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How to Death Metal, Step 1: Obituary - 100%

Roffle_the_Thrashard, April 21st, 2015

If there was a guide on how to sound as brutal and as gnarly as possible as a death metal group, then Obituary would be used as an example for just about everything. Not too many death metal acts come as close to the absolute devastation marker as Obituary. And the same thing applies to Cause of Death. This 9 track blast, complete with a Celtic Frost cover, is my top contender for best death metal album of all time.

My favorite thing about Cause of Death is the vocals. John Tardy is a complete monster behind the mic. He just bulldozes over everything in his path with his voice. These aren't death metal growls; they're roars. He sits up high on his pedestal above some of death metal's most titanic vocalists, like Brett Hoffman. It's just a shame that his vocals have lost the zing in the albums past that makes Cause of Death so great to listen to. His best use of his skills is on "Memories Remain" and on "Dying." Tardy's lyrics at this point in Obituary's career mostly consisted of growls and roars and some off-kilter lyrics, and that's just fine for me. All I need is the sound, not too much lyrical substance when it comes to death metal vocals. That last sentence sums up my thoughts about Cause of Death's vocals and lyrics.

The aura that comes off of Cause of Death is one of pure evil. The vibe is the musical equivalent of a corpse rotting in the sun, just reeking of death and horrifying it's onlooker/listener. The extra effects added to the album are what make it achieve this level of greatness. Another example is the intro of "Infected." When the descending sound of chimes and a howling wind soon joined by a hammer striking rock, you know that it's the ominous intro of this record.

And that was just the start. The down tuned strings of Trevor Peres's guitar then played the dark, foreboding riff that "Infected's" beginning is centered upon. And then the solo of James Murphy flys on down like a vulture ready to feast on the awesome sound of Obituary. His solos' sounds are a more pure and less distorted sound than his other work as a guitarist, but I liked his tones on this record more than any other album he has played on. The other two masterpieces of Cause of Death are "Memories Remain" and "Find the Arise." I love the opening of "Memories Remain". It's the band at their most trying extent and features John Tardy's craziest scream. "Find the Arise" is the equivalent of a movie teaser, so essentially everything that you will hear in "Cause of Death" is present in it. I fondly remember being taken aback and being quite startled by the very sudden scream that would come after the intro of a thunderstorm on "Find the Arise."

There is also a lot to be said about the two unsung heroes of Cause of Death's sound, drummer Donald Tardy and bass player Frank Watkins. Although not very distinguishable in sound, the presence of his thunderous bass is very much aware to the listener. The heavy bottom ended sound of Obituary's tone of the early 90's is mostly thanks to his thick, fuzzy bass edge. Donald Tardy is a superb drummer. Never, and I mean absolutely never has he dragged or rushed the tempo of any Obituary song or gotten off beat. Check out "Find the Arise" and "Chopped in Half" for his best work on Cause of Death.

Asking a 100% death metal group to cover a Celtic Frost song is no easy task, and to do it well is a whole other endeavor. Obituary nailed "Circle of the Tyrants." Listening to Donald Tardy flying through the drum patterns like no one's business and his brother spit out the lyrics to the song completely convinced me that Celtic Frost was a big influence on them, even though their sound is far more abrasive. The rest of the band did wonderfully and I think that the cover could easily be called perfect.

And perfect is the word to tell a newbie to death metal about Cause of Death. Years ago when I looked at this album I knew right away I was in for something different, something much, much more edgy than the average record. And that's exactly what I got. I got Florida's most brutal band: Obituary.