One of the death metal genre's seminal cornerstones, Autopsy's debut album, Severed Survival, arrived in 1989, following two widely traded cassette demos and drummer Chris Reifert's brief association with Chuck Schuldiner's Death, prior to relocating from Florida to San Francisco. Once based there, Reifert completed his new band was with guitarists Eric Cutler and Danny Coralles, plus fretless bassist extraordinaire Steve DiGiorgio, who had just recently launched his "four-string gun for hire" career with neighboring headbangers Sadus. And, much like every other group contributing to death metal's emergence at this time (Morbid Angel, Sepultura, Obituary, Carcass, etc.), Autopsy's music had yet to make a clean break from earlier extreme styles, but that in no way diminished Severed Survival's impact. In Autopsy's case, that musical groundwork originated in the once all-conquering, now quickly waning, Bay Area thrash metal scene, as evidenced by the frenzied clip and razor-sharp riffing employed throughout (and particularly on vicious cuts like "Charred Remains," "Ridden with Disease," and "Pagan Savior"). This fact notwithstanding, the album probably out-death-ed most of the aforementioned bands' contemporary efforts on the basis of its sheer, raw savagery, aided in part by a rather incompetent production job, but driven home by Reifert's sickening lyrics (see "Disembowel," the title track, etc.) and croaking delivery (both nods to Britain's grindcore pioneers), plus Cutler and Coralles' sludgier guitar sounds and frequent doom-like passages (readily found on "Service for a Vacant Coffin," "Impending Dread," and "Critical Madness," among others). The standout "Gasping for Air" also featured an especially visceral, guttural vocal from Reifert to go with surprisingly musical guitar solos, which constituted the only remote elements of melody sprinkled cautiously across the LP. In every other respect, Autopsy dealt in nothing but the roughest, basest brutality, and obviously death metal fans young and old wouldn't have it any other way, which is why Severed Survival maintains its vaunted place amidst the genre's defining early statements.
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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia