Since Floridian Death Metal pioneers Obituary released the first of their comeback albums, Frozen In Time (Roadrunner) in 2005, the results have been frustratingly inconsistent. All four reunion albums to date contain moments of undisputed quality, but are also hindered by a fair share of lacklustre material.
The tenth studio album of their lengthy career, Obituary (Relapse), sees the band in the same kind of stuttering form as the last twelve years, still showing themselves to be fully capable of projectile vomiting classic moments of pulverizing Death Metal into your face one minute, but then dribbling out (by their own high standards anyway) puddles of tepid disappointment the next. However, the good news here is that the balance is weighted much more towards the former than the latter this time.
Opening in optimistically brutal fashion, ‘Brave’ launches itself at you like an angry Rottweiler, all snarling vocals, razor-sharp riffs and screaming solos. ‘Sentence Day’ follows in the same fashion, with frontman John Tardy really starting to lay on his trademark slurred vocals by the halfway point while lead guitarist Kenny Andrews shreds like a beast.
‘Lesson in Vengeance’, with its Motorhead-dripping-in-swamp-slime riff does its best to keep up the early momentum but just seems a little out of place after the unfettered insanity of the first two tracks, especially when ‘End It Now’ bursts messily all over the carpet straight afterwards. ‘Kneel Before Me’, like much of the band’s recent output, is standard heard-it-all-before-but-in-a-good-way Death Metal, but ‘It Lives’ is a mucus-coated monster, oozing with fetid graveyard sludge and feasting on putrefying animal remains.
For some reason, that peak is followed by the pedestrian and instantly forgettable trough of ‘Betrayed’, a song which not even an undeservedly good guitar solo is capable of saving. With its hints of Celtic Frost, ‘Turned to Stone’ is undoubtedly an improvement, but still the sound of a band grasping for ideas. No such subtle hinting with ‘Straight to Hell’ though as Obituary go full Frost ahead, even beginning the song with a sneakily familiar riff, and a patented Tom G Warrior “OOH!”
Closing out the album in the best possible way, ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die’ is unquestionably one of the album’s highlights – if not the highlight. Surprisingly melodic in places, ‘TTWTD’ is a crushingly heavy slab of vintage mid-paced Obituary where Tardy really sounds like his old self, drummer Donald Tardy pounds his kit with purpose while Terry Butler‘s bass throbs menacingly underneath. Guitarist Trevor Peres drives the song forward with a suitably hideous riff before a superb guitar solo guides the song to its over-far-too-soon conclusion, where for the first time on the record, the band leave you genuinely wanting more.