Way back when Obituary were big, they delivered the kind of ripping death metal that rivaled Florida peers Malevolent Creation, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel and Deicide. To say that they once peeled the skin from your face is no understatement… think back to the pungent stench of Slowly We Rot and Cause of Death. It was them along with Winter that first incorporated the Celtic Frost dirge element into death metal, and when combined with John Tardy’s lunatic vocals left you wondering whether music could get any heavier. Death did indeed get heavier, and as the years wore on, Obituary‘s luster became more lackluster. They released albums like the tired sounding and overly groove laden, rap tangled, Back From The Dead and my expectations were low when I discovered they were set to perform on 70 000 Tons of Metal earlier in the year. Their performance ended up being one of the best of the cruise and had me slogging it out in the merch line for nearly three hours (consider me proudly shipwrecked on Costa Maya with Obituary!). When I caught a glimpse of Obit‘s logo carved into their new album art, I’ll admit I felt a sick surge of excitement, but can Obituary gratify modern day blood-lust?
“Centuries of Lies” bursts forth with what should be heaps of snapping and snarling testosterone. John Tardy’s screaming roar is instantly recognisable and jam packed into just about every inch of the track, but something is amiss though. You pick up early on that it’s lacking in intensity, the lunacy this crushing frontman had on Slowly We Rot is now well and truly a thing of the past. The track gallops along for just over two minutes, loaded with mid-paced melody, uninspired chugging guitars that bring to mind a 50-something geezer trying to survive the mosh pit and catchy drumwork that’s just too simplistic.
As much as I want the 11 tracks that follow to turn into something exciting, attention grabbing and more importantly, worthy of the band’s name, most sound much like the opener and the album rumbles along a lot like something Jungle Rot would put out. As far as stand-out moments, despite spending a week or more listening to the album, they can be counted off on one hand. “Violent By Nature” ends off with a nice stab at violence, with Kenny Andrews stepping in at the 11th hour delivering a fierce and nifty guitar hook to keep you listening. And “Violence” picks up the pace and follows the formula of its similarly named predecessor, with some sick and disturbed guitar soloing, only this time it pops in briefly around the mid-section.
Inked in Blood still offers nods to bands like Napalm Death, Possessed and Celtic Frost but somehow Obituary found a way to turn this deadly influence into the kind of background, inoffensive death metal you can throw on while you’re busy doing menial tasks like baking chocolate chip cookies or trundling along the open road with no particular destination or time limit in mind.
Despite my heavy-handed take-down of Inked In Blood, by comparison, it doesn’t hit the level of mediocrity and let-down of Massacre‘s Back From Beyond earlier in the year. Obituary suffer the curse of being a big name in death metal, and with that name and elevation, there’s a brutal expectation when new material is released. Fans of the Obituary of old will surely feel some disappointment on hearing Inked In Blood. At best, it comes across as overly safe and clean, like a tired, kinda cheesy version of the Obituary we once knew and loved.