Over the past decade, Fit For An Autopsy have carved out a place for themselves as one of the heaviest, most technical deathcore bands around. Gimmicks like keys, drifting melodic passages, or orchestral flourishes have no place in their sound, instead relying on a grinding ferocity that is absolutely relentless. Their newest record, The Great Collapse, strips their sound back to be even more minimal, highlighting their love of hardcore and introducing some breathing space to their sound.
The opening dirge of “Hydra” starts with just vocals, drums, and feedback, slowly introducing the signature chugs. Vocalist Joe Badolato doesn’t have much range, but he showcases his talents here, with the band anchoring his demonic growl of “when you cut off the head, fucking two grow back!” – probably the most distinct single moment on the record. The verses feature some slick lead guitar runs and extremely tight drumming from Josean Orta, who steals the show frequently throughout the entire album. “Hydra” evolves nicely, with the triple threat of guitarists Will Putney, Pat Sheridan, and Tim Howley introducing some sinister atmosphere near the end of the track. “Heads Will Hang” starts with a sludgy riff and quickly explodes into chaos, with guitar runs combating each other for dominance throughout the verses. The chorus features some clean gang vocals to accompany Badolato’s roar, and against all odds it works: this song is catchy as hell, even the massive breakdown near the end, in large part due to the band wisely backing off and letting the vocals carry the transition. “Black Mammoth” marries technical metal to a sludgy swirl akin to early Mastodon or Gojira. Orta is unbelievable on this track, providing the vast majority of the substance to the verses by himself. The chorus uses gang vocals again over another doom-laden minimal riff. Pity then that the bridge tosses a lot of the song’s momentum, with a repetitive staccato chug that goes on far too long, although Orta does his best to keep things moving.
“Terraform” is the first complete miss, a generic deathcore anthem that fails to catch attention aside from a brief thrashy guitar solo (I had to listen to the track three times in a row just to write that much about it, if that’s any indication; the first two times through I blanked out even while trying to focus on the song). “Iron Moon” features some nice counter-rhythms between the choppy vocals and equally choppy guitar chugs, but the lead guitar part is buried so deep in the mix it’s nearly inaudible at times: with a better mix, this song could go toe to toe with some of Fallujah’s better songs, but as it stands the production kills the track. “When The Bulbs Burn Out” may begin with a spoken word sample and gentle music, but it’s certainly not subtle: the spoken intro is a blunt speech about the importance of combating climate change, and the shifts between anthemic chants and balls-to-the-wall lead runs play well. It’s not the most original song on the record, but it is one of the strongest, utilizing the quieter moments better than any of the surrounding tracks (aside from the oddly muted/distant vocals).
Unfortunately, the last act of the album struggles to connect at all. “Too Late” features a standard array of dives, chugs, and buzzing atmosphere all used with precision, but the plodding pace drags the song down. Badolato and Orta make it listenable, but it isn’t easy for them. “Empty Still” fails to do even that. The slow build is a new path for Fit For An Autopsy, and the individual lead guitar runs are good, but the track is still unforgivably generic. Closing track “Spiral” shows off Orta’s precision in restraint, as his little drum flourishes are uniformly excellent, but he’s the sole bright spot of the song, which otherwise feels like an incomplete thought compiled together from leftover riffs, with no sense of flow between the individual parts.
The Great Collapse is a crushing record, but in a different way than you’ve heard from Fit For An Autopsy before. It’s slower, more deliberate, building a sense of inescapable doom. Sometimes that sound works wonders (“Heads Will Hang,” “When The Bulbs Burn Out”), sometimes it doesn’t (“Empty Still,” “Terraform”), but this is definitely exactly the record the band wanted to make… which makes the uniform doom-laden sludge and frequent issues with the mix all the more frustrating and surprising. Especially considering Putney’s excellent record as a producer, including last year’s phenomenal records by Every Time I Die and Knocked Loose, both of which featured superb mixes, the buried lead riffs hurt BAD. This is definitely worth a listen, especially if you’re a fan of Fallujah or Thy Art Is Murder, but it’s hard not to think about how much stronger The Great Collapse could have been.