REVIEW: FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY – “Oh What The Future Holds”
It is a crime that this reviewer has not given New Jersey deathcore bruisers, Fit For An Autopsy a fair shake till now. While attributed to the fatigue from the sheer amount of high-quality content being pushed out throughout the years, it is but a weak excuse. Following 2019’s critically acclaimed The Sea of Tragic Beasts, Fit For an Autopsy are due to release Oh, What the Future Holds in January 2022. If mature deathcore is your flavor, take a seat and grab a cup!
Oh, What The Future Holds opens with the title track, a cross between an instrumental intro, a common trope in the genre, and a full-fledged track. An ambient keyboard arrangement yields to a chunky breakdown with a victorious declaration of the song/album title. Usually, a title callout over a breakdown is cheesy and contrived, but like very many other aspects of songwriting, FFAA appears to give it the necessary weight. The released single “Pandora” features an opening riff reminiscent of old-school deathcore and harkens back to Through The Eyes of the Dead. The track also first puts the interplay of heavy chug-core goodness with more melancholic sections, often with clean vocals and ambient guitar passages, which will quickly become a staple feature on the record.
“Far From Heaven” opens with a hammer-on legato run that to even the ardent of genre fanatics, could be mistaken for a Gojira riff, which when bolstered with the reverb-laden clean vocals strengthens the comparison. What follows is a stompy riff that took The Great Collapse and The Sea of Tragic Beasts to its acclaim. The solo featured, though short, does a near-perfect job matching the mid-paced flavor of the riffs, and does not get overly flashy, and adds just enough flavor to the riff and the track. Oh What the Future Holds isn’t without sludgy and knuckle-draggingly heavy parts either, which is highlighted by “In Shadows”, along with a chorus that is an instant earworm, owing again to the angsty Duplantier-tier scream cleans. Heavy aggression is ramped to eleven later on the record in “Collateral Damage”. With “Two Towers” (Lord of the Rings reference?), FFAA decided to outplay Rings of Nihil at their own game, and the intro to “A Higher Level of Hate” transitions from a Leprous-y intro to a self-titled era Whitechapel chug fest. It’s curious how FFAA emulated the trademark sounds of those bands better than the bands themselves, who released highly divisive albums in 2021.
The latter half of the record, which while very exciting by itself, found itself blending into a large mess of chugs and ambience. Even though Oh What The Future Holds is a tight and concise record with no filler, it is very dense, and listener fatigue is an ever-present threat. For example, it took several mid-to-end album playthroughs to appreciate what a banger “Savages” is, with a chorus akin to a war-chant. Among the quickest on the record, I almost wish “Savages” was higher up in the tracklist. Album closer “The Man That I Was Not” is more Rivers of Nihil doom core sweetness, with a much more traditional clean vocal arrangement. Clean vocals have been a highly contested topic among the deathcore crowds, but few will deny that FFAA is firmly in the “clean vocals done right” camp, where other bands (cough cough Whitechapel’s Kin) fell short. At nearly seven minutes, “The Man That I Was Not” does not sit back and rely on lengthy songwriting tropes, but punches just as hard as the shorter tracks. A worthy album ender!
The guitar work on the record (with all credits to Pat Sheridan, Tim Howley, and Will Putney) is punchy, doomy, yet do not fall into the mire of boredom-inducing mediocrity that deathcore bands usually devolve into when relying on breakdowns. The flourishes with the cleaner ambient arrangements, as well as the tasteful solos provide just enough spice to color up the tracks and raise the overall quality of the songwriting. The bass and drums form a great foundation for the guitars to do their work and the vocals carry it through to the finish line. A defining quality of FFAA has always been the vocals and Oh What The Future Holds features among the band’s strongest vocal performances yet. Joe Badolato has the doomy-deathcore vocal aesthetic down to an exact science!
The record is mixed by guitarist and studio demigod Will Putney, and his trademark sound shines through yet. A minor quibble, and probably the only complaint with the sound on the record, is that the rhythm guitars, especially in the lower register sounded muddy and overly compressed squishing a large chunk of the nuances in that space. It is particularly telling when contrasted with how masterfully the other instruments, vocals, and layers sit in the mix.
Oh, What the Future Holds cements Fit For the Autopsy as “the thinking man’s deathcore”. With aggression and doomy and sludgy heaviness, the record is dense and packs a punch, without overstaying its welcome. Another thorn in the FFAA crown!