Fit For An Autopsy - The Great Collapse
Our world is dying. A recent report from the Living Planet Index indicated that the number of wild animals on Earth is on track to drop by two thirds by 2020. Man-made carbon dioxide emissions have hit unprecedented levels, the effects of which have led to: a rise in sea levels, a rise in the Earth's temperature, a rise in sea temperature, decrease in ice mass, more extreme weather events and a rise in sea acidity levels. In a 'post-truth' world, these facts cause some inconvenience to those that wish to brush climate change under the rug of the Oval Office (and 10 Downing Street) and continue excessive levels of consumption and pollution. Thankfully, as well as activist groups organising to ensure the impact of climate change is still front and centre in the minds of the public, there exist a number of bands in our scene who use their platform to promote issues of global significance. With The Great Collapse, Fit For An Autopsy can certainly add their name to the ranks, having released a record dense not only in seismic riffing and groove, but also in social commentary.
Hailing from New Jersey, Fit For An Autopsy released their first EP Hell On Earth back in 2009, with The Great Collapse being their fourth full-length. Whereas 2013's Hellbound was essentially a straight-up deathcore affair, 2015's Absolute Hope Absolute Hell showed real promise with a sound that had truly began to diversify in an interesting manner, adopting some concepts and song structures straight out of the progressive metal rulebook to good effect. On The Great Collapse, thankfully, we see Fit For An Autopsy expanding on this new direction with distinct nods not only to the expected Thy Art Is Murder and (older) Suicide Silence, but, as on Absolute Hope... to French behemoths Gojira. Interestingly, with the gigantic misstep recently taken by the godfathers of the deathcore scene, Suicide Silence, and with Thy Art wobbling somewhat on their previous release, could The Great Collapse see FFAA put themselves ahead of two of the scene's stalwarts?
Opening with a scathing account of inequality and the loss of working class power ("we were the lions now we bow to the hydra"), Hydra is nevertheless a pretty conventional deathcore affair replete with guttural vocals over some nimble tom work, a section of blasting and a gargantuan beatdown which, to give it its credit, also manages to contain some refreshing lead work which doesn't sound out of place. Whilst a couple of these familiar tropes may send some running for the 'FLUSH DEATHCORE' button, track two, Heads Will Hang, ought to ease any worries within the first 5 seconds. Commencing with a passage that wouldn't sound out of place on either of Gojira's last two records, this song picks up where Absolute Hell... left off and sprints off over the horizon with it. The influence of Gojira is also writ large on the foreboding Black Mammoth, a track which highlights the plight of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota whose lives have been turned upside down due to conflict regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline, set to threaten the water supply for the Standing Rock Reservation. Here again FFAA demonstrate that lyrically, and often musically, they are several paces ahead of their scene-mates: "Tread on sacred terrain, envenomed and ravaged, the peace upon the plain, seized by the savage" bellows vocalist Joe Badolato.
Badolato deserves a great deal of credit on The Great Collapse, putting in a dominating performance across the record that genuinely gives Thy Art's CJ McMahon a run for his money in the brutality stakes. "When the world is empty of souls, it will become so clean" howls Badolato on the nihilistic Terraform, a track that demonstrates the aforementioned improvement in musical and songwriting expertise, undulating as it does between savagery and finesse courtesy of the triple guitar attack. Indeed, this is a supremely positive feature of the record as a whole. Rather than allow the three guitar players to simply add layer upon layer of aural heft to an album in a genre that is plagued by a lack of imagination, instead FFAA maintain the weight but employ the third guitar to add haunting and ominous overtones, creating heaps of dynamism in the process.
The real crowning moment of this record though comes in the form of When The Bulb Burns Out, a track with the band's environmental message again front and centre, but also one that encapsulates a number of great elements of Fit For An Autopsy's sound. As employed elsewhere on the record, a bleak intro sets tone, before being overlaid by an excerpt of the speech made by Leonardo DiCaprio at the UN climate summit. Breaking into various rhythmical back-and-twos that are essential headbang moments, this song flits between outright menace and the more nuanced instrumental interplay that is exhibited on earlier portions of the album. On top of this, Badolato perfectly encapsulates the central theme of The Great Collapse when he roars: "All your material things mean nothing when the bulb burns out", emphasising the current dichotomy that exists between rampant consumer capitalism and environmental protection.
Some of metal's many wonderful characteristics include a time-honoured tradition of speaking truth to power, championing solidarity and inspiring a sense that the world can be changed for the better. Throughout heavy music's history, countless bands have promoted these ideals, from Black Sabbath ("Revolution in their minds - the children start to march"), Metallica ("Death of Mother Earth, never a rebirth"), Rage Against The Machine (pick one), to bands in the modern era such as Architects, Stray From The Path and now Fit For An Autopsy. Clearly, the interweaving of politics and music is not to everyone's liking, and there are plenty of people who hold firm in the belief that music should remain as an escape from reality. But, for those of us for whom this intertwining is not only acceptable but essential, bands such as Fit For An Autopsy exist as a voice of sanity in an increasingly hostile and divided world. It doesn't hurt that musically, along with Aversions Crown, they are head and shoulders above the current deathcore crop.