Obituary – Self-Titled Album Review

In the late 90s Roadrunner Records, Obituary’s then-label, released the ‘Drilling the vein’ video compilation featuring cuts from bands on their roster. I bought it because it had clips from Fear Factory and Machine Head, both bands I was into, but in the midst of the tape (yep, I go back a bit) was a video featuring a raging John Tardy in an urban wasteland. It was Obituary’s ‘I don’t care’ and, in all honesty, I just didn’t get it. It was brutal, searing, unpleasant and, above all, a million miles away from mechanistic Fear Factory and the day-glo Coal Chamber. Raw, primal and ugly, Obituary stood outside my sphere of experience, and yet I found myself repeatedly drawn back to it. For all its viciousness, it was darkly catchy and the ‘I don’t care refrain’ lodged itself in my brain. I started to love the vital punk fury of the music and so began my love affair with ever more extreme music. Obituary have a lot to answer for…

I tell this tale because today Obituary released their much-anticipated tenth album through Relapse Records. Following on from 2014’s well-received ‘Inked in Blood’ and the ’10,000 ways to die MCD’, this self-titled effort captures everything… everything that I have loved about Obituary since that fateful first encounter. Obituary remain thrillingly, viscerally real and yet they have lost none of their knack for crafting songs with real resonance and staying power. Opening with the thunderous death metal of ‘Brave’, obituary waste no time on fancy intros, simply letting the rolling thunder of the drums and churning bass guitar threaten to overwhelm the listener. That punk spirit remains fully intact and John Tardy’s inhuman growl remains as hellbound as ever. A short, sharp shock to the system, ‘Brave’ sees Obituary put their very souls into the sonic inferno they create and if the adrenalin isn’t surging through your veins by the time the song reaches its conclusion, then you may very well be dead. There is no let up as the band plunge into ‘Sentence day’, a monstrous track that writhes and squirms as gruelling solos lash it into submission. ‘A lesson in vengeance’ has the sort of mid-tempo groove that locks you down from the outset, demanding propulsive headbanging only for the tempestuous ‘end it now’ to blow it out of the water with a ferocious assault of gruelling riffage that is sheer metal mania made real. John demands tribute on ‘Kneel before me’, where his acid-strained gurgle exhorts obedience as it emerges from the centre of a cyclical riff that threatens absolute destruction if ignored.

An album highlight, ‘It lives’ is horror metal at its best, conjuring images of the dead and decayed with a ferocity matched only by Autopsy. Deliciously slow and menacing, ‘It lives’ is pretty much the epitome of everything I want from death metal and it sounds simply monstrous. Shifting atmosphere again, ‘Betrayed’ is a lighter, more punk-infused piece than its hulking predecessor only for the chugging ‘turned to stone’ to swagger into view packing the sort of apocalyptic groove that will have the legions of the damned head-banging until the endtimes. The astonishing run of near-perfect metal continues with the raw-as-fuck ‘straight to hell’, a dirty bomb of city-levelling proportions that suddenly plunges into the depths with a doom-laden second half that is sinister in the extreme. The track is four minutes of pure metal brilliance and yet Obituary still manage to top it with the closing number ‘ten thousand ways to die’, a darkly melodic piece of music that perfectly caps the all-too-brief album. However, for those who purchased the special digi-pack edition (and you really should because, with its shiny ink, it’s just gorgeous), more mayhem awaits with the special bonus track ‘no hope’. Once again packing that patented Obituary groove, ‘no hope’ is layered with killer riffs and it leaves the listener sweat-soaked and pasted with a huge, shit-eating grin. A moment to catch the breath and it’s time to kick the whole thing off again – trust me, you’ll want to.

No band has the right to sound this goddam vital ten albums into their career. It’s as if Obituary are placed into suspended animation after each gruelling tour and only bought out, refreshed and reanimated, to deliver their next thrilling slice of crushing death metal. It’s catchy-as-fuck, brutal-as-a-brick-to-the-cranium, life-affirming death metal delivered at breakneck pace by a band who know no compromise. Death metal rarely gets any better than this and if metal is your life, then ‘Obituary’ is your lifeblood. 10

and just because we can…

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