always through perspective of the victim dealing with horror movie themes like murder (“Disembowel”, “Impending Dread”) death (“Service for a Vacant Coffin”, “Embalmed”) eviscerating, dismemberment or even survival situations (“Severed Survival”) where a man is stuck on an island and is forced to butcher his own-self to avoid dying from hunger….well this sounds like gore for the sake of gore but it fits like a glove to the album’s atmosphere.
Reifert and Cutler wrote the majority of the music here. Groove rhythms, sick atmosphere, pummeling high speed drums, raw guitars, frenzy leads, twisted solos and memorable (often palm muted) riffs after riffs, some slower doomy parts and tremolo picked passages here and there, thick bass lines and throaty gutturals like there’s no tomorrow. An excellent combination of simple and (yet so) brilliant songwriting.
Obviously musically and lyrically Death Metal as a sub-genre based its reputation and attitude on albums like “Severed Survival”.
You may have jump into a different cover that exists for this album, which depicts the point of view of the person receiving the autopsy. Both artwork covers are awesome.
Song highlights: «Charred Remains», “Embalmed”, “Disembowel”, «Service for a Vacant Coffin», «Ridden with Disease», «Stillborn». An essential must have record that will shine eternally on your collection for its ugly almost disgusting ferocity and its primitive ways.