Obituary - Darkest Day
One of, if not the most influential death metal bands of all, Obituary, has returned yet again with another punishing dose of their own special blend of metal on Darkest Days. For over twenty years now (and exactly twenty since their groundbreaking debut release Slowly We Rot), the Tardy Brothers (vocalist John and drummer Donald) have both sculpted a blueprint of death metal and gone to great lengths to cement their names on the pedestal upon which said blueprint is laid. After a hiatus between 1997 and 2003, the band returned and graced the metal worth with two satisfying albums. Darkest Days easily ranks amongst their best, and to the tested ear sounds more of a return to form for Obituary than anything after the hiatus.
The album begins with "List of Dead", in which the first 10 seconds are played at an ear's length before the sound comes fully into the picture. And what a sound it is. For those unfamiliar, Obituary have always had a mid-tempo, crushing groove as their center of musical gravity; the tempos fluctuate here from fast (but not speed metal fast) to agonizingly sludgly and slow, almost taking on a doom atmosphere in the process. The main element and attraction of the band, looking beyond the pummelling rhythm section and suberbly written riffs, has always been the pained and strained vocal approach of John Tardy. Forgoing the incoherent gutteral growls and high-pitched shrieks of many of his contemporaries, John approaches the vocals as if suffering from a hole in the throat; extremely visceral and soaked in an inner-tormoil that almost insists the lyrics be taken seriously. As the album moves along, the first real standout is "Blood to Give", in particular around 1:00 in when the music breaks for a especially rousing drum section, and when the song kicks back into gear it absolutely CRUSHES. Along with a blazing solo towards the end, this might be one of Obituary's best songs in years and years. Not to discredit the rest of the album, but all that needs to be said is that it is chock-full of the sort of death metal they've always been known for, and none of it sounds recycled or repeated, a refreshing dose of a style not many bands could do so well. The most interesting track is closer "Left to Die", which clocks in at 6:20 and unfolds into a rewarding experience with each shift in polarities it takes.
When a band can still sound as relevant and engaging as they did all of 20 years ago, you are aware of something particularly special happening. Darkest Days is more of a shining moment in their entire history than perhaps any album has been since the days of Cause of Death and The End Complete. Fans will not want to do without, and this is as good as any a place to start for newcomers. Certainly one of the best extreme metal albums released this year.
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