Getting it right the first time means it's only downhill from there. On Slowly We Rot, which turned 20 yesterday, Obituary not only found their sound, but nailed it shut. The record answered the question of what Celtic Frost would sound like playing death metal. Grumbling trudges, thrashy rave-ups, and whammified solos formed half the album. John Tardy's vocals made up the rest. Only Martin van Drunen and early Chuck Schuldiner were as vicious. This record had it all - great riffs, great songs, great performances, great sound. Morrisound productions were hit or miss; this one was a bull's-eye. Sludge and speed made a beast with two backs. The title track's tolling bell evoked "Hells Bells." Touches of flange gave "'Til Death" extra morbidity. Since Slowly We Rot, Obituary have chased its holy grail with various lead guitarists and production approaches. The results have been reminders of how the first time was the best.

- Cosmo Lee

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