Obituary - Slowly We Rot
Roadrunner Records
Death Metal
12 songs (35:52)
Release year: 1989
Obituary, Roadrunner Records
Reviewed by Charles
I think the title track from this album was probably the first death metal song I ever enjoyed listening to. I was about 15, and I came back from a school trip to France with a copy of Rock Hard magazine, with a cover CD for some reason full of a strange mix of old and contemporary death, black and power metal. I think it opened with Bible Basher, by Deicide. Fuck that, I thought, a little intimidated. My young self skips forward. Eventually I get to this. “Slowly We Rot”. Yeah! Crawling tempo, miserably slimy riff, all finished off neatly by a tolling funeral bell sound effect. The perfect musical evocation of the title (and the album cover). It was so descriptive and so unashamedly downbeat; instead of hitting me about the head with squawking Satanic vocals and shredding chromatic riffs like Glenn and the gang, it welcomed me into its flabby, sore-ridden arms and invited me to headbang as if I was listening to AC/DC. Many years later it was probably the first time a real death metal song actually sent proper shivers of emotion down my spine. I saw them at some festival in Budapest, a long way from home, and I had a lot on my mind. I waited through the whole thing in a bit of an indifferent haze. Then they play this for the encore, and suddenly you can’t think about anything else except that hypnotic horror groove. Amidst thousands of bellowing, shirtless Hungarian men suddenly became the only place in the world to I wanted to be.

It is always those grooves that keep me coming back to this album, and in the 21 years since its release you still won’t find better slabs of dripping metallic meat. Three minutes into Til’ Death, forty five seconds into Gates of Hell, the ending of Suffocation, and of course the perfect introduction to the title track. A monstrous guitar tone, and following hard on the heels of thrash a welcome reminder of the potential heaviosity of mid and slow tempo metal. This is what sticks out to me but it’s clearly not the only element that made Obituary’s debut. Equally as defining are John Tardy’s vocals- the greatest death metal vocals of all time, if you ask me. The album does have lyrics, but most of the time they seem to be ditched in favour of slurred, quasi-improvisational “Bleeuuuuurrrgghhhhh!”s, “Oooooooaaaarrrggghhhh!”s and “Gablaggggghhhhh!”s. This is absolutely the right decision. I don't think the greatest poet could craft the meagre tools of simple words into anything as gut-wrenchingly powerful as the elemental force of the death metal riff, so why compete? Tardy’s voice is just sound, adding an extra layer of abrasive soul onto the noise created by his band.

As I find myself running out of space, what better way to finish than by paying tribute to Stinkupuss, the album’s closing track? What a stamping riff, clunking along at precisely the right tempo, belching obscenities at anyone who would try to hurry it along. A sudden gear change, though, and we’re into a frenetic death metal guitar solo cackling away over a fast assault that benefits from a real backbeat rather than tiresome blasting. Bellyflop down again into another slow groove, and fade out. Simple, addictive, and the quintessential Obituary song, ending the quintessential Obituary album.

Killing Songs :
Slowly We Rot, Stinkupuss, 'Til Death, Gates of Hell
Charles quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Obituary that we have reviewed:
Obituary - Inked in Blood reviewed by Jared and quoted 79 / 100
Obituary - The End Complete reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Obituary - Darkest Day reviewed by James and quoted 85 / 100
Obituary - Left To Die reviewed by James and quoted no quote
Obituary - Xecutioners Return reviewed by Alex and quoted 84 / 100
To see all 8 reviews click here
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