“Inked in Blood” 

by Thor

The heaviest grooves on the planet.  A horrifying soundtrack tailor-made for walking through a mist-shrouded forest on an October night…alone.  And, man, that guitar tone.  It’s like the sound of an ogre with the flu.  It’s morbid…rotten.
Florida’s Obituary is probably the very first death metal band I was into.  They weren’t the first death metal band I’d heard, but they’re certainly the first one that I really vibed with.  That’s because they’re relatively accessible.  They keep it simple.  But as any musician in the know can attest, that simplicity is ostensible.  Their style is elusive and singular.  All their death metal 1.0 peers—Morbid Angel, Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse, and the rest—have been imitated ad nauseum through the decades.  But there exists not a single, solitary Obituary clone.  And that’s because these guys—their core members including John and Donald Tardy and stalwart axman Trevor Peres—have something intangible that can’t be duplicated.  And it results in the most oppressively heavy metal there is, a style that sacrifices musical acrobatics in favor of an almost corporeal pall of doom and gloom.

We all know that an extreme metal band’s existence is a fragile one, but the road for these guys has been surprisingly perilous, even when compared to that of their aforementioned peers.  After four brilliant albums that ushered in what we all now take for granted as death metal, a misfire of a fifth album followed by a nearly decade-long absence, and a reformation that yielded a few albums that have been hit and miss, Obituary is finally back—really back—with “Inked in Blood,” their finest album in 20 years.

“Inked in Blood” came about in typical Obituary fashion.  The first order of business was to find a solution to the revolving door of lead guitarists that’s plagued the band since its inception.  Enter Ken Andrews who along with genre-pioneering bassist Terry Butler are the Obituary newbies.  The other issue was that the band was unsigned which lead to one of the more interesting moves in the development of this album.  Without a label, the band asked its fans to flip the bill with the intent being an eventual independent release.  And so it was after a lengthy Kickstarter crowd funding campaign and subsequent writing and recording process that this album was finally ready to see the light of day.  Then Relapse Records—known more for experimental grind, noise, and doom acts these days—swooped in and signed Obituary, giving this album a much deserved label push.

The new album is a lengthy collection of 12 tracks that comes rip-snortin’ out of the blocks with “Centuries of Lies,” a punk-inspired, d-beat-laden speedster—in relative terms, of course—that soon breaks into a thick-as-molasses groove that takes over one’s neck muscles with an irresistible compulsion to nod the head in time with the crushing rhythm.  Other highlights include “Violent by Nature,” “Violence,” and “Deny You.” But the term “highlights” is a bit of a misnomer.  The album is clunker-free.  It’s quintessential Obituary and once the album starts, it never looks back.  “Inked in Blood” features the band’s vintage song-writing prowess highlighted by John Tardy’s shrill poltergeist screaming, his brother Donald’s destructive grooves, and those riffs!  Man, you know ‘em when you hear ‘em.  All praise to the criminally unheralded Trevor Peres!

The production is less slick than album’s past, this time employing an organic, dirtier aesthetic that’s neither better nor worse than it was in the old days.  It’s just different.  But it certainly fits.  And for fans of the band, rest assured: the viral-sick guitar tone voicing those Jupiter-massive riffs, the haunted soloing, the berserking-troll drumming and the guttural low-end bass is all there buoying the unrivaled vocal assault of brother John.  This is an album any self-respecting death metal fan of the first order should make haste to go and grab because this is one band that’s going to be missed when they finally do actually hang ‘em up.  Obituary.  “Inked in Blood.”  Go buy it, Wormsters!