Marketed as a single with added bonus live material, Ten Thousand Ways to Die is really a live Obituary album with two new studio cuts placed at the front of the album. The live portion is culled from dates in 11 different cities during the band’s Inked in Blood trek, while the studio tracks are no doubt intended to whet fan appetites for an impending 2017 studio effort.
The opener, “Loathe”, is a slowly rotting six-minute slab of hellish heaviness with John Tardy unleashing his unholy death growl amid crunchy riffs and pretzel-like shifts in mood, tempo and overall vibe. The second coming of “The End Complete” it’s not. Despite those nifty twists and turns, the track ultimately meanders too much, never quite stumbling upon the trademark Obituary kapow! factor. The other newbie, this album’s title track, is another case entirely. Donald Tardy’s vicious beats and the 80,000 ton riff-o-rama struck up by Trevor Peres (to say nothing of Kenny Andrews’ Euro metal lead work), give the tune a joie de vivre (Or is that la joie de la mort?) commensurate with classic frickin’ Obituary.
From there, the band is off to the races: A dark, mesmerizing reading of “Redneck Stomp” is followed by a most earth-scorching “Centuries of Lies” to create the perfect entry into the live setting. The latter piece, culled from the 2014 slab Inked in Blood, makes it abundantly clear that Obituary has lost none of its intensity since its debut album, Slowly We Rot, in 1989. The same can be said for a life-altering take on “Visions in My Head” and, of course, the classic “Bloodsoaked”, which sounds as vital here as it did on the Slowly We Rot effort. “Dying”, from the unstoppable Cause of Death, has lost none of its swift fury in the last 25 years. You’ll flashback at least that far during “Chopped in Half/Turned Inside Out”. It sounds as exhilarating as death and thrash metal during the halcyon days of ’84 to ’91. “Slowly We Rot” closes the collection, leaving the listener exhausted but still eager for one more track.
The remarkable rhythm section of Donald Tardy and bassist Terry Butler shines throughout, though perhaps nowhere as much as in the doomiest, most progressive-minded passages of “Find the Arise”, along with “Don’t Care”, during which it sounds as though Tardy’s drums might actually be banging away inside your head.
With Obituary on a general musical uptick since its reemergence a little more than a decade ago, it’s no surprise that the band sounds as strong as it does here. With an aforementioned new studio recording just around the corner, we shouldn’t be surprised if the Floridian outfit unleashes its best work yet. That a death metal outfit would sound this vital and vibrant 30 years after its initial formation seems unthinkