Boy, did the hype machine really kick into overdrive with this album… OK, there was never any doubt as to whether the Death Metal faithful would cream themselves over this album but when even rags like Kerrang! started chipping in with glowing reviews did I begin to really expect something super special from these vets of the Florida scene, and by ‘special’ I mean not just solid (i.e. “Frozen In Time”) or even very good (i.e. “Cause Of Death”), but something that would really give their magnum opus, “Slowly We Rot”, a run for its money. Did I get this?
Yes, for the most part anyway… Don’t get me wrong – this is indeed a great OBITUARY album, and I would go so far as to declare this album my second favorite offering of theirs, but at the end of the day this is simply not the ultimate OBITUARY album (that honor still belongs to their untouchable debut). It comes dangerously close but at the end of the day it’s not quite a masterpiece. Everything you’ve heard about the album is basically true – it is heavier, faster, and ultimately more intricate than any post-“Cause Of Death” OBITUARY album, and they sound more energized than they have in ages. These elements become crystal clear with the one-two opening assault of “Face Your God” and “Lasting Presence”, two tracks that ram down the door with unusual thrashiness and excellent old-school OBITUARY riffs (i.e. simple but thunderously heavy). This trend is continued on “Drop Dead” (a slightly groovier number much in the same vein as those found on “The End Complete”) and “Seal Your Fate”, a track that features a rapid-fire vocal delivery from John Tardy that can only be called the Death Metal equivalent of rapping. Take that whichever way you like but it rocks like a motherfucker, let me tell you.
Of course the album also features more than its fair share of slower more CELTIC FROST-inspired monsters, with the epic (yes, epic!) “Contrast The Dead” quite probably being the best Doom piece these guys have ever penned. It’s a slow, lurking number with a wicked atmosphere and some of the best solos ever found on an OBI album. Unfortunately some of the other slower numbers like “Bloodshot” and “Second Chance”” tend to really plod along aimlessly and it is because of these tracks that this album only gets an 8. But just when you think they blew their load with the opening four tracks the speedy “Lies” comes along and destroys everything in sight – groovy riffs, crunchy double-bass and the deranged vocals of John laying down the law. Another OBITUARY classic right there!
As one would expect the individual performances are spot on across the board. John Tardy’s vocals are still their maniacal self (is there any vocalist out there who is as instantly recognizable?), while the riffs and drumming are especially impressive (this album does feature Donald’s most intricate work to date, even though this wont be apparent at first). Ralph Santolla is fast becoming the go-to guy of Death Metal and just like he did on DEICIDE’s recent triumph (“Stench”), he showers this album with an amazing array of flashy yet totally suitable solos that really add something extra to this band. Cheers mate! Production-wise this album also rocks with a fittingly raw but clear production. Oh yeah, I also love the Andreas Marschall cover art!
So all in all this is a magnificent album from these guys; they don’t reinvent the wheel on here (I mean, this is OBITUARY we’re talking about), it’s still the same old OBITUARY - only better. While its predecessor, “Frozen In Time”, was a solid album it is on here that they really pull out all the stops. If they only trimmed some of the fat on “Bloodshot” and “Second Chance” this would hands-down be the best thing they’ve ever done but as it stands this is a superb album that more than lives up to its title. It’s a throwback to the days of yore but also a rebirth of sorts for them. Long may they reign… in gore.
(Online October 13, 2007)