Home > Music > Obituary – Cause of Death (1990)

Obituary – Cause of Death (1990)


Like many of the non-Morbid Angel death metal full length albums released before 1991 or so, Cause of Death belongs to the slower, more atmospheric school of death metal as taught by such luminaries as Autopsy. Cause of Death is cleaner and more accessible than anything Chris Reifert was putting out at the time, if only due to the presence of the guitar mercenary James Murphy on leads. This and Death’s Spiritual Healing helped put him on the radar; digressions about the musical similarities between those two albums aside. He in turn must’ve done some good for Obituary; while I’m not sure quite how much this album sold, it’s very archetypal of its era and I’m sure it did relatively well with its support from Roadrunner.

Obituary, at least on this album, is seemingly defined by its superstars. John Tardy was definitely one of the best recorded death metal vocalists of 1990, and certainly at least proficient in his style (think Chuck Schuldiner, but better). Tardy’s performance on Cause of Death is not particularly varied, but it fits the consistent emphasis on percussive death metal. Given that most of the ideas expressed here are not exactly focused on consonant melodies, James Murphy’s frequent solos help vary up the songs and perhaps open it up a bit to death metal neophytes, of which I assume there were many back in the day.

Another thing about Obituary is that their take on death metal seems especially close in spirit to its immediate ancestors. Encyclopedia Metallum claims that back in the band’s earliest days (when their names of choice were variants of “Executioner”), they played music “…in the vein of Venom and Celtic Frost“. That’s hardly unique, but subtract the enhanced production, aggression, and James Murphy Quotientâ„¢ from many of these tracks and you would have some tracks that fit pretty well with the undifferentiated early underground extreme metal of the 1980s. Obituary takes after the latter more than the former, which should be apparent in their preference for sluggish speeds, and they even take the time to cover “Circle of the Tyrants” off To Mega Therion, just in case the resemblance wasn’t clear enough for listeners. What makes this band good is that they successfully expand on the old proto-underground formulas, and not just by relying ever more on novel sounds (which murdered in Celtic Frost a few years before this) but by actually expanding their compositions in a coherent fashion. If you’re at all interested in death metal, that should sell you on early Obituary if the fact you’re into death metal hasn’t already made them one of your earliest acquisitions.

Highlights: “Body Bag”, “Chopped in Half”, “Cause of Death”

P.S: Yesterday was the 6 year anniversary of this blog. Every year, it gets a little harder to believe that I’ve kept it up another year. Luckily, keeping the content going doesn’t also become more difficult.


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