The new self titled album is the tenth album from Floridian death metal legends Obi…wait hold on, tenth album? Really? I’ve heard of bands releasing some forgettable songs, but it seems they must have half a career of forgettable material – I honestly thought this was maybe their fifth or sixth despite their longevity – and I’ve heard them all. Now, there will be few death metal fans who don’t agree that Slowly We Rot and Cause of Death, as well as The End Complete if you’re generous, are absolute classics of filthy death metal with a killer groove and twisted vocals, but only the staunchest Obituary fans would praise anything that came after in the same manner – those three album names also seemed a presentiment of what was to come for them. Through the last twenty five years whenever the lid has been lifted off the coffin for the lumbering corpse that is Obituary to lumber around and terrorise the stage they’ve been consistently brilliant, but the zombie’s search for brains has yielded nothing in that time when they’ve hit the studio. So 29 years into their career their tenth album is a self titled one, but is it good enough to be the eponymous album on which their name rests? Surprisingly at this point, yes.
One can point to the remix of Bullituary as an experiment, but really Obituary haven’t changed their sound much through the years, it’s always been focused around Jon Tardy’s sick and twisted snarling vocals, simple heavy but grooving riffs and snappy drums. The difference was they sounded unmemorable, tired and uninspired of late but here they sound fresh and re-energised. The first riff and snarling vocals as the album opens up with Brave are absolutely killer, and the song has everything. Bouncy headbangable riffs, snappy drums, a vicious bass sound, killer lead guitars and great pacing all crammed into a short two minute package. Jon sounds killer throughout, sounding like he is into the music much more than he has been in a long time, the vocals have an extra viciousness to them. Sentence Day is even better, with chunky headbangable riffs and face melting duel solos that could’ve come straight out of the eighties.
Lesson In Vengeance is a slower, catchier track, having been a single, but despite more simplistic catchy riffs and lyrics the song bounces along nicely with a groove that even reminds of Black Sabbath’s Children of the Grave – and if that’s not a compliment, what is? Being slower gives the riffs space to breathe and it’s not as heavy as the rest giving a nice change of pace, but it all feels like it comes to an end too quickly, with a slower pace it could’ve done with being fleshed out longer than three minutes. The chunky but melodic riff on Betrayed bounces along with a sick groove, fleshed out with great wirey bass, lead guitars and more of the sick drawn out vocals we know and love from Jon.
End it Now is one of the weaker tracks lyrics and vocally, the constant emphasis on the last word “now” on practically every line gets old quite fast, and that riff under the chorus is one of the lazier attempts at a simple groove that plagued their recent albums. It’s an attempt at a catchy single that doesn’t work as well – but it’s still better than other efforts of this kind – despite the lyrics, the drawn out vocals are sick and the drums really snappy and the fast riff three minutes in barrels away excellently. Turned to Stone is another where they go for a catchier number that doesn’t really work so well either, but these are the two weakest tracks on the album.
The face-melting guitar solo from Sentence guitar makes you throw yourself round the room air-guitaring like a crazy bastard, the opening riff from Betrayed getting you grooving along, the sick filthy sound of It Lives pulling your face into a grimace, while Lesson in Vengeance has you headbanging along like crazy, and when was the last time Obituary elicited these kind of reactions? It’s been decades, and this is an album that’s going to bring huge smiles to the faces of fans of the classic material. And for that alone one can forgive some of the weaker moments when it’s their best album since the nineties. At thirty six minutes it seems really short where some of their other albums are a struggle to get through. It Lives!