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The thrash metal producer of the age Scott Burns I would say is equally responsible as the band for making this album such a success. Commercially it did pretty good for a death metal band but let’s just say the likes of Bon Jovi and Motley Crue were not losing any sleep concerning the uprising of American death metal. This flourishing musical bed of guttural belches and thick slow riffs found itself a home in the swampy heat of Florida State and Obituary were for a time the flagship band there.
As a teenager by the time this record came out I was already a die hard thrasher wearing my Metallica shirts and Kreator patches on my denim jacket but this style was something new to me. The UK press built the band up as the slowest heaviest thing to hit the record shops ever but when I got around to purchasing the thing what is shocking is the furious thrashing pace that the majority of the songs possessed.
Now my absolute favourite band at this time was Celtic Frost and it would be impossible to write about Slowly We Rot with out bring up this band. The previous year Celtic Frost alienated its fans by releasing a glammed up straight rock album and it left a gaping hole in the scene that Obituary not only filled but defiled awesomely. The guitar sound in particular is uncanny in its resemblance to that on Celtic Frost’s Emperor Returns and Morbid Tales EP’s. That’s where Scott Burns comes in, it is incredibly difficult to get such a sludgy treacle like guitar sound that when combined with drums, bass and vocals doesn’t come across as a sloppy flabby mess. For proof check out the majority of death metal releases during 1989 and you’ll see what I mean. Here, Burns production techniques give the airy space that a record like this needs, everything is clear except for the majority of lyrics that singer John Tardy belches out. But with this kind of music you wouldn’t want it any other way now, would you?
From the opening riffs of Internal Bleeding it’s clear that even with a short running time of 2.40 that there was no other way to open this record. Tardy delivers two huge Thomas Gabriel Warrior-esque belches that work as a further nod to their Celtic Frost influences and from that the band forge their own path into death metal history. A couple of times the band slip up though, most notably on Suffocation which being placed on side two stands out for purely sounding by the numbers and offers nothing special to proceedings. Yet the majority of tracks on here obliterate previous death metal efforts out of the water. Take the title track as a prime example, the riffs are fat, thick bastards torn straight from Satan’s own songbook, the verse is almost catchy for want of a better word and as for the finale, well, it’s a thrash metal perfection. A race to the finish with skewed solo’s flailing all over the place. It’s utterly thrilling.
A year later thrash was on its last legs but death metal was still flourishing, Obituary, although riding the second wave of death found themselves amongst the scene leaders. I caught them live in 1992 I think at the London Astoria playing with Napalm Death and it seemed the band was going through the motions but three years earlier the group sound ridiculously hyped up and gunning for success. I wish I had seen them then.