30 years ago today, Autopsy changed extreme music forever with the release of their sophomore album, Mental Funeral. Two years after the release of their debut album, in 1991, the Oakland, California-based quartet became living legends of the burgeoning death metal underground with the release of Mental Funeral. Three decades later, Mental Funeral remains one of the most influential albums in the history of death metal.
Since we can’t join the members of Autopsy today to celebrate the anniversary, we caught up with founding drummer/frontman Chris Reifert to wish his second-oldest deformity happy birthday. We snuck in a few interview questions, too.
Okay, Chris, so TO years ago you, Eric Cutler, Danny Coralles and Eric’s brother released one of the most important albums in the history of extreme music. What do you remember about the band at the time, back in the transition from the ’80s to the ’90s when Mental Funeral was coming together?
It’s still hard to believe it’s been that long. Jeez! As for the band, we just wanted to sound as heavy as we possibly could. With a sprinkling of weird thrown in for good measure. We’d also done two European tours by then so we were feeling fairly comfortable with ourselves.
What do you remember thinking of the metal scene, and how did you want Autopsy’s second album to impact it?
The scene was pretty exciting as there were new sounds flooding in from all over the world. Demos, albums, all that good stuff.
I don’t think we cared too much about how we’d fit in with it all though. We were just busy being stoners who wanted to play metal and not think too deeply beyond what happened outside of the rehearsal room or studio. We were very much a ‘make it up as you go along’ sort of band with no grand vision for the future. Some things never change.
What do you remember most about recording Mental Funeral?
We were stoked to be back at Different Fur Studios, I know that. The Residents did a lot of stuff there which provided quite a bit of allure. We had a bit more time than we did on Severed, so there’s that too. And the drinking was definitely heavier on that one. Bourbon entered the picture during recording instead of just a couple of beers like on Severed. We also had a bunch of friends hanging out so it had a party atmosphere, which is odd because Mental Funeral does NOT sound like a party. Haha! There were 18 of us there or something. I know we loved the starting tones and barely even mixed it. So we did all things we were not supposed to do while making a record it seems.
What about your sophomore album makes you the proudest?
Mostly that it’s passed the test of time. We’re still seeing new tattoos of it and stuff, which is nuts.
Looking back, what were some things that Autopsy learned on this album that have continued to influence the way you write death metal today?
Nothing jumps out in that department. We’ve always tried to just sound like ourselves and leave it at that, although subtle little influences have wormed their way into our songs here and there. Nothing too obvious though, hopefully.
How does Mental Funeral sound to you today? How has your opinion of it changed over the past 30 years?
It’s like an old pair of shoes at this point. You know exactly how they’re going to feel when you put them on and nothing really changes. I mean that in the best possible way of course. I don’t really listen to it for fun these days because I’ve heard it a zillion times but I’m still very proud of it and I’m glad people still dig it three decades later.
You’ve played a lot of these songs live hundreds of times now. Which songs still get you fired up?
We’ve opened shows with “Twisted Mass” tons of times and that’s usually a cool starter. Beyond that, pretty much everything we play gets us fired up which is how it ought to be.
What’s surprised you the most about Autopsy’s career?
The fact that we’re still doing it today is something we never would have envisioned as teenagers getting it started. That’s a wild thought. Probably the biggest surprise though was the reception we got upon reforming. It was a mind-blower for us.
What are Autopsy up to lately?
Waiting out the plague storm like most other bands. We’re getting close to being fully vaccinated and then we can actually get together and turn the amps and shit back on. We haven’t done anything since playing Chicago last March but at least we got a live album out of that one.
Sounds like new material from the most consistent band in death metal is on the horizon—another cause for celebration! In the meantime, pick up and read Chris Dick’s incredible (and incredibly somehow still in-print) Mental Funeral Hall of Fame for some deeper context into this landmark masterpiece. And buy every Autopsy record you can get yours hand on because they’re all mandatory. See you next year for Acts of the Unspeakable’s 30th birthday!