Reunited Autopsy Kills At Austin's Chaos In Tejas
Death metal pioneers, Autopsy have made only a couple of festival appearances since their reformation in 2010. From 1995 to last year, ravenous gore fiends could receive Autopsy’s filthy sounds and images only through proxy groups containing Autopsy members such as The Ravenous and Abscess. With the release of “Macabre Eternal,” the group made another festival appearance for this year (the only appearance at this time) at one of the word’s biggest punk music festivals, Chaos in Tejas.
Yet another multi-venue festival in Austin, Texas, Chaos in Tejas celebrates punk in all its various forms. 130 bands including Cro-Mags, Doom, Killing Joke, Converge, Hooded Menace, Lärm, The Gates of Slumber and Orange Goblin performed in the festival’s seventh installment. Although not all acts were punk oriented, punk and its offspring of “core” acts were most numerous. Autopsy’s affection for grind fit well with the precluded power violence and core-grounded acts.
With a bill including bands unfamiliar to many fans of Autopsy, a $35-dollar entrance fee, and Autopsy’s prolonged absence; I assumed this show would have a small turnout. Just like SXSW in March, Chaos in Tejas venues swell to capacity. Every square inch of the venue’s outdoor stage and smoking patio was filled with raggedy-patched punks and longhairs. Maneuvering through the outskirts of the pit area proved difficult enough, but finding a place up front to take pictures proved near impossible.
Shooting the first band of the night means feeling out the crowd. I’m always a bit timid during the first shoot and my photos of Iron Lung reflect an unsuccessful trial run. The lack of personal space was bad enough, but crowd surfers and stage divers made photo positioning near impossible, at least at first. I became bolder with later sets by shoving my way through the crowd, using karate stances to maintain a base when the crowd became especially raucous and tending to my camera instead of providing a hand
or head for stage divers to land.
Iron Lung’s style defines the term power violence. The two-man group alternated blistering grind and crossover with sludgy, down tempo passages. Their singer’s tough hardcore vocal approach wasn’t to this writer’s liking, but their energy made a big impression, although without the same rousing effect as what the audience felt. I had never seen a band or show incite so much rowdiness. In addition to stage diving that I rarely witness at metal show (I believe the last one was Testament in 1995), I witnessed a guy hanging from the rafters like a god damn monkey.
Innumerable Forms was the only death metal band of the evening. The Massachusetts band played slow and heavy with reverence to iron boot sloshers Incantation, Grave and of course, Autopsy. IF only recorded one EP, so I’m not sure what material they used to fill their set. Their live sound was not as raw as their recording, which allowed a greater sense of audibility. Kudos goes to their singer for wearing a Paradise Lost long sleeve. He represented a depressive style mostly, if not fully, overlooked at this show.
After IF’s pace coagulated the blood of its onlookers, Extortion’s blitzkrieg attack was like a Bunsen burner to the crowds’ veins. Not much information exists about this aussie band’s origins on the Net, but apparently they’ve made a considerable sized dent into the world-wide punk scene because I heard many people say they were there to see the group…and the crowd went wild (phrase of the night). The group’s energy had much to do with the crowds’ reaction. Each song contained a million notes, but lasted only seconds. These kinds of songs offer little in terms of hooks and melody, but the band’s quick bass lines brought something to remember.
Taking the stage right before Autopsy, Citizens Arrest marked a good time to retreat from the heat before Autopsy’s onslaught. The NYC band played typical NYC hardcore with meaty, ringing chords and punk sensibilities. They occasionally played a catchy groove, but most of their sound owed to music typical to this style. Citizens Arrest was the closest band of the night to bearing to typical hardcore, and in that regard, were the least interesting artist of the night.
Autopsy originals Chris Reifert (drums, vocals), Eric Cutler (guitar, backing vocals) and Danny Coralles (guitar) played Austin for the first time since 1993. Those around back then would have noticed the slight change in their current lineup. The group brought in Joe Allen from their Abscess days to play bass. For over an hour, Autopsy moved its attendees with mid-paced grind, grimy doom metal crawls and psychotic guitar leads. Of course, watching a drummer sing is always interesting; I had to remind myself several times that those subterranean growls were coming from Chris Reifert, whose features were obscured at the back of the stage and behind cymbals.
While raising the volume to instill greater clarity than the rough production offered on early recordings, Autopsy featured a set satisfying to most fans. “The Tomb Within” (from the EP of the same name), “Born Undead” and “Always About to Die” (both from “Macabre Eternal” LP) satisfied the band’s need to promote newer material. Anyone who has heard the new album (read xFiruath's review) and EP know these recordings represent a true return for the band. “The Tomb Within” marked vintage Autopsy, moving between fast and slow tempos and featuring out-of-hand whammy bar solos.
Although Autopsy performed its share of crusty D-beats, they didn’t seem to invoke the same energy as the punkier acts before them. For some reason, security decided to stop stage divers during Autopsy’s set, so that act, in itself, slowed down the crowd just a bit. Essentially, this crowd turned into a head banging/fist pumping metal sort. Classic Autopsy tunes from “Mental Funeral” and “Severed Survival” spurred plenty of this subdued energy. Some of these cuts included “Pagan Savoir,” “Dead,” “Slaughterday” and the Death-like churning of “Ridden with Disease.”
Before Autopsy bounced the crowd around like a pinball with stop-and-start closer “Twisted Mass of Burnt Decay,” Danny Coralles strapped on a special guitar. This guitar is a prototype for Ikon guitars. If he and the company works out all the quarks, this “Mental Funeral” design should go over well with guitar players. The guitar has a third dimension, sprayed all-over design shows the glob of fanged faces that comprise their “Mental Funeral” album cover. (Note: this guitar, "Twisted Mass" is for sale through Ikon Guitars. Apparently, Coralles refered to his personal guitar when he told MU the guitar needed tweaking).
I went to Emo's with little interest in the bands playing before Autopsy. Other than the 80s variety, I know little about the newer punk and hardcore scenes. While I can’t say I’m’ going to run out and buy any of those band’s records (I might pick up Innumerable Foes, but that doesn’t count), I enjoyed the energy of each band’s performance. Autopsy—the reason I and most metal fans came—were simply rad. They met all my expectations, and watching their live show revealed greatness in several aspects. Autopsy wouldn’t have brought the numbers without the punk bands, but they defied my expectations for popularity considering the number of people who paid $35 to watch one band.
View pictures of the show.
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