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Classic death metal titans Obituary go on and on and on and on

Monday 17th, November 2014 / 12:10
By Gareth Watkins
Photo: Ester Segarra

Photo: Ester Segarra

CALGARY — Obituary has endured thanks to a classic formula of simple, family made death metal. Death produced amazing records, but was firmly in the technical death metal camp by their third album. Carcass and Cannibal Corpse have gore; Deicide has Satan. Possessed actually invented the genre but only stuck around for two full-lengths. All are great, but Obituary is definitive old-school death metal, sticking with cacophonous guitar tones, whip fast integrations of ‘80s thrash and lumbering sludge, and gurgling howls juxtaposed by piercing screams. Throughout their 30-year history (26 if you don’t count the time they spent as Xecutioner, 20 if you consider the hiatus) they’ve recorded nine albums and played host to 14 members. They are, all told, a huge fucking deal, and their fans love them for it.

It was those fans who Kickstarted the band’s forthcoming ninth studio album Inked in Blood, funding the entire project in less than 24 hours and going six times over the band’s $10,000 goal. At $20,000, those fans got videos of a live set recorded over three days at the indomitable Morrisound Recording (another family institution) in Florida, the centerpiece of the regional phenomenon. At $35,000, Obituary put out a making-of for the album that didn’t even have a title. The total kept on rising until topping out at an eye popping $60,000. Take that, Orgy!

“The idea was weird for us at first,” says vocalist John Tardy, who formed the band in 1988 with two current band mates, including drummer brother Donald and rhythm guitarist Trevor Peres.

“We didn’t just want to ask people for money, which is the farthest thing from what it turned out to be. I’d never heard of it before, but because we had so much we were trying to do we gave it a shot.”

They weren’t the first and definitely won’t be the last band to crowdfund a release. It’s rare for record labels, even independents, to treat artists right. The bands you’ll see praising their labels for their support are those lucky enough to not have run into any disagreements yet, and when and if they do, they’ll find that disagreements are one-sided and brief. Indeed, Obituary’s former label, Roadrunner Records, owns Obituary’s first six releases.

“I can’t do anything with those albums to this day. Roadrunner can package two or three CDs together or put out ‘Best Of’ and ‘Greatest Hits,’ and they do it all without any of our input,” says Tardy. “It’s kind of frustrating when we think about back in the day and what we signed, what we got ourselves into. We learned a lot over the years and we really wanted to do this thing on our own.”

The five-year hiatus between Inked and its predecessor, 2009’s Darkest Day, is partially explainable by this DIY impulse. The band wanted to make their own record label, and spent a year calling up distributors and making industry contacts.

“We got pretty deep into this when a mutual friend introduced us to somebody over at Relapse, and those guys have just been so cool from the get to say ‘anything we can help you with we’ll help you with.’”

The arrangement works out well for everybody involved: Obituary don’t have to handle booking tours, printing records and pressing T-shirts, Relapse get Obituary, fans get a new album.

Inked in Blood was recorded and mixed entirely by the band in their home studio. The result is as raw as anything they recorded in the ‘80s. At a time when every single drumbeat will be taken out of a recording, processed and re-inserted, Obituary records their drums live, their guitars live, and their vocals live. They may not be totally DIY, but the fans would rather Tardy and company be in the studio or on the road than negotiating foreign rights and approving T-shirt designs. Everything you hear on record is Obituary, and it’s there because thousands of backers wanted it bad enough to pay for it a year in advance.

See Obituary with Death (DTA), Massacre, Rivers of Nihil, Untimely Demise and Reverend Kill at the MacEwan Hall Ballroom on Friday, November 21.

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