Sound — 8
With their dynamic style of doom/death metal that made their aesthetic all the more gruesome, Autopsy became an influential force in the metal scene in their initial eight-year run, but would break up before releasing their fourth album "Shitfun." Though part of the band was still making music as the hardcore-minded metal iteration of Abscess, Autopsy would officially reunite in 2010 to the massive fanfare of metalheads everywhere. Expected fandom aside, though, Autopsy's second coming has been a steady and consistent stream of death metal just as powerful as their classics - a feat not many revived bands can pull off. With the more fleeting and riff-tricky nature of 2011's "Macabre Eternal" and 2013's "The Headless Ritual" to bring things back with a bang, their latest album, 2014's "Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves" brought back the bipolar grind and sludge style in its full, unholy glory.
At face value, what their new EP, "Skull Grinder," brings to the table is a continuation of last year's full-length, "Tourniquets, Hacksaws & Graves." Imagining that some of these songs were B-sides from their last album recording sessions wouldn't be the most egregious presumption, seeing as "Strung Up and Gutted" follows the band's gear-shifting death metal formula to a T, and the main progression of "Children of the Filth" sounds like a faster version of "The Howling Dead."
However, the EP noticeably invests more in the sludgier side of Autopsy - even more so than "Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves," heard in the mercilessly marshy chugs of "The Withering Dead," the final sludge breakdown in the eponymous song, and "Waiting for the Screams," where bassist Joe Trevisano gets to show off more. And in tandem with that low gear, Autopsy utilize a lot more layers of sustained tones and noise-play. The wide-mixed moans and growls in the doomy guitar interlude of "Sanity Bleeds," and the ominous, permeating choral swells in the end of "Waiting for the Screams" almost calls for inventing the label of "deathgazing," and the glossy guitar plucks in the beginning of "Return to Dead," that soon get eclipsed by messy guitar shrieks evokes the same kind of discordant noise guitar techniques brandished by Glassjaw or The Mars Volta.
Lyrics — 6
Whereas the music side of "Skull Grinder" gives itself a different bend in its compositional anatomy, frontman Chris Reifert's lyrics this time around are exactly what they've been ever since the first Autopsy album - unrepentant, ecstatic carnage. In early gore-porn songs like the drawn-and-quartered-esque fate of "Strung Up and Gutted" and the cranial sausage maker of "Skull Grinder," Reifert's growls gurgle about so grotesquely that they're just about indecipherable (perhaps the sound of his voice is just as gross as his detailed lyrics of mutilation), but in later songs, his barking narrative vocals give the listener a better chance at following the whole bloodstained lyrical pictures he paints. But from the physical and mental breakdown of "Sanity Bleeds" ("The days of madness / Call your wretched name / ...let the worms eat into your grave") to the diary of a torture fanatic in "Waiting for the Screams" ("I sit, I dream, I savor every crimson moment / Before the shrieking is unleashed"), it's all gruesomeness and misery that Autopsy have run laps around before - it's just filling in the quota at this point.
Overall Impression — 7
EPs often divide people into two camps: the die-hard fans who will buy any and every music release from their beloved band without question, and listeners who are wary of filler releases simply meant to tide over momentum. While there's plenty about "Skull Grinder" that delivers more of the same from Autopsy (for better or for worse), the EP makes a successful effort to stand out with a different composition style - one that's chaotic in a way that's not just fleeting blastbeat and tremolo, and one that further flexes the band's penchant for conjuring the doomiest and gloomiest of metal soundscapes.