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Sunday Old School: Obituary

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Believe it or else, there was a time when death metal didn’t consist of bands who looked and sounded exactly the same, when it was an exciting new genre, spurred on by the likes of Possessed and Kreator. Like all genres, it had some bands that stood out more than others, and one group who stood out due to their undeniable quality and fresh approach, was Obituary. Obituary were originally formed by brothers John and Donald Tardy under the name Executioner in 1984, before altering their moniker to Xecutioner, prior to finally (and wisely) changing their name once again in 1988 to Obituary. Soon after the final name change, they entered Morrisound Studios to record with Scott Burns, who within the studio, also produced several other extreme metal classics such as "Effigy of the Forgotten" by Suffocation and a number of albums by Cannibal Corpse. The result was their first album, "Slowly We Rot," which was released in the summer of 1989 through Roadracer Records. The album was very well received, and many Obituary fans still regard it as their heaviest record to date. They were soon faced with the task of finding new members however, as guitarist Allen West and bass player Daniel Tucker parted company with the group, leaving their shoes to be filled by former Death guitarist James Murphy and hardcore loving bassist Frank Watkins respectively. This new lineup soon recorded a second album, "Cause Of Death," released the next year to similar praise. The album featured artwork by Michael Whelan which was originally going to be used by Sepultura for their "Beneath The Remains" album, but Obituary were allowed to use it first. It also contained a cover of the classic Celtic Frost song, "Circle of the Tyrants" and is today regarded as a true classic in the death metal genre.

This would prove to be their only record with Murphy, as the band welcomed Allen West back into the fold soon afterwards. They got to work on their third album, "The End Complete," which remains the biggest selling record to date, shifting well over half a million copies worldwide and gaining the band their first entry into the Billboard charts, peaking at number 16 on the Top Heatseekers chart. Although were not able to replicate this commercial success with the follow up, "World Demise," they made much of a profound statement, particularly with the music video for the album opener, "Don’t Care," which was seen as an environmental protest song, and featured shocking images of pollution. The album featured a number of other bleak sounding songs too, "Final Thoughts," "Lost" and the title track in particular. It would be three years before they released another record, which finally came in 1997 under the title, "Back From the Dead," the first Obituary album not to be produced by Scott Burns. The record received mixed reviews and, owing mostly to a lack of desire for touring, the band decided to call it a day soon after its release, marking their breakup with a live album suitably entitled, "Dead."

Members of the band focused their attention on other projects during this hiatus, including Allen West devoting more time to Six Feet Under, the band featuring former Cannibal Corpse vocalist Chris Barnes, and Donald Tardy performing drums for party animal Andrew W.K., with whom he was able to perform on the legendary TV show, Saturday Night Live, proudly sporting an Obituary shirt on the programme. After six years however, Obituary decided to reform and got to work on their “comeback” album, "Frozen In Time," which was released in 2005 through their old record label, Roadrunner. The album was a hit with fans, thanks in part to the return of Scott Burns behind the mixing board, and they followed its success with their first live DVD, "Frozen Alive," which documented a live show in the Polish capital city of Warsaw.

They were soon to face their first change in lineup since, "The End Complete" however, when original guitarist West decided to once again leave the group, his place taken by Deicide guitarist Ralph Santolla. They also changed record labels for the first time in their career, signing to former Extreme Noise Terror bassist, Lee Barretts, Candlelight Records for their next album, "Xecutioner’s Return," which was released in 2007. The album received a similar reception to "Frozen in Time," cementing the Obituary reunion as a triumphant one, and an EP, "Left To Die" soon followed, which featured another Celtic Frost cover, this time being, "Dethroned Emperor." After touring in support of the album, including stops at European metal festivals such as Graspop Metal Meeting, they recorded their ninth album, "Darkest Day," which hit the shelves in 2009. The band have been hit by two departures since then, with Santolla quitting to focus his energy on Deicide and longtime bass player Frank Watkins leaving for a place in the new lineup of Norwegian black metal outfit, Gorgoroth, his place being taken by former Six Feet Under and Death bassist, Terry Butler. The band are currently on tour in Europe, performing mostly at summer festivals, but are said to be working on material for their tenth studio album.

Obituary - "Slowly We Rot"

Obituary - "Turned Inside Out"

Obituary - "I'm In Pain"

Obituary - "Don't Care"

Obituary - "Evil Ways"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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20 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Obituary"

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Anonymous Reader
1. I'm not Jesus Christ writes:

WTF? Why is nobody commenting on this? Obituary is one of the best bands I've ever listened to for a long time.

# Jun 17, 2012 @ 3:28 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Cynic's avatar

Senior Reviewer

2. Cynic writes:

That video for "Turned Inside Out" gets me every time, metal incarnate.

