Obituary
Slowly We Rot-Live & Rotting/ Cause Of Death Live Infection

First things first…I. Love. Obituary. They were one of the first death metal bands that I ever heard back in the day and their music was never far from me throughout the ’90’s. While Cause of Death was my actual first exposure to the band, via one of my only other death metal loving friends back in high school, it was the group’s debut, Slowly We Rot, that struck a real chord with me. While both albums are unarguably bonafide classics and history makers in the death metal genre, the sounds of Slowly We Rot just hit me in the most perfect way (and still does to this day). The memories I have of blasting Obituary while cruising up and down Main street on a Friday or Saturday night in the small Texas town I grew up in, as well as making  the drag round our high school on weekday mornings before class, are more than plenty. The band was simply a staple for my teenage listening self, as was pretty much all Floridian death metal and anything on Roadrunner records back then.

As we all know, and is even well documented in David E. Gehlke’s recently released biography, Turned Inside Out: The Official Story of Obituary, the band took a hiatus between 1998 and 2005 for no real reason other than the individual members were just living their own lives for awhile. How cool is that? Though upon their return with Frozen in Time, my then current tastes were a little different and sadly, Obituary‘s sounds just didn’t seem to hit me like they used to. Lets be honest though, the metal scene had witnessed a lot of change and continued growth during the time Obituary was gone. Black metal’s second wave, Metalcore, the New Wave of American Heavy Metal, Djent, the onslaught of Technical/Progressive/ brutal death metal, Deathcore and more, all reared their heads in the time Obituary was m.i.a. and for me personally, the band just didn’t offer the output that acts such as Nile, Cattle Decaptiation, Necrophagist, Arsis, Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir or Behemoth did at the time of their return. Now don’t get me wrong, I never actually stopped being a fan of the band. I would still buy their albums out of both loyalty and the hope of being pleasantly surprised, but ultimately nothing was really doing it for me. In fact it wasn’t until Darkest Day that my love for Obituary was rekindled.

Maybe I just had to get whatever it was out of my system, but ever since the release of Darkest Day and all the way up to present day, I have found Obituary to be back to being one of the bands I can always rely on. The ever “old faithful”, and honestly, after being a bit older and less of an asshole musical elitist, I actually do enjoy Frozen in Time and Xecutioner’s Return quite a bit. I never really have figured out why they didn’t hit me proper initially. Whatever the case, if you’re still reading this, my hat is clearly off to you. I’ve said it more than once, I’m a long-winded guy and I like to talk about things I love, and like I said at the beginning of this, I love Obituary. Having just recently released not one, but two, live albums, Slowly We Rot – Live & Rotting and  Cause of Death – Live Infection, both recorded during the covid lockdowns and subsequential livestream concerts that the mighty Obituary provided for their fanbase, and both celebrating and showcasing their first two albums in full, the band easily shows that much like Ralph Malph, “they still got it”(…that’s a Happy Days sitcom reference for all you youngbloods out there).

Look, there’s no reason to breakdown any of the material on either of these albums for actual technical review. Both studio albums have been out for 30 plus years, and like I said earlier, both are bonafide classics. The chances of you not being familiar with them is most likely, pretty damn low. Besides, if you’ve waded through all my bullshit so far it’s probably because you have an affinity for the band as I do.

Live & Rotting starts out and builds up the dread with that classic eerie intro before the roll of toms come charging forth presenting the Obituary sound in all its burly brilliance with that classic opening of “Internal Bleeding”. The band is tight, the groove is fat, and every player is in fine form, John Tardy sounding especially fierce. Follow-up “Godly Being” sees the band falling into a further solidity that never relinquishes during the rest of the album’s material. By the time the band has ripped through “’Til Death”, it becomes easy to see what makes these guys so badass. The full on belief in what they do and the working man’s ethic and overall quality in their presentation simply shines. Somehow they manage to sound just as bold and savage as their actual debut. At times the material coming in slower than the original composition, sometimes faster, but never non lethal and never not ass kicking.

As for the track listing, it’s pretty much spot on with the studio debut. The only real difference being that the title track has been given the closing spot light as opposed to being fourth in the line up. This works out greatly as the group gets to really ride out the track and all its potential. Though having said that, you hardcore fans out there are going to definitely notice a few tweaks within the majority of the songs. An added slide here, a pinch harmonic there, a bit more of a jammed out palm mute, and so on. Yet it’s all done within the confines and established parameters of the songs and still comes off as fresh and ferocious. I also want to mention that it appears that the presentation here is played a full step down in tuning as opposed to the E standard of the studio debut. Nothing surprising there as the tuning of D has been what the band has used since Cause of Death, but it’s still really cool to finally get all of the debut’s material in a tad bit heftier version. Tack on a few bonus tracks such as the instrumental band favorite, “Redneck Stomp”, a classic and ripping cover of Celtic Frost‘s “Dethroned Emperor”, and the 2019 single, “A Dying World”, and Live & Rotting ends up being a fantastic affair, though I’m not sure how often I will actually choose it over the studio debut.

