It’s hard to think that Obituary have been a death metal mainstay now for well over three decades. Formed in 1988, Obituary hit their stride straight out of the gate with the iconic Florida death metal record Slowly We Rot. Whilst the band’s first outing was a monumental tour de force, it was only one mere year later that the group would redefine the genre with their sophomore release, and subject of today’s retrospective, Cause of Death.
Scour forums online or ask someone in the street what their favourite Obituary album is and chances are high that they will respond with this record, and why? Because Cause of Death was and still is completely timeless and indestructible.
The first thing you may pick on when listening to this record for the first time is the cleaner production quality than some contemporary records released at the time such as: Death’s Spiritual Healing, Deicide S/T, Cannibal Corpse’s Eaten Back To Life and Entombed’s Left Hand Path. Cause of Death features much more considered and layered instrumentation than some of the other albums mentioned above, with a slower but deeper feel and an earth shattering groove that is onerous to escape from.
On Obituary’s second record there is a cold aura that interlaces itself within the icy strings of a young Trevor Peres’ guitar assault as John Tardy’s iconic fierce bark permeates every second of this relentless record. It’s no secret that early on the band were inspired by the likes of Celtic Frost and Possessed (even covering the former on this very album) but their worship of these prior acts shed its skin quickly when delving deeper into exactly what makes their subsequent title stand out the way it does.
Take the second track on offer here for instance, Body Bag. We’re treated to a slow winding build up of thick chugging muted power chords before the double kicks and razor sharp shredding pierce their way through. Not to mention the screaming leads and stunning solo present that have almost a progressive and melodic quality that suit the music beautifully, riding off the rhythm rather than puncturing through purely for the point of being prolific.
It almost sounds like a criticism when I say that Cause of Death sounds delightfully lifeless in execution, but I assure you that could not be further from the truth. The sinister numbing feeling apparent on the release is like nothing you can find on those four albums mentioned above. Cannibal Corpse and Deicide may have been ruthless but there was life in those veins, a chaotic and almost fun/self-serving energy that ate off itself as it consumed all in its way. Obituary achieved that unsettling, morbid and completely deadpan seriousness in their writing here even with some of the grooviest flows ever heard in the genre, before or since.