# Jun 17, 2012 @ 9:03 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Jackrum's avatar

Supporter

3. Jackrum writes:

Awesome live... seen them at least 6 times and they are always good, even when highly annoyed at the sound guys

# Jun 18, 2012 @ 4:30 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
BrianMN's avatar

Member

4. BrianMN writes:

One of the original four bands that got me into death metal.
Slowly is a classic as is Cause.

# Jun 18, 2012 @ 7:06 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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Founder, owner & programmer

5. deathbringer writes:

Damn, those stage divers get some air on "Turned Inside Out." Looks like an insane show. The old guy in me thinks I sure as hell wouldn't want to be up front at that show...

# Jun 18, 2012 @ 9:26 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
BrianMN's avatar

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6. BrianMN writes:

I guess Santolla got the boot from Deicide. Not sure where his is now.

# Jun 18, 2012 @ 10:17 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Jackrum's avatar

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7. Jackrum writes:

DB I've been to the front of an Obituary gig, and i was in the pit for them at Wacken in 07... AWESOME

# Jun 18, 2012 @ 11:12 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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8. Malevolent6 writes:

Obituary the band synonymous with death metal. I got into these guys around 1998 when they reissued the first four albums on Roadrunner Records. Every listen feels like something out of a horror film or a reading of a HP Lovecraft story.

# Jun 18, 2012 @ 1:30 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Jackrum's avatar

Supporter

9. Jackrum writes:

i found both Slowly we Rot and Cause of Death 12" Vinyls in a second hand shop for £2.50 each...

I have had no buyer regrets

# Jun 19, 2012 @ 2:00 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
silvermountains's avatar

Member

10. silvermountains writes:

great read, wish that Obituary would do some sort of US tour, been listening to them greatly in the past couple of weeks and man it'd be cool to see them live.

# Jun 20, 2012 @ 12:07 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
R10's avatar

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11. R10 writes:

Excellant sos on one of my favorite death metal bands! Always loved Tardy's vocals,and Trevor Peres mid 80's Celtic Frost guitar tone. Thier last couple of albums have been excellant imo. Cant wait to hear new stuff from them,heard they're writing new material.

# Jun 20, 2012 @ 12:44 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
12. Leprosy 101 writes:

Next sunday old school review should be about Cancer

# Jun 20, 2012 @ 4:50 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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13. Blindgreed1 writes:

Great buch of guys too. Excellent piece Oz. \m/\m/

# Jun 20, 2012 @ 6:25 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

14. Diamond Oz writes:

Thanks for the praise BG, R10 and SM! Always appreciated :)

Leprosy: I'll add Cancer to the list but there's already alot of bands on there.

# Jun 20, 2012 @ 9:00 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
15. I'm not Jesus Christ writes:

Oz: Speaking of Cancer, I'm not sure if you've done Entombed or Deicide or Atheist yet, but I'd love to see a Sunday Old School article for either of those bands.

# Jun 21, 2012 @ 9:11 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

16. Diamond Oz writes:

I haven't done those yet I'm afraid, but I've been wanting to do Deicide in particular for a good while. Rockstar Scribbler has the next SOS, not sure who he's covering but I strongly doubt it'll be death metal! I've got a big name planned for the 150th SOS article next month, as well as one or two that have both been in the news and been requested recently. Thanks for the support and the requests!

# Jun 21, 2012 @ 9:41 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
BrianMN's avatar

Member

17. BrianMN writes:

Cancer was great...till they did that one album. Black Faith I think...
Hung, Drawn and Quartered with Benton still smokes.

# Jun 21, 2012 @ 10:04 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Drum_Junkie's avatar

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18. Drum_Junkie writes:

Back in November of '97, I was able to open for them in OKC with my first band. It was our first time opening for a major. They put on a helluva show! I remember Donald Tardy being especially cool. I helped them load out and got a "Back from the Dead" t-shirt in return. I still have it to this day.

Looking back, they were one of the first to put some serious thought into their overall concept of what "Death" metal should sound like.
In addition to the down tuned guitars/bass and the necessary vocals, the drums also were tuned down flat, with very little 'life' to them. The dead sounding drums were that way on purpose. (I think Entombed also did this.) As a drummer, its more physically demanding to play drums that don't have the stick/beater rebound. The bass heavy mixing that evokes a low, deep sound with John's vocals portaying someone in agony all worked in unison to frame their "Death" Metal sound.

They were undoubted leaders of the genre.

# Jun 21, 2012 @ 12:09 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
19. tehgenoc1de writes:

CHOPPED IN HALF!

# Jun 21, 2012 @ 12:18 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
20. Albert cro writes:

One of great death metal bands .....

# Jun 28, 2012 @ 8:51 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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