Tampa’s Obituary continue to be death metal standard-bearers

Their 10th studio LP arrives on Friday.

click to enlarge IT'S THE HUMIDITY: Florida weather always brings Obituary back home. They play Orpheum in Ybor City, Florida on March 19, 2017. - Ester Segarra
Ester Segarra
IT'S THE HUMIDITY: Florida weather always brings Obituary back home. They play Orpheum in Ybor City, Florida on March 19, 2017.

It’s no secret that Tampa is the definitive cradle of death metal, and as one of its most famous exports readies the release of their self-titled tenth studio LP, Obituary, fans of the seminal group are reminded that the band’s core members — frontman John Tardy and his brother drummer Donald — have been fans of the genre since they were figuratively in the cradle, too. The Tardys, who technically call Gibsonton (aka “Gibtown”) home, formed the first version of Obituary (originally called Executioner and then Xecutioner) in their garage shortly after being exposed to local legends Savatage and Nasty Savage.

“Donald started playing the snare drum at school and then we’d hear [them] in their garage jamming while we were riding our bikes down the street,” John Tardy, 48, told music site Noisey in 2014. “That just piqued our curiosity... Donald, at this point in time, is jonesing for a drum set and he didn’t have one so he would go over to a friend’s house that had a drum set and start playing, which got Trevor into playing the guitar.”

Read: Tampa death metal legends Obituary release new single — listen to "Sentence Day" now

John is talking about Trevor Peres, Obituary’s founding guitarist, who's played on every LP the international death metal icons have released, including their 1989 breakout, Slowly We Rot. That 12-track, 35-minute collection of down-tuned riffs and John Tardy’s guttural growling (relatively unprecedented at this point in the genre’s history) took the foundation laid down by bands like Death, Master and Possessed to another level. Peres, 47, made the Marshall stack and RAT pedal combo famous. He — together with Donald, 47, and lead guitarist Allen West — also wouldn't succumb to a metal landscape that was rewarding highly technical, super-fast guitar playing, instead opting to craft a style that favored sweeping tempo changes that moved less like fire shooting out of volcanoes and more like slow, earth-moving glaciers ready to pulverize anything that came into their path.

Slowly We Rot would make it easier for other Tampa bands like Morbid Angel and Deicide (the latter of which fell into controversy surrounding comments about animal sacrifice) to rise in the metal ranks, and it certainly paved the way for two Buffalo, New York death metal heavyweights — Cannibal Corpse and Malevolent Creation — to make their mark on the genre. Then-unknown producer Scott Burns helmed that LP from behind the world-famous mixing board at Tampa’s Morrisound Studios; Burns, who never intended to become a metal gatekeeper, went on to record albums by Napalm Death, Sepultura and every band mentioned in the paragraphs above.

Read: Music Issue 2015 — Will there be more Morrisound?

He’s back at the steering wheel for Obituary, and the Tardys and Peres — along with bassist Terry Butler and lead guitarist Kenny Andrews — have kept their focus on the quasi-melodic, tempo-shifting style that created death metal icons out of Obituary. Even the album art, designed by German artist Andreas Marschall, is old-school (think metallic dragon perched atop Obituary’s logo, all on a black background). It comes to an epic climax on its fifth track, “Kneel Before Me,” in which Andrews' screaming lead gives way to John’s infamous growl.

“[Melody] is always a good thing to have. I think what makes Obituary, at least to me, is we do fast stuff, we do slow stuff, but it's that middle, mid-tempo groovy stuff that is really what defines [us],” John recently told metal blog Blabbermouth, citing another LP highlight, “Loathe,” as an where the band has embraced simplicity over heaviness in their older age.

“It’s a ridiculous rhythm by itself and not too many bands could get away with playing something silly as that, but, man, when that thing kicks in, it's the heaviest thing heard to man,” he told Blabbermouth. “Sometimes we're cavemen and like the simple approach to things. You need the fast rhythms, you need the slow rhythms, but that meaty stuff is what we really live to come across when we're out here messing around and writing."

The effort is set for release on March 17, just two days before the band hit the Orpheum in Ybor City on behalf of Decibel magazine (German thrash heavyweights Kreator headline the show). The 10-track LP is the first since Obituary’s 2014 release Inked In Blood, a self-released, crowdfunded album that raised $60,669 on Kickstarter (its goal was $10,000). The band is back in the label world now thanks to Relapse Records, who are helping with distribution and marketing, which John says is near-impossible for a band as big as Obituary to handle independently.

“When we met the Relapse guys they said, 'Hey look, whatever you guys want, we are here for you. We love you guys and we'll work with you in any way that you [want],'” John explained in that Blabbermouth piece. Fans worried that Obituary might be nearing their twilight can put their fears to rest, too as Donald has said that his health will always dictate when he needs to quit.

“For me as a drummer, it's about health; can I physically still do it well. Because you can't half-ass death metal drumming,” he told Metal Storm. “I don't care about age or anything else. I think if I feel good and am playing well then I will continue to do it. I think this is pretty much the same with all of Obituary's band members. As long as you are having fun and feel good.”

A recent interview with Vice which proudly notes its opinion that Obituary play to a devoted “redneck demographic” — also reassures hometown disciples that they aren’t going anywhere.

“We’ve been here a long as time. We see a lot of cities and it's fun to play shows in those places, but we always come back to the humidity of Florida,” Donald said in the clip, “I’ll never leave.”

The Decibel Tour w/Kreator/Obituary/Midnight/Horrendous
March 19, 6 p.m. The Orpheum, 1915 E. 7th Ave, Ybor City. $25.
More info: local.cltampa.com

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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