Autopsy - _Dark Crusades DVD_
(Peaceville, 2006)
by: T. DePalma (8 out of 10)
[A gallery of DVD stills is available for this article. Click here to open the gallery in a separate window.]

Shortly after offering his limbs toward the recording of Death's _Scream Bloody Gore_, Chris Reifert went on to form one of the key groups in the development of modern death metal. Autopsy innovated the death/doom sound through their albums _Severed Survival_ and _Mental Funeral_, an interchangeable branch genre similar in effect, but lyrically more perverse than the later gothic acts of Europe. The music was a take off from Black Sabbath and similar proto-doom bands, melded with the speed and brutality of the time, producing low-fi and palpable illustrations of mortality like "Critical Madness", "Fleshcrawl" and their monument, "Dead", a powerful iteration of the favored topic:

"Dead
Stiff and cold
In your box
To decay
Dead"

Unfortunately outnumbered but not totally forgotten in today's climate, their impact is still reflected in the work of bands like Immolation and Dismember, along with just about every "gore-grind" band imaginable, festering like a subcutaneous patch of larvae... on the groin. Hence the dilated joy in my eyes upon noticing Peaceville's two-disc DVD that exhumes the foul foursome through several low-definition concerts, an early rehearsal and footage from their European tour.

Professional video of the group being non-existent, what we are left with are various hand-held shows throughout California in the mid-'90s: LA 6/12/93, SF 6/13/93 and SF 7/29/94, all of which have been available for years through the trade circuit and, as the jacket blurb warns, contain "(...) drop-outs, tape stretches, pixilation, distortion and stuff." This is all true, but the caveat is more a reflection of the label presenting this to an audience possibly ignorant of or uninterested in tape-trading and its deficiencies compared with endless shelves of digital media. It does not impede viewing or the generally impressive sound quality; nor does the inability to select track-by-track inconvenience one in any way. Autopsy, remember?

Disc one opens with rehearsal footage circa 1988, consisting of Reifert and guitarist Eric Cutler jamming at the home of then-bassist Ken Sorvari, his towheaded children peaking in and out of frame. By far the most worthwhile piece of history here, the group rips through their early demo material while the camera dutifully picks up on fingers and footing. The sound is impeccable, keeping Reifert's scratched vocals relatively intact as he and Cutler churn through blood-flecked composition, including "Ridden with Disease", "Embalmed" and even some old Trouble songs. It sounds like decomposition. The twenty minute clip intimates everyone as relaxed and hardly even aware of the camera while they drink beers and let loose in this tiny room surrounded by old, dirty mattresses. I grinned when hearing the woman filming all this ask, "Your name's Eric, right?" before he passes her a joint.

Sadly, Peaceville has actually trimmed down the release from its original set, omitting shows from Rotterdam, San Francisco and the video for "Tortured Moans of Agony", but have kept the group's final performance from July of '94 at the Ruthless Inn. Extras include a performance by Pestilence with Reifert on guitar covering Terrorizer's "Corporation Pull-In", and a clip of the short-lived side project, Doomed, performing live in San Francisco.

Disc two also contains a twenty-three minute edit of tour footage from abroad and at home, featuring cameos by Paradise Lost and Incantation; lots of booger-eating, food fights, general goofing off and one strange trip through New Jersey involving a rotting dog carcass and... well, I suppose nobody really knows what that other thing was. There's also guitarist Danny Coralles' "snow-bong", but perhaps by now you've realized all this needs to be witnessed first hand.

The booklet includes a biography with anecdotes from the band, written by Joel McIver. The cover piece for _Dark Crusades_ was drawn by the inimitable Dennis Dread. For more information visit www.dennisdread.com.

Contact: http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/autopsy/index.html

(article published 3/8/2006)


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