Album Title: Obituary
Label: Relapse Records
Release date: 17 March 2017
My love affair with Obituary dates back to the mid-nineties and their ‘World Demise’ album. It was a discovery, on cassette, at a time when I was getting more and more into extreme forms of music. I’d started out with the likes of Def Leppard and Guns ‘N’ Roses, moved on to Metallica and Iron Maiden, then discovered Slayer and Cradle of Filth. From there, my tastes went in all kinds of directions and Obituary were one of the bands that was randomly hit by my manic teenage scattergun approach.
I can still remember hearing tracks like ‘Final Thoughts’ and ‘Don’t Care’ for the first time, drinking in the brutality, the groove, the extreme sounds and those gurning, guttural vocals that sounded like nothing I’d ever heard of before. Ever since, Obituary have remained a firm fixture in my collection and I retain a soft spot for the Floridian death machine. There have been a few highs and lows along the way, including a six-year disbanding between 1997 and 2003 but no-one can question the ability and the integrity of one of the most steadfast bands in the entire death metal genre.
Fast forward to 2017 and we’re presented with Obituary’s tenth album, the self-titled ‘Obituary’. Normally bands will release a self-titled album as a debut or at a point in their career where they feel that they are unleashing their best material. In the case of Obituary, there’s no doubt that it is very much the latter. Laying my cards on the table at the outset, I’d have to consider ‘Obituary’ to be one of the best records of their career, pushing the brilliant ‘Slowly We Rot’ and even my fond personal favourite ‘World Demise’ close in my estimations.
Obituary in 2017 is comprised of the ever-present Tardy brothers, vocalist John and drummer Donald alongside rhythm guitarist Trevor Peres, lead guitarist Kenny Andrews and bassist Terry Butler. I don’t think the guys would mind me saying that they are no longer spring chickens but this has had literally no adverse effect on their output. If anything, the quintet are even more fierce and aggressive in their advancing middle age, certainly if this album is anything to go by.
‘Obituary’ features ten tracks and a running time of around 33 minutes, meaning that it is not going to require the greatest outlay in terms of time. However, it uses the time wisely, delivering a monstrous death metal assault from start to finish, leaving you battered, bruised and with a sore neck. Quite literally, my head does not stop banging for the entirety of this record and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a very good thing indeed.
By and large, long term fans of the Floridian quintet will not be surprised by the output of ‘Obituary’ as the bulk of the material follows a familiar blueprint. The instantly recognisable vocals of John Tardy are present throughout, sounding as wonderfully disgusting and ferocious as ever. And then there’s that trade mark muscular yet raw and dirty guitar tone which smothers the material, giving it that superbly rotten and depraved sound, as if the music has been pulled kicking and screaming from the gutter.
What might raise an eyebrow or two is the consistent quality of ‘Obituary’, something that has arguably been lacking at times within the more recent discography. Not only that, but ‘Obituary’ reasserts that hunger, desire and sheer brutality for which Obituary is known and loved. Personally-speaking I really like the mixture of faster-paced material and the slower, more groove-oriented compositions; this blend creates a sense of variety which can often be lacking on records of this nature.
The album opens up with a real statement of intent via the intense up-tempo one-two of ‘Brave’ and ‘Sentence Day’. Both miserably fail to hit the three-minute mark but they both pack a serious punch. ‘Brave’ has more of a loose, thrashy feel to it as it motors along at a fair lick whilst ‘Sentence Day’ is liberally seasoned with blistering solos and lead breaks galore courtesy of Kenny Andrews. It is a frenetic but hugely enjoyable beginning to the album.
The pace is then slowed courtesy of ‘Lesson In Vengeance’ which creates that churning groove which makes Obituary such a pleasure to listen to. Unless my ears deceive me, there’s an almost imperceptible 70s vibe to the central riff that won’t go unnoticed by the faithful I’m sure.
After a swift opening, ‘End It Now’ settles into one of the most satisfyingly groovy tracks on the record, making it without doubt one of my favourites. Tardy’s voice descends even lower into the sewers on top of a killer mid-tempo stomping riff, backed up by a solid, no-frills rhythm section which becomes more intense as the song draws to a gigantic close. This has to be one of my all-time favourite Obituary tracks, particularly when the swirling, dextrous lead guitar solo appears out of nowhere to add a touch of finesse.
The wailing guitars that punctuate more groovy death metal brilliance within ‘Kneel Before Me’ are a masterstroke, as is the menacing, rumbling bass of Terry Butler that underpins the ferocity that plays out around it. ‘It Lives’ by contrast churns and bulldozes the listener whilst almost delivering something approximating a melody within the infectious groove.
It sounds daft I know, but if there is such a thing in the Obituary vocabulary, ‘Betrayed’ has an almost fun, playful vibe to it as it skips along at a decent tempo, dominated by a simple-sounding but effective central riff. ‘Turned To Stone’ then reverts to something more akin to old school Obituary dominated by a slow, ponderous and heavy-as-hell riff that slithers ominously and gets your head really nodding whether or not you want it to.
‘Obituary’ is then closed out by the duo of ‘Straight to Hell’ and ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die’ and it’s a fittingly high quality end to the album. The former begins at a high tempo before slowing right down into near doom territory in the mid-section as the guitar riffs wade through concrete whilst John Tardy apparently gargles it. ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die’ kicks off with an ear catching, almost tribal-sounding drum performance from Donald Tardy but it is the lead guitar work in the closing stages that ultimately steals the show, rounding things out with one last decadent hurrah.
And there you have it. Proof if ever proof was needed that one of the biggest names in death metal is well and truly back on form with an album that delivers just about everything that you could possibly want from them. On this form, Obituary are irresistible.
The Score of Much Metal: 9.0
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day