OBITUARY - “The Perfect Storm”
July 10, 2017, a year ago
Is it healthy to be so addicted to an album that you crave it daily, maybe multiple times daily? It’s the ultimate deathly fix for all that life throws at you. And for Obituary, this the second consecutive studio record that truly draws you in, sucks you in. And proceeds to beat you senseless. Not bad for a bunch of Florida death metalheads around their 50s. And who would’ve thought that some 30-plus years later after Slowly We Rot and Cause Of Death, Obituary would still be bashing heads, creating arguably the finest music of their career and so far, album of the year for 2017. Keep in mind, the five-piece was pretty much an obituary after 2009’s Darkest Day. There were some lean years leading up to a new deal with Relapse (following a Kickstarter campaign) where the glorious Inked In Blood emerged in 2014.
The man behind the skins, Donald Tardy, who composes most of the music with guitarist Trevor Peres, continues the tale.
“We knew when we were writing Inked In Blood, we had some pretty good song-writing, and were super stoked about the record. Ken (Andrews) was just entering the band as a real player and a real contribution. Terry (Butler) was there now for a little bit, but Trevor (Peres) and I wrote all the songs. So we still had that same chemistry of Trevor and I holding the reins, and my brother (John Tardy) is always there with his two cents worth, with his lyrics and his vocals. So it was great with Inked In Blood, because we knew we had some really cool songs. The first cartoon, we knew we were going to do it for the ‘Violence’ video. We knew when we wrote ‘Visions In My Head’, it was one of the catchiest songs we’ve ever written in our lives. If John's voice wouldn't have scared the world of commercial radio, I think we would've gotten a bite and commercial fans would've liked it.
But then we moved into this album, and the songwriting came very natural to us. And Ken was an even bigger part of being in this band. He was really taking a roll of wanting and eagerly wanting to help out. Ken and I wrote two songs on this album which is a first. Me, John and Trevor have been the writing source since Alan (West) left (in 2006). And we’ve been the only writing source, so with Ken stepping in, it was a challenge and it was scary and exciting all at one time. Because you don't want to mess with the chemistry of a band like Obituary. You don't want to throw something too new at fans. The last thing you want to do is get booed and piss people off by doing something different. So Ken and I stepped up head-to-head and wrote at least one of the more exciting songs on the record. And of course mine and Trevor’s songs are just those straightforward, in-your-face, Obituary-style death metal songs. So we are really happy and proud of this record.”
BraveWords: Let me interject with one of my left-field comments, because World Demise is one of my favourite records and one of your more experimental albums and it relates to what we are talking about. That may be an example of an album that pissed off the fans. Like, ‘we want to do this, but nobody will get it.’
Tardy: “Yeah, and it's hard to imagine that that was 23 years ago. It's actually unbelievable to think that World Demise is well over 20 years old now. And you are correct, that it did confuse a few fans. And it’s funny … I guess the word is funny. It’s strange how fans perceive albums simply by grabbing a hold of it and looking at what a band does with the album cover, the album title and maybe some song titles. If that album just had a black cover with a blood spot on it, and we didn't call it World Demise, and we didn't have a video called ‘Don't Care’ with kids playing and toxic water and shit, nobody would've gotten the concept that we were portraying. It would've just been a death metal album. And of course we did that on purpose, we tried to mix things up a little bit. We had been a band then for 20 years. It was kind of cool. But those songs are 100% Obituary-style, and still some of the most solid songs we have, although we don't play them often enough. But when we finally do pull some of those songs off the record, people really freak out. To this date, World Demise is probably my favourite Obituary album besides this new one. Just different, and had a little bit more groove to it drum-side, and we weren’t afraid to do it.”
BraveWords: Mental health has become more of a public issue than a private one that people just brushed under the rug. “End It Now” certainly resonates with those that have suffered suicide in their family. And in a twisted way, Obituary aren’t glorifying it, but shining a positive light.
Tardy: “Yeah. That’s a Ken song. ‘End It Now’, that’s mine and Kens’. Which is great, because it starts so brutal and then it gets into a groove during the middle part of that song. And those bridges that John sang. It was one of my most favourite songs on the record. It's not one of the most shredding songs on the record, but I'm not the biggest fan of only shredding on a record. I like the deep cuts. I like the ones that get a little bit slower and are a little bit more drawn out. You're just waiting to see what happens with the next riff. And is this almost at the ending kind of feel. I like songs that do that to you. Not boring songs, but songs that have some meat and potatoes with it. And ‘End It Now’ is a perfect example of that.”
BraveWords: And your first self-titled opus grabs listeners by the throat immediately with the first two songs, with incredible leads that jump out of nowhere!
