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Obituary – dying of everything by Barrie Bardoe

I have been a fan of Obituary since hearing their first album Slowly We Rot which came out in 1989. Now I think they have released their best album ever – Dying of Everything. They helped pioneer the Death Metal genre but several things have always set them apart, and this album encapsulates what makes them unique and engaging to music lovers beyond the genre. Their guitar tone is instantly recogniseable – supernaturally heavy but very clear and distinct, unlike the detuned chaos of many of their peers. Their riffs are incredibly catchy and reflect a dedication to actual composition rather than just staccato stabs on detuned strings which seems to be everywhere these days. And vocalist John Tardy manages to do the deep guttural stuff mingled with rasping aggression and still convey a sense of melody making their songs memorable and again – dare I say it – catchy. To my mind this is the mark of true musical craft – it isn’t about genre, it is about composing something that connects and Obituary consistently manages to achieve this.

Dying of everything is an astonishing piece of extreme musical art. From the evocative cover artwork to lyrics that eschew the genre’s familiar tropes for themes that seem to speak more of the human experience of our historic moment; whilst still being very much open to interpretation, it engages at a more cerebral level than many would expect of the genre. Then there’s the music. The riffs are crafted to perfection combining absolute heaviness with memorable catchiness. And then there’s John Tardy’s vocals which have never been better combining a range of extreme styles with a melodic sensibility that perfectly complements the music. The hook-lines are incredibly catchy and unlike many bands in the genre you can understand what he is singing on the chorus lines. Obituary is probably the heaviest band on earth but they also have really catchy chorus lines and on Dying of Everything they take this to another level.

For me this is the best Obituary album ever. In fact I think it is one of the best albums of any genre ever. Actually I would go further – it is one of the finest pieces of art ever created. Western culture has now reached its zenith.

I was keen to document this singular achievement for Australian Musician and was delighted when vocalist John Tardy replied to my email requesting an interview. I started by asking him how they retain motivation and such high quality in their releases after so many years.

“I think the biggest thing is we are still having fun and learning as we go”, he said. “From writing, to recording, to playing live, there are still things we want to do. We also have been being offered some really great tours with bands that we want to be playing with”.

One of the standouts of the album is the lyrics. They avoid the usual Death Metal horror tropes in favour of themes which seem more reality based but also very interpretive. I found myself feeling they might relate to some of the experiences of the last few years, but they remain open to interpretation which is quite a skill – essentially personalising them for each listener. I asked him how he came up with the lyrics, what was his intent and if there was a pervading theme?
“Unlike earlier albums where it was more sounds and not meaning, my lyrics have been a personal challenge and I have enjoyed going through them to come up with something new and different. Like writing a catchy riff, it is fun to me to try to come up with catchy and different lyrics. I still let the music dictate my mode and let the music move me in my writing”.

Tardy’s vocals on this album are next level. He does the vast, unearthly guttural sounds through to raw screams and quite memorable melodies. I asked him if he had any particular approach to training and maintaining his impressive voice.
“I think I have just learned over time on how to work around what and how much I can do with my voice. Touring is the obvious challenge with how much I have to sing and the studio is another challenge on how to personally get yourself motivated without the adrenaline rush a live crowd can bring”. I was also curious about the various ambient and atmospheric sounds on the new album, which really add an extra dimension. “We’re always trying new and different stuff”, he says. “Like the pitch in Dying of Everything. It is just something new to try. It is not hard to do live and brings a little something different for us”. Listening to the track War there are two different vocal lines that occur simultaneously on the chorus and the song wouldn’t have the same impact if he only sang one live, so I asked how they approached it. “We use a sample live for ‘WWAARRRRR’ and I sing over it”, he explains.
These newer approaches never stand in the way of the most brutal and distinctive guitar tone in extreme music. The sound generated by rhythm guitarist Trevor Peres since the band’s beginnings has intrigued fans and been the subject of much speculation but according to Guitar World magazine it is surprisingly simple: “Peres, as he has since the band’s inception, pummels his rhythms while rolling all the tone off a humbuckered Strat (“It’s kind of anti-guitar EQ’ing”), and then powering that through a JCM800 and a well-worn ProCo RAT”, it states. Technology has however wrought vast changes to the industry since they started. Physical product is less of a thing now with streaming – which must
impact income – but recording has become more relaxed due to the affordability of home setup and digital editing. I asked John what he thought was good and bad about the advances in technology since the band started. “CDs are out, vinyl is back in”, he says. “Most people are streaming our music which we make very little on. We like our live-streams so you just have to evolve as you go”. I also have long wondered why Florida became the epi-centre of the Death Metal world. Was it the decay that comes from heat? Was there some other factor? “Swamp water!!!!” says John. In conclusion I asked him if he had any messages for the band’s Australian fans. “Always love being headed that way, except that flight…next time you guys can fly to see us. HaHa…really love our Australian fans. Everyone is so laid back, like us, and we love it. ‘No Worries’”

I think the true test of a good song is if you can play it in other styles or even acoustically and it is still great. A lot of Death Metal involves staccato stabs at de-tuned strings with someone yelling a lot and would sound like a mess acoustically. But Obituary stands apart because they have well crafted riffs, solid arrangements and vocal lines which are still melodic and memorable for all the brutality. I would love to hear them try some acoustic versions and I guarantee they would stand out as well crafted and catchy tunes. Dying of Everything is their masterpiece – it is quite simply shockingly good.

The wrong time video:

Dying of everythingBandcamp


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