Live Infection ended up being a bit of a surprise for me. While pretty much everything that I mentioned about Live & Rotting could also be said of Live Infection, it was …Infection that really seemed to hit harder for me out of the two albums. It goes without saying that Cause of Death is an important earmark in the annals of death metal, maybe being even more quintessential than Slowly We Rot. It was Cause of Death that really solidified who the band were and what their sound really was and could be. The material  is just chock full of so many killer riffs, and to this day remains Obituary‘s most complex album, and probably the album of theirs cited the most, by fans and critics alike, as being their most favorite or even best. Though I have always been a fan that would choose SWR over COD if I were ever forced into such a horrible situation, this presentation on Live Infection just may have me rethinking things a tad bit.

From the stellar lead work performance of Andrews at the beginning of “Infected” you just know that the band is on fire and ready to deliver something remarkable. And that they do as they continue to rip and tear their way faithfully, and oh so brutally, through the classic that is Cause of Death. I don’t have a clue to what or why, but everything here just slams me. While the material doesn’t blow my mind like it did when I initially heard it back in the day, it does actually seem to appease me better than the original studio album did back then, and lets be honest, back then it ruled The fact that I might even choose this Live Infection version of Cause of Death over the original is really stating something. Something that may get me in hot water amongst my peers, but it is what it is I guess.

Whatever your favorite track from COD is, it’s presented here in fine ripping form. Seriously, the band just sounds hungry and viscous during the performances. Hell, just the energy alone felt on their staple cover of “Circle of the Tyrants” is amaze-balls. I think that’s what it is, the energy. The band just really shines and works together as one cohesive unit so well, that the energy they are able to conjure up and present is just fantastic. Not to mention the riff to groove ratio of the material is stellar. From start to finish the material is just made for headbanging and after all these years, the band knows how to deliver it in the best possible ways. Shit man, just the riffing of “Dying” alone is enough to break your neck. And the leads!!!

Without a doubt, Cause of Death‘s lead performances, due to James Murphy, were/are something special and Kenny Andrews not only handles them so damn well, he does so while retaining his own self, knowing when do add and when to stay true. Simply fantastic, the man is underrated for sure. Don’t believe me, just listen to that fretboard slaying on “Body Bag”, “Chopped in Half”, “Find the Arise”, and title track “Cause of Death”. If any more proof that Obituary is un-fuck-withable is ever needed, look no further than the one-two punch that is “Memories Remain” and “Turned Inside Out”. With the former blending seamlessly into the latter, the two tracks are flooring and present every single thing my long winded ass has been saying. The songs are simply fantastic and showcase superbly the might of the band and it’s individual pieces.

Donald shows that he is anything but basic in his performances, the man’s brutal, barbaric chops are nothing short of the bands driving engine or heartbeat. John sounds maybe the best he has ever sounded in his whole career, and the man is in is 50’s! To be so clear, vicious, and precise in his attack is a wonderment. Trevor Peres is as good as ever as well, the man is a Panzer tank of riffage and knows what he likes and does it well. Like Tom G. Warrior on steroids, his tone and chords can shake the essence of your being, much less bring down buildings.

When it comes to those “new guys”, well, could you think of a better fit than Terry Butler or Kenny Andrews? I sure the hell can’t. The both are road tested and proven assets to the band and I believe to be  part of the best lineup the band has ever had. Maybe not the “classic”, but the best. Live Infection closes out with an extra four tracks spanning various times of the band’s career and are a nice little bonus to have tacked on to the bliss of the COD material. “Straight to Hell”, “Threatening Skies”, “By the Light”, and “I’m in Pain” all make an appearance, and all are handled fantastically, as well as showing how the band has remained true to their sound throughout all these years.

I have tremendous respect for Obituary. The band has a great DIY ethic and have always kept their business, their business. Never being one to air dirty laundry or talk ill of others, the group simply tackles any adversity and moves ahead. On a personal note, Obituary have been one of the bands that I have fallen back on the past year when it comes to musical reliability and therapy, as I have had some health issues that has/had me a bit down in the dumps. Being able to take solace in things that you love helps in healing, and like I said when I started this novel, I. Love. Obituary. Even going as far as learning a few cover tracks for fun, the band gave me something extra to focus on. For that I am grateful. As I wrap this all up, all I can say to those of you that have actually hung through and read all of this, is that you deserve a medal…oh, and that I love Obituary.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kristofor Allred
November 4th, 2022

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