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The Sound of an Axe Hitting the Chopping Block - 90%

corviderrant, October 22nd, 2004

Hear that? That solid 'thunk' you hear is not only the sound of Donald Tardy's rock-soild drumming grinding your head into the floor, it is also the sound of the headsman's axe removing your melon from your shoulders to finish your miserable little life.

This was, in my opinion, one of the few really good early-90s death metal releases. Granted, it had the usual Scott Burns "mushtone drone" (term copyright Me) production values with dense walls of guitar dominating most everything else except for the drums (which had a somewhat dry yet distant sound to them), but the power of Donald Tardy's hitting and that ungodly guitar tone of Trevor Peres made a biiiiig difference! Trevor, in my book, is one of the very few successors to the title of "Heaviest Guitar Tone This Side of the Vintage Celtic Frost Albums" with that unholy downtuned grunge tone of his, by the way.

The opening of "Infected" alone, with its simple and well-placed alternation of sustained regular power chords and flatted fifth (first-inversion) power chords sets the pace perfectly, with its ultra-evil and menacing sound over pounding tom-toms. Gives me chills to hear it! The rideout is the same thing and Trevor milks it to perfection with its repetitive mantra-like feel. The song itself is classic Obituary, midpaced verses going into thrashy choruses with ample amounts of doom riffing--those ringing chords and John Tardy's undead howls will scare the shit out of most anybody. John was unique in his approach, with his incoherent screams and roars fitting the music in such a way that nobody else would have been able to fit in like he did.

The rest of the album follows suit: "Chopped In Half", "Body Bag", "Dying", the title track...it's all good. Yeah, you can't understand a word coming out of Tardy's mouth 99% of the time, but so what? It works perfectly, and with a more refined vocalist and actual lyrics, this would have been cheesy as hell. This album has pace, dynamics, and aggression to spare, and it shows off all those things in a surprisingly coherent and structured manner.

Thundering through their tunes with deliberate and merciless intent, Obituary needed something special to really elevate these tunes to the next level, and they got it in James Murphy. Say what you will about his mercenary nature, his playing is stunning in its beauty and adds an extra degree of class and taste to the proceedings. Even their cover of the most overcovered tune ever, Celtic Frost's classic "Circle of the Tyrants", sounds right on, and his soloing flies high over the band like an eagle with its wah-wah-soaked intensity, leaving the limited approach of original guitarist Allen West in the dust. Murphy has both technical prowess and impeccable taste, as well as sweet and fluid tone, and his soloing was the right thing for every song, no mindless wankery at all.

This album is a sincerely perfect wall of sound, a piledriver, a bulldozer personified. If you own only one album of this band's, make it this one, because it sums them up beautifully. And the additional bonus of killer lead guitar work only makes it better than it already was. Buy, buy, buy, if you can find it, since Roadracer is now a suckass nu-metal asskisser label and probably won't reissue this any time soon.