Fit For An Autopsy - The Great Collapse
Absolute Hope Absolute Hell was a surprise in 2015, showcasing an overhaul of Fit For An Autopsy’s brutal deathcore sound that was affectionately termed “Gojira-core” by some for that band’s influence on the record. Formerly fronted by serial absentee Nate Johnson, Fit For An Autopsy brought Joe Badolato onboard to take his place. He has the full deathcore arsenal of gritty lows, piercing shrieks, and gruff hardcore shouts at his disposal, and he’s also a strong lyricist capable of going whole verses without using the word “fucking,” and has a surprisingly good singing range: see “Ghosts in the River” and “Flatlining,” off Absolute Hope Absolute Hell and The Depression Sessions split, respectively. By beefing up the breakdowns and also surrounding them with honest riffage and emotive musical textures, Fit For An Autopsy seemed to be carving a path to megastardom in their genre niche - and if they continued tweaking the formula with these stylistic flourishes, could probably legitimize Gojira-core as the next big thing in deathcore.
Unfortunately, The Great Collapse walks back some of the progress made on Absolute Hope. It’s usually bad form to judge an album solely in comparison to its predecessor, but it’s tough to ignore the fact that long stretches of this album are kind of dull. Where is the drama of “Saltwound,” the pseudo-mathiness of “Wither” and “False Positive,” the emotional punch of “Storm Drains” and “Swing the Axe”? It’s hard to say. Things kick off in style with “Hydra,” a tense song-long build-up to a crunchy breakdown. It shows Badolato growing into his role as frontman, commanding the direction of the song with the modulations of his voice. It’s a strength he returns to again and again through the best and worst of the album, so it doesn’t really hit until “Terraform” that “Heads Will Hang” and “Black Mammoth” both follow the same structure as “Hydra,” although "Heads Will Hang" gets a lot of mileage out of an addictive, semi-clean sung chorus. Elsewhere, “Black Mammoth” is the most Gojira-sounding song Fit For An Autopsy have written yet, the gang vocals a dead ringer for something off of The Way of All Flesh. Lyrically, it deals with the First People’s plight against the American oil industry, producing one of the most poignant messages of Fit For An Autopsy’s career thus far.
It, along with “When the Bulbs Go Out,” “Too Late,” and “Empty Still” are the album’s best offerings and its most complete-sounding songs. “Empty Sill” is especially powerful, apparently dealing with Badolato’s relationship with his father. Perhaps, however, it’s a metaphor for humanity’s relationship with the planet, a concern that’s front-and-center on “When the Bulbs Go Out” (and certainly hinted at in the subject matter of “Black Mammoth”) whose first minute or so is dedicated to a clip discussing the need for action on climate change. Fit For An Autopsy are not optimists, and the album title and cover art convey a pretty clear stance on the fate of that relationship. These songs approach the dynamic songwriting of the last record, but like the generic title and corny cover art, The Great Collapse is too on-the-nose too often in its overall approach. The key to Absolute Hope Absolute Hell’s success was its nuance: how the lyrical vulnerability of “Storm Drains” gave its tough-guy delivery depth and character, causing the more straightforward aggression of “Murder in the First” to really pop in contrast. “Ghosts in the River,” one again, is that album’s best cut thanks its slithering riffs, cathartic blasting, and effortless mix of bellows, growls, and coarse singing. For the most part, the songs on The Great Collapse rely on impersonal chugging patterns, sparse tapping lines, and a reliance on dramatic pauses during which Badolato can shout out some slogan - “Defiance!” on “Iron Moon” comes to mind. This is a technique that works best as a precursor to a huge moment in the song rather than the moment itself. Luckily, “Iron Moon” features a short solo and a livelier pace than the rest of the album, rescuing it from forgetability.
There is still plenty here to enjoy, especially if the more experimental aspects of Absolute Hope weren’t really to your liking - you’ll find a couple of clean passages here and there, but on the whole, Fit For An Autopsy place a greater emphasis on pounding rhythmicality, though not on the level of Hellbound, either. Just don’t expect anything to take you by throat. This is an album that requires a little more patience to appreciate than other entries in their discography, but whether it’s ultimately worth the investment is more dubious than with any previous FFAA record.