Obituary "Frozen in Time" CD
Perhaps a chunky, three-and-a-half-minute, breakdown fueled instrumental by the name of "Redneck Stomp" isn't the best way to kick off your band's first record in eight years, but rest assured, the general contents of this disc are almost shockingly good considering. The very fact that Obituary has retained their entire classic lineup from 1992 through to the present is quite impressive in and of itself, but realizing that these songs are damn near exactly what you'd expect them to be - it's certainly as if the band never went away. Like many, I admittedly started to slowly lose interest in Obituary after the almighty "The End Complete", and it wasn't until the "Anthology" collection hit the streets in 2001 that I realized how surprisingly effective 1997's "Back From the Dead" was. And here we are, 2005, and the band's unexpected reunion yields this equally impressive return to form, throwing down 10 tracks in a very tasteful 35 minutes that's chock full of crunchy, midpaced death metal - the likes of which only Obituary can deliver. After the intro, they step up right away with "On the Floor", which is among the faster tracks herein and definitely comes the closest to something you might have heard on the band's first three records; while "Insane" starts to crank out the gutwrenching blend of chugga chugga crunch and dense alternate picking riffs that dominates the disc. "Blindsided" has a really memorable chorus thanks in no small part to the vocal work (How's that for a twist?), though the breakdown is really quite hardcore-ish, which may turn off a few fans. But honestly, for my money? I'm really digging that shit, ‘cause they haven't taken it too far at all. And subtle shift in delivery or not, were you to put these cats on tour with Hatebreed right now I bet you the pits would be sheer fucking lunacy. Similarly, "Stand Alone" opens up with a little more energy right off the bat, including a few nice lead bursts over a slightly speedier chord progression and some more hardcore sounding breaks. And what about "Denied", which takes a full minute of its three-minute running time to build in with excellently churning midpaced rhythms and some percussion that references the "World Demise" era of the band? Sign me up, because those slower power chords are pretty damn crushing! The production sounds great to me. A little crisper and clearer than the band's classics, thus giving a little more of a sustained churn to their guitar tone without abandoning the inimitable midrange-less drone for which their early works were known. The vocals are also easier to understand these days, but John Tardy's strained snarl still sounds almost identical to his formidable years - as he remains probably the single most identifiable death metal vocalist ever. I wouldn't complain were the bass a little more prominent in the mix, and the drums could use a hint more natural oomph, but I'm really finding the sound quality to be quite efficient and enjoyable. There's really not much to the layout. The covers sees a classically styled painting reminiscent of the early-90's death metal scene, and inside is a band photo and a brief abstract of text playing off of the album title in reference to the band as having "solidified" and "strengthened" in their absence. As usual there are no lyrics included (though the contents are, as mentioned, easier to make out on this one), and aside from a few odd typeface choices the packaging looks pretty good. What else can I say? I'm digging this and I'm really glad to see Obituary back in such fine form. They've managed to stay true to their original sound without copying their benchmark releases, while securing a tactfully contemporary undercurrent at the same time. Sure, there's no "Chopped in Half" here, but it ain't 1990 anymore either! And you know damn well that these dudes were the shit in '92, so I defy any old school fan to listen to "Insane" or Mindset" and tell me that shit doesn't deliver. I'm all for it. (7/10)
Running time - 34:16, Tracks: 10
[Notable tracks: Insane, Blindsided, Mindset, Denied]
Roadrunner Records - http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com
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