Autopsy – Skull Grinder (2015)

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On one hand, this is obviously a descendant of previous Autopsy material, but on the other hand, Skull Grinder¬†is more conventionally structured and musical than the band’s formative work. You could make a case for my hypothesis based on the first single – i.e a lot of older styles of metal seem to be filtering into latter day Autopsy. Around these parts, this usually spells disaster and results in things like At the Gates releasing Slaughter of the Soul. Autopsy manages to avoid this fate by using these otherwise difficult to control elements in a way that actually fits their roots.

In general, Autopsy relies on a fairly simple formula to make their death metal – basic structures (not necessarily pop ones), limited technicality, and so forth. Perhaps the greatest reason Skull Grinder actually benefits from this is that Autopsy’s style always lent itself to having a strong vocal presence. Chris Reifert is on the top of his game here, successfully expanding the variety of vocal techniques he uses while remaining appropriate to the style of music on display. Similar expansions take place in the rest of the ensemble, including a more lead and solo heavy approach to guitarwork and more elaborate usage of melody in the rhythm guitar’s riffs. The downside of this more instrumentally interesting Autopsy is that it comes at expense of the band’s early mastery of song structure. In general, Skull Grinder is subtly, but definitely more haphazard in how it strings riffs together. This loss of organization skill is not drastic enough to ruin the record, but it’s an unfortunate shortcoming, and one that perhaps could have easily been avoided by giving the songwriting process a little more time to cook. Autopsy has certainly been releasing material quite consistently as of late, but I think the fans would tolerate a longer release cycle if it meant that the music was tightened up a bit and some of the more egregious filler was removed.

Despite this, Autopsy has created a better approximation of their early material than your average self-reviving band, and Skull Grinder does have a some material worthy of the band’s legacy in its short duration. There’s also some lessons to be learned here about how to expand your songwriting horizons; the best bands of the next few years will be those who can balance such wisdom with the more conventional truths Autopsy demonstrated in their past.

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My Dying Bride – Feel The Misery (2015)

my-dying-bride-feel-the-misery
Regardless of how you might feel about My Dying Bride as a whole, you could make the point that their earlier, more death metal oriented works gave them more musical breadth to work with. Feel The Misery mostly tosses the ‘death’ part of the band’s legacy and doesn’t replace the holes with anything. To be honest, I found it quite depressing, but I don’t think it was really for the reasons that the band intended. By trying to stretch out a minimum of musical ideas to just over an hour, My Dying Bride has turned their latest studio album into an exercise in tedium and predictability.

Like many a doom band before them, MDB takes a style of metal (on this album, really basic traditional Black Sabbath type stuff) and plays it especially slowly. The emphasis is generally on the vocal performance of Aaron Stainthorpe, who on this album seems shackled by the sluggish pace and constant atmosphere of the recording. His combination of both proficient growls and a clean baritone register give him some versatility that would certainly come in handy on an album with enough diversity of musical language to accommodate his talents. The emphasis on the traditional, mainstream sorts of metal, though, come with a troublesome burden – permanent consonance and conventional pop music language mean that anything the band introduces often lasts for a very long time or is callously discarded without much in the way of elaboration. The songwriting here isn’t completely stagnant, but it certainly meanders, and the inability to properly develop on anything makes an already lengthy album feel even more drawn out than it already is.

The obvious point of comparison is not necessarily to death-doom or even more mainstream forms of doom metal as a whole, but to other drawn out, minimalist/ambient works. The best works of that sort (sparse as their construction often is) tend to trace out a sort of musical “journey” by building up a logical connection between every aspect of the music. Compared to more conventionally structured music, it’s simultaneously easier and harder – the former because there’s less elements to work with, and the latter because listeners would therefore have more opportunity to inspect and scrutinize what actually is there. It seems, however, that My Dying Bride doesn’t even attempt this on Feel the Misery, which is content to wallow in its own sorrow. If you want a miserable navel gazing experience, it would fit just fine, but as a work of metal, it is a dismal failure.

 

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Firespawn – Shadow Realms (2015)

Firespawn - Shadow Realms (2015)
As I suspected in September, this is a patronizingly stupid work of deathpop (reminder: straight up pop rock/metal with death metal aesthetics and instrumentation) of such simplicity that it will probably worsen the quality of discourse here at DMU for a few days by virtue of having been released. This sort of thing should probably been relegated to the level of Sadistic Metal Reviews, but part of having greater volume on this site is going into depth on why the chaff is chaff, as opposed to the cream of the crop. Shadow Realms is the type of album that could very easily be commercially successful if it got the right marketing push, but I don’t think that’s actually going to happen, and no amount of sales is going to secure this album a place in your mind for very long.

All the stereotypical elements of a deathpop album are here in full force. The instrumentation and production is “perfect” in the sense that everything here is appropriate to the 50% Stockholm/50% Gothenburg mixture that was used in this album’s construction.¬†Shadow Realms is slightly melodic, not particularly Bossy, and generally built from fast, somewhat technical instrumental performances, but the end result is that each musician is playing something solely because if they didn’t, there would be no album. Some songs might slightly, almost imperceptibly bend towards other substyles at times, but the actual songwriting is as formulaic and rudimentary as it can be. L.G Petrov’s extremely simplistic and almost sing-song vocal performance continues to be the main emphasis on this album. Everything else is subordinate to the point that it severely inhibits the rest of the band’s ability to contribute anything beyond the banal and overdone.

By slamming together a roster of musicians with so much experience, Century Media has ensured that Shadow Realms sounds like death metal, even to those who give it more than the most superficial of listens. It’s still unfortunate that the musicians don’t have anything interesting to perform. All of the bands mentioned in Firespawn’s promotional materials have released better material than this, although not necessarily in a similar style. Stylistic specifics, though, do not take precedence over quality and coherence of output, and thusly listening to Shadow Realms is a complete waste of your time.

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