Obituary - Inked in Blood (Relapse Records)

Comfortable, like an old pair of high tops - but deadly nonetheless.
Release Date: 
27 Oct 2014 - 11:30pm

Old school death metal. It seems almost quaint now, when put up against the world’s best sleek new metalcore wrecking machines, or the pure powerviolence nutcases who stalk the fringes of the metal domain; yet there’s something essentially wholesome – and very metal – about bands like Obituary that keeps us coming back to them time and again, even if their sound is now as outdated as the Saxons and Iron Maidens they supposedly came to supplant at the end of the eighties.

The reason for this – especially in the case of Obituary – is that essentially they make very listenable music, and Inked in Blood is probably the most listenable record they’ve made since 1994’s World Demise. Mid-paced crunch is what they excel in, and there’s a veritable smorgasbord of that kinda stuff to enjoy on Inked in Blood. Take a track like Visons in My Head, which is essentially the album in microcosm; Starting with a pleasing staccato riff/drum interface before vocalist JohnTardy ushers the song proper in with a glorious elongated death grunt, this song’s got a pleasing kind of death metal swing to it that really sums up Obituary in 2014. Tight but loose, the band motor without ever sounding out of control. Of course they could probably do this type of song in their sleep by now, but that makes it no less exhilarating to listen to. When the other Tardy – drummer Donald – gets in the pocket with the kick drums rumbling along, the snare seemingly working at half speed and the guitars of Trevor Perez and Kenny Andrew meshing over the top in sludgy harmony, not only do you know you’re listening to Obituary, you know you’re listening to old masters still at the top of their game. Elsewhere the band digs deep into the past of death metal to combine elements of Celtic Frost and Napalm Death on the ripping Violence, keeping it old school but widening the sound just enough to keep things interesting. In either mode, this album still sounds fresh enough to suggest that this is a fully rejuvenated beast. 

So whilst musical cousins Cannibal Corpse have mutated upwards into the sleek, surgically precise killing machine they always threatened they’d become, Obituary have seemingly made no progress at all, happy to lurk in their Floridian swamp of gore and filth, like some belching death metal coelacanth that time forgot. Theirs is a simplistic, dirty heaviness, tarnished in comparison the the gleaming killing machine of Cannibal Corpse. But I know which one I’d rather listen to. It’s the one that’s still rotting, slowly…