Indisputable: Top 10 Obituary Songs

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There are two types of KISS: Knights In Satan’s Service, and Keep It Simple, Stupid. The latter should be branded on many a metal musician’s hand. How many times have you dismissed some masturbatory tech nonsense, thinking “I get it, you practice a lot, now how about you write a good fucking song?” Iommi wrote a three-note riff and created heavy metal; Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate and Venom sped it up and created just about everything else. While talent is still the primary component for the majority of legendary metal bands, regardless of genre, the best of them have always put songs and riffs ahead of virtuosity. We should all be thankful for that.

Death metal, unfortunately, is a genre littered with technical prodigies who can play circles around other musicians, yet can’t write a memorable song to save their seven-stringed lives. Yet fear not, for Obituary is still here. They are the Misfits of death metal: simple, fun, and best enjoyed with a crowd. Unlike their peers in Death, Morbid Angel, and Carcass, they never strayed far from the Celtic Frost/Possessed roots of first-wave death metal, and this is a good thing. Walls of monolithic riffs, an unstoppable rhythm section, and the original “vokills” delivery add up to a band no one can touch. (Try to name more than two or three other bands that are “Obituary clones”.) While their recent output is less excellent than their early greats, their legend is already cemented. These are their 10 best songs.

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10. “Insane” – Frozen in Time

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The three albums Obituary have done since reforming are all decent, but none have the staying power of the first five. “Insane” is the best example of the band being on point in their second act; all the classic Obituary staples are present, and the self-production sounds great. It’s hard to admit that they might be repeating themselves at this point, but I would never hold it against them: with the incredible songs and subsequent memories they’ve provided me, this band is solid gold.

9. “I’m in Pain” – The End Complete

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“I’m in Pain” captures everything great about Obituary: the sludgy neck-pickup riff/dive-bomb solo introduction, more excellent riffs complemented by Don Tardy’s impeccable drumming, and his brother John growling about, you know, death and graveyards. The last minute changes things up a bit with some off-time beats that are against type for the band, but work perfectly in the context of the song.

8. “Final Thoughts” – World Demise

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A shotgun blast and a badass one-chord riff: could a song start off more metal than this? The double-time chug that plows through the middle section destroys all in its path, and “So long to you” might be the harshest good-bye to a suicide victim ever.

7. “Chopped in Half” – Cause of Death

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Obituary stepped it up with second album Cause of Death, due in no small part to the amazing James Murphy filling in for Allen West on lead guitar. His solos add to the power of the songs rather than take away from it, as evidenced here. The other new addition was Frank Watkins on bass, and his style of following the guitars more than the drums added a new dynamic, most noticeable on “Chopped In Half”.

6. “Don’t Care” – World Demise

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Some point to World Demise as the band’s first weak album, but it’s my personal favorite. “Don’t Care” is Obituary’s first anthem, with almost every word a middle finger to a toxic, melting world: “Your ways, I despise / Go forth and get with your own kind / We’ve got fumes to behold.” And just listen to those fills!

5. “Threatening Skies” – Back from the Dead

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Start the circle pit – “Threatening Skies” is just a balls-out rager from start to finish. Ironically, Back from the Dead is the title they gave an album that came before an eight-year hiatus. The album is patchy overall, but this tune slays. And if anyone can figure out what the lyrics mean (“You’ve found once, live wise / The taste to come, we’ll go.” What the fuck?) please tell me.

4. “’Til Death” – Slowly We Rot

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The fade-in, the tribal drums, the growls… you know something awesome is coming. This song was made for headbanging, with a “zombie stomp” half-time break in the middle so you can catch your breath and shotgun a beer.

3. “Cause of Death” – Cause of Death

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Believe it or not, there are actual lyrics to this song, but you’d be hard pressed to decipher anything without a lyric sheet. Vocalist John Tardy has admitted to just writing stuff that sounds cool without much “deeper” meaning, and that’s fine. Obituary only need to write tunes you can rock the fuck out to. Whether it’s the slow dirges or mid-tempo thrash parts, “Cause of Death” fulfills that need.

2. “The End Complete” – The End Complete

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The title track from The End Complete solidifies the connection between Obituary and the numerous hardcore bands that have cited them as an influence. Putting aside the solos and more technical drum parts, this band is all about the lockstep groove.

1. “Slowly We Rot” – Slowly We Rot

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The first 90 seconds are a cult sacrifice, the blind dead looking out over the bow of their ghost ship. Deliberate, menacing, consuming – and then it’s time for a circle pit. This is the song that put Obituary on the map, and represents everything they would become. I doubt they’ve ever left it off a setlist.

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Speaking of setlists: on their upcoming tour (featuring a reunited Broken Hope!), Obituary will play a set comprised of songs requested by fans via Facebook and Twitter. What song(s) would you pick?

— Chris Rowella

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Upcoming Obituary tour dates with Broken Hope, Decrepit Birth, Jungle Rot, and Encrust

September 08
Haven Lounge
Orlando, Florida

September 10
Empire
Springfield, Virginia

September 11
Gramercy Theatre
New York, New York

September 12
Bogie’s
Albany, New York

September 13
Imperial
Quebec City, QC, Canada

September 14
Foufounes Electriques
Montreal, QC, Canada

September 15
The Opera House
Toronto,ON, Canada

September 16
Peabody’s
Cleveland, Ohio

September 17
Reggie’s Rock Club
Chicago, Illinois

September 19
Osborne Village Inn
Winnipeg, MB, Canada

September 20
The Exchange
Regina, SK, Canada

September 21
Pawn Shop
Edmonton, AB, Canada

September 22
The Level Nightclub
Kelowna, BC, Canada

September 23
Studio Seven
Seattle, Washington

September 25
The Alley
Reno, Nevada

September 25
DNA Lounge
San Francisco, California

September 27
Key Club
West Hollywood, California

September 28
El Ray Theatre
Albuquerque, New Mexico

September 29
Trees
Dallas, Texas