Tardy: “Yeah, ‘Brave’ is one of the fastest-paced songs we've ever written. We don't ever do anything super on purpose or contrived, but we figured we wanted to play that fast of a tempo, non-fucking stop. And when we are done with that, I'm not even going to attempt to play it live, because it's going to kill my 47-year-old ass. And then ‘Sentence Day’, right after it, is the epitome of what I grew up with when I was young. Even though I'm a drummer, I would grab a broom stick and I would play that solo like a motherfucker, standing on my Mom’s bed. You know what I mean? Full-on, that is Metallica 101, ‘Hit The Lights’. It’s what brought me back to wanting to be in a band. And when we wrote it, I remember telling Ken, because he was practicing some solos; just picture the way Kill ‘Em All started. And how the beginning starts, and when they kick into that first fucking solo. I asked him, ‘do you have something like that in your pocket?’ He’s like dude, ‘I have that all day. It needs it, but I don't want people to think we are ripping Metallica off.’ I said, ‘dude, ripping off is not a bad thing. Rock 'n' roll has been written for 50 years now and we are ripping each other off left and right. We are ripping off Obituary songs and we don’t mean to. When the song calls for it and it’s screaming to us, just do it and be proud of it.’ And he fucking went for it and I remember him texting me because he was doing it on the road. And he’s like, ‘dude, dude, dude, I'm sending it over now, you have to drop it into the ProTools and check it out.’ My jaw hit the ground. I had my hands in the air in the studio and I had goose bumps. It's what was needed.”
BraveWords: Actually a strange coincidence, when I hit the road today, “Hit The Lights” that was the first song I heard on (Sirius XM’s) Liquid Metal!
Tardy: “When people who listen to that song, who aren’t huge Obituary fans, but are speed metal fans, they are going to feel that. Whether they know it or not, they're going to say to themselves, ‘man that reminds me of something.’ Or we're going to get people that think we ripped off ‘Whiplash’! We heard that the first five seconds after we posted it. But again, we are OK with that. We've been a band for 30 years, we are not young kids the need to steal other band’s material. But when a song screams to me that it needs something and it's telling you right there, it almost wrote itself on the paper. We are not afraid to make sure a song has what it needs to be the best song that it can be.”
BraveWords: Knowing that this record is so strong and you guys are on a second wind of sorts, doesn’t it make you think that you should’ve graduated from the club scene?
Tardy: “Yeah, it's kind of weird. We do get it. If we were the kind of dudes that would get mad and break our drumsticks over our knees because we are so pissed off, we would've done that a long time ago. But instead, we realize what we did for metal in general in this world. We know what we did for Florida death metal. We know we are one of the innovators for this style of music and we are very comfortable in our skin. With that said, it is a little confusing to the band to see that we are halfway up the totem pole, there so many fans of death metal, speed metal, blast beats, who still haven't found Obituary yet. It's pretty strange, because every band we come across that is a little bit younger than us - even if they are five times more popular than us - they are the first to say it. ‘You guys rule and nobody touches you live!’ And I can't explain it, because I will be the first to say, I'm not the most technical drummer in the world. Trevor is not the most technical guitar player in the world. But when we put our heads together and we get on stage, it's hard to touch it and we are very proud of that. It's just one of those things, it's the perfect storm. We decided not to play 1,000 miles an hour all the time. I decided to play like Vinny Appice and John Bonham and not worry about blast beats and my feet going 500 miles an hour. Instead, I wanted to be solid like Vinny Appice. I wanted to be rock solid like John Bonham. That's where my roots came from and that's what is in my DNA. After playing the drums for 37 years I'm finally getting pretty good at it (laughs).”
BraveWords: What do you think John Bonham would think of Obituary?
Tardy: “I think he’d like it man. Because on this new album, there are John Bonham beats. Again, we are not 1,000 miles an hour all the time. Some of the meat and potatoes on this record are very, very Bonham inspired.”
BraveWords: Ever met Jason before?
Tardy: “No. But I would love to, and hear stories about his dad. Yes he is my favourite human in the world. Vinny Appice is my biggest influence, because it's more in my realm. He taught me more, but John Bonham showed me the light. I think he showed every drummer the light, if anyone paid attention in the ‘70s. If they didn’t, they were stupid because they didn't become as good of a drummer as they could've been.”
BraveWords: Jimmy Page always said in the creation of Led Zeppelin material, the drums laid the foundation and everything else followed.
Tardy: “Yeah, it seems like it. Led Zeppelin is the epitome of the ultimate jam session. With their albums, once they recorded the song, that was history. Do you remember every little guitar lick, every little cymbal crash that Bonham does, because it’s on an album. And once it's on an album, it's forever. But if you ever watch Led Zeppelin live, and you watch show after show, it's like a jazz act. Because they don't play the songs like they are on the album to a ’t’, like most of us try to do. Instead they're just going for it, so it's like a little rendition of the original song. So Bonham holds it together and Jimmy Page is such a loose, killer space-case that he just throws it out there, playing like a jazz version of his own song. It was a little weird when I used to watch Led Zeppelin on video when I was in my 20s and 30s, but you learn to appreciate it.”
BraveWords: And you take a snippet of “When The Levee Breaks” and say to yourself, this is what I want to be.
Tardy: “And it is. Along with ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Heartbreaker’ - and that’s just another reason why I dove into the later Corrosion Of Conformity albums, in the last three or four years of my life. I've really been tripping out on them, because I think Reed Mullin is the closest thing to John Bonham that I have found on a consistent basis. He's one of my favourite people, just listening to those albums like Deliverance, America’s Volume Dealer and Wiseblood. They are unbelievable. I listened to them ten years ago it was probably my girlfriend who was the bigger fan at the time. But it finally hit me and I can't stop listening to it. It’s my favourite band right now.”