The interesting thing about listening to a band as influential as Obituary so late-on is that I've ran into a number of bands who were heavily influenced by the style before listening to the originators. In fact, in my understanding of death-metal, there was an exactly Obituary-shaped gap... which means that by the time I'd listened to a couple of records - namely the first three - I reached the conclusion that Obituary were more or less exactly the band I expected them to be, sound-wise. The consequence of this, among other things, is that by being so... expected... "Slowly We Rot" has left me in a state of indecision. Has discovering the band after listening to a fair bit of death metal already demystified their appeal and impact? The fact that Obituary embody not only most of the hallmarks of classic death metal, but almost all of the hallmarks which I genuinely enjoy seems to contrast with the fact that I'm discovering a band at a point in my listening where I'm almost jaded and desensitized by a number of the conventions of the genre. Of course, Obituary were more a convention setting band than a convention upholding band... but nonetheless, at times it feels like I've been unfortunate in listening to so many bands who follow a similar style first, as opposed to being blown away by discovering Obituary four or five years ago. That's an issue which has nothing to do with Obituary's music however, and everything to do with my taste, as a time-line. The fact I'm not blown-away by Obituary is entirely my fault for listening to them at - arguably - the wrong point in my exploration of the genre.
Music is, in many respects, a subjective experience, but I do think it will prove worth my while to try to skim the jaded feelings out of the way, and try to focus more on the musical substance of "Slowly We Rot" itself, for while I perhaps wasn't in the correct mood to be excited by it, there is certainly a swathe of elements in the record to be excited about. The rude, power-tool tone and well-cobbled riffs both ooze with a huge Celtic Frost influence - perhaps the most overt of any of the classic death metal acts, with the same rewarding effects; a lot of the tracks depart from their thrashy roots to deliver a crushing and dripping malignity, as the record romps through everything that old-school death metal does best. It succeeds in being intense, heavy, and above all, slightly-scary - probably even more so in 1989. It's the natural step-up from the early work of bands like Death, which was less of a progression stylistically from thrash. Indeed, you can very much appreciate the natural move towards extremity in the twilight-years of thrash-metal, as expressed sonically on a record like this. The merits of the record, in this light, are multitudinous; representing a step in the codification of death-metal into a genre, with its fantastically over-the-top heavy tone and crushing tracks. While to me, Obituary might prima facie feel like a chapter I accidentally missed, in a book that I managed to follow the plot of anyway, that does not mean that the chapter is without merits; quite the opposite. "Slowly We Rot" is splendid.
In my mind, Obituary is still a newcomer to the nexus of my musical taste. With time, however, I have confidence that the music will sink-in more fully, and open itself more readily for my appreciation for its own merits, as opposed to any extraneous baggage which the bands context in my musical journey brings. I look forward to being able to enjoy "Slowly We Rot" more fully with time, and for all of my discussion above, my appreciation for it is already growing. While my brief forays into their later work are considerably less promising, their early work is a growing dot on the map of my love of old-school death metal.
This is an 8/10.
Obituary Official Site
Obituary on Bandcamp
Obituary on Facebook
Obituary on Metal Archives