Golden Oldie: Obituary – Cause of Death

As I write my 100th article for Moshville Times, I am going to be a bit selfish here and review an album that changed my life forever. An album that I have listened to most in my life and still do to this day. As you all know I love my death metal and have since the late 80s but even the deathliest of deathster could not have anticipated this album in 1990 and the effect it would have on the music scene as a whole. The production, courtesy of the legendary producer Scott Burns at his Morrisound Studios in Florida, with his emphasis on heavy guitars and double bass sound not quite on this occasion drowning out the inhuman vocals, was perfection. The most iconic of front covers courtesy of Michael Whelan depicting countless skulls with a body tangled in a web in front of a large eye staring right through you, to this day is one of thee best album covers of all time. Interesting fact that this cover was actually meant to be used for Sepultura’s release Beneath the Remains but Roadrunner thankfully forced Sepultura to use another one of Whelan’s paintings. I am of course talking about Obituary and their second album Cause of Death.

Not long after Slowly We Rot in 1989, death metal in 1990 was shaken to its core due to this release as in my eyes, nothing compares to Cause of Death before or after in terms of brutality, sound, stellar musicianship, guitar solos from hell and finally those vocals that no one has or ever will come close to replicating. Bands do not need to play a million blast beats per song or play technical riffs at 100mph to be heavy. The most simplest of riffs and an album with hardly any lyrics yet you can’t help but growl along with John Tardy or get that air guitar out the cupboard and play each and every one of James Murphy’s guitar solos. Even when I am typing this my feet are align with Donald Tardy’s double base and growling at the laptop screen because we all have our album where it takes over your body and you cannot help but immerse yourself in it, and Cause of Death is mine.

Heavily influenced by Celtic Frost and indeed covering “Circle of the Tyrants” on this album, Obituary went for power rather than speed. Controversially, I actually see this song as my least favourite on the album but this can be a discussion we can have over a pint sometime. Cause of Death is an album I know inside-out and know every riff, every drum beat and every growl to a tee. Opening with “Infected”, you immediately stopped whatever you were doing and turned your heard towards your stereo where the opening riff from Trever Peres shattered your ear drums before James came in with those intricate and precise guitar solos. But it was John’s vocals that made this album what it is and when he screams “Infected”, you just have to do the same no matter whether you are at home, in the car or in the middle of the shopping centre.

I always remember the first time I heard the first song of the album pre-release called “Body Bag” and it was while I was working in a cardboard factory, living the dream in a small town called Montrose, just outside of Aberdeen. I caused a backlog of boxes as I just had to stop what I was doing and was mesmerised in what I was hearing. This was Obituary at their fastest but until now; the reason unbeknownst to the owners of the factory for a lot of broken cardboard boxes was because I may have stage dived into them because of this song.

I could go into each and every song on this album and write a book about them as they are all classic death metal songs. “Chopped in Half” with those solos or the almost instrumental “Dying” are just perfection. “Find the Arise” sees Obituary at their fastest once again, but it’s the solos of James Murphy who had recently left Death that filled in the boots for Allen West on this album that just elevates the sound. “Cause of Death” with its scary intro and solo once again from James and those vocals from John, you try and tell me what he is singing and I bet you are wrong. Ending the album with “Memories Remain” and “Turned Inside Out” are the hardest hitting impact ending of an album I have ever heard. All they make you do is want to press the repeat button and believe me I have pressed repeat many a time.

There is no point giving you an in depth description of how this album sounds because if you have not played this album a million times already then you are not a true death metal fan. Yes, there were ground breaking albums by Morbid Angel, Entombed, Autopsy, Dismember, Carcass, Bolt Thrower et al at this time but nothing has moved me as much as this album ever has. Even Obituary’s best selling death metal album The End Complete in 1992 does not come close to this. My only wish I have for Obituary is this. I am aware that every band has to progress but I believe a Cause of Death Mark 2 is what you need to create as I feel that this album is where you are at your strongest throughout your career. The fact that you play four or five songs from that album on tour speaks volumes and I wish for the day for you to go back in time and recreate that sound.

Everyone has their favourite album of all time and it’s great that music can unite us all over a beer and discuss to our hearts content about why your album is the best of all time. That is the beauty of music and especially metal as we are a community and one big family where metal unites us all. We value each other’s opinion, even if I know that I am right and you are wrong. Cause of Death is the best death metal album of all time. Period. So there!

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