Released: 2017, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
10 albums and 29 years may have passed since they slowly began to rot, but Obituary is still as timeless (frozen in time?) and relevant as they ever were, probably even more so today. Coming off a career resurgence courtesy of 2014’s INKED IN BLOOD and the touring cycle that accompanied it, the Florida death metal vets are set to enter their third decade with their best record to date this side of the Roadrunner days. Sure, the band opted to title this new album eponymously, but they just as well could’ve named it “How Obituary Got Its Groove Back.”
As good as the material was on INKED IN BLOOD, one could argue that it sounded too polished, too clean. OBITUARY sounds like a remix of the more amped up INKED tunes but filtered through a 1994 lens and soaked in Red Bull. And clocking in at a smidge over 30 minutes, it’s a lean and dirty throwback to the band’s thrashier Xecutioner days, full of high impact riffs and low on filler. The one-two punch of “Brave” and “Sentence Day” open the album as a pair of the fastest tunes in the band’s repertoire, while gems like “It Lives” and “Straight to Hell” recall the up-tempo, old school groove of classics like “Find the Arise” and “Don’t Care”. “Turned to Stone” recently hit the streets as a single and is token (toking?) Obituary sludge stomp at its finest and “Ten Thousand Ways to Die” from last year’s live album of the same name makes a return appearance to close out the disc. It’s a tight and effective batch of tunes that flow remarkably well together and leaving you wanting more.
But let’s talk about how good the band sounds for a bit, shall we? Trevor Peres’ bong water swamp guitar tone sounds meaner, heavier, and grimier than it has in ages. It’s the cornerstone of the Obituary sound and anchors the tunes front and center in the mix – exactly where it should be. John Tardy’s inimitable vocal growl sounds thicker and weathered with age, roaring like some kind of wounded demon. But the real surprise is how much leeway kinda sorta new lead guitarist Kenny Andrews has been given with the tunes. Flipping the switch seamlessly between total shred (“Brave”), bluesy arpeggio runs (“Betrayed”), and everything in between (that harmonic solo on “Ten Thousand Ways”), he’s easily the most proficient guitarist in the band’s lineage and his contributions make OBITUARY the most technically articulate album in the band’s catalog.
Obituary could tour into infinity on the backs of their first three records and the metal community would probably be okay with that - which makes OBITUARY that much more of an accomplishment at this stage of their existence. Arguably as good as any of those first three records and definitely as good, if not better, than anything in the last 10 years, OBITUARY is the album that both the fans and the band deserve.