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Class 6(66)

Obituary: Cause of death

18/02/11  ||  Habakuk

Introduction

While I definitely can’t explain to you just why they’re still around, I’ll try to explain to you why Obituary came onto the metal map to begin with. Reason number one is this, reason number two is “Cause of death”. Back when Florida was death metal heaven, these guys played along including the same gory imagery, the same Morrisound production and whatnot, but they added their distinct fingerprint on top of it all. Obituary were among the first that turned it down a notch and focused on thick, weed-infested grooves instead of pure speed while still staying death metal to the bone. And to be honest, I don’t know many bands that sound like this until today.

Songwriting

8. First of all, there’s a great Celtic Frost cover on here. Always a bonus. And while different in style, it isn’t out of place either. The reason why is that for a 1990 US death metal album, “Cause of death” is impressively slow – yet not really giving me a death/doomish vibe. It’s just a decidedly more chilled-out approach to death than what the guys around them went for, with the occasional upbeat section breaking through the thick guitar/drum grooves, but everything staying in rather humane shape and form. This would probably be a very accessible album indeed, if it weren’t for the “special” vocals approach – more of that, later. But first, production!

Production

7. Scott “no bass guitar” Burns, Morrisound. It’s good and a very “organic”, full-sounding production job, but definitely nothing spectacular. The guitar tone and drums are pretty damn good though, and the album’s songs are nicely connected by lots of cool sound effects (somewhat reminiscent of Sepultura’s “Arise”, just not as fantastic). Listening to this on headphones, I do hear something that sounds like clipping, but that could be my shitty rip. Cross-checked, and actually, I don’t think it is. Well, that wouldn’t be good. Anyway, not sure, so a 7 it is.

Guitars

8. Mixed riff bag with a lot of good stuff and a few stinkers. WHAT? THIS IS OBITUARY CLASSIC DEATH MATEL! Nope, there definitely are some filler bits on this album, namely all of the ropy “note 1 ×4, note 2 ×4, note 3 ×4, note 4 ×4” “riffs” that in general are simply backed by a fast thrash beat (“Body bag” at 1:44 and continuing through half the song, “Chopped in half” at 1:22, there are more examples…). This shit just screams “uninspired”, which is a shame, because there is a lot of nasty groove ‘n’ chug riffage to be found, as well as some positively slimy, swampdragging guitar play somewhat in the Celtic Frost vein. Should have cut down on the shit bits a little to make it all-around awesome.
“Turned inside out” and “Cause of death” for starters are two shining examples of just that.

Vocals

8.5. Obviously the great dividing element for the lovers and the haters. John reTardy at some early point in Obituary’s career decided that if he took the van Drunen approach even further down to primordial screams without any lyrics, it would still work with the music. And that was the truth. Vile, grimy throat-utterings in great flow do it just fine for me, and who listens to death metal for the lyrics anyway? So, a logical step backwards, making the musical experience more primeval and pretty awesome in general. Stamp of approval is hereby obtained.

Bass

5. Yeah, somewhere in the back, doing the stuff metal bassist do: do the stuff the guitarists do.

Drums

8. There can’t be no bubbling groove without a solid hitter like Donald Tardy behind the kit. Perhaps not the most technically advanced drummer, he still gives this a solid double bass grounding, provides a decent flow and overall a very focused, discernible and tight performance. Little details here and there, a great fill once in a while, and we’re pretty much where we wanted to be with this. I definitely have no complaints here.

Lyrics

8. Unless you wanna hear about “Circle of the tyrants” (Uh!), there is not much to talk about here. The lyrics are pretty much what’s in the tracklist below. “CHOPPED IN HALWWRGGHHGHG!” plus incomprehensible half sentences. Which is quite fun.

Cover art

9. A David Whelan piece based on something Cthulhu-ish, if I remember correctly. The same dude painted the covers for Sepultura’s “Beneath the remains” and “Arise”, Demolition Hammer’s “Epidemic of violence” and others, and this is up there with the best of them. Cause of death: Being spiderwebbed by a giant eye.

Logo

9. Careful, it’s just been sharpened.

Booklet

3. I know that I’ve had this one for quite a bit of time now. Why, because the booklet is full of beer, piss and vinegar and generally in a weathered, old school condition? Wrong! It’s because this is the piece of shit “Two from the vault” edition together with “Slowly we rot” and without a decent booklet. I would never buy anything like this, now that I’m old and wise. It comes in those fucken dual disc trays that basically fall apart the minute you first open them. There are no lyrics (obviously), both covers on the inside of the booklet (at least, but I’m not going to re-fold this to pretend it’s an original) a few pictures and about ten lines of “liner notes” that basically say “this is the shit, taking everything to the next level of awesomeness”. Bah!

Overall and ending rant

This and “Slowly we rot” are pretty much indisputable and almost unique-sounding classics that came out in the right place at the right time, which is late eighties / early nineties Florida. For me personally, this one here has a bit of an edge over “Slowly…” due to the more refined nature of its sound and the better production, but both of them are almost inseparable. In fact, my two copies are inseparable in that fucken double tray. CHOP IN HALWVVVURGHGHHG!!!
So yeah. This is a must-listen for death aficionados and everyone in need of a chillin’ trip back to the nineties. I strongly recommend you pick it up or die tryin’. Which actually could make your Obituary read: “Cause of death: Cause of death“ and that would almost be worth it.

8

  • Information
  • Released: 1990
  • Label: Roadrunner
  • Website: www.obituary.cc
  • Band
  • John Tardy: vocals
  • Trevor Peres: rhythm guitars
  • James Murphy: lead guitars
  • Frank Watkins : bass
  • Donald Tardy : drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Infected
  • 02. Body bag
  • 03. Chopped in half
  • 04. Circle of the tyrants
  • 05. Dying
  • 06. Find the arise
  • 07. Cause of death
  • 08. Memories remain
  • 09. Turned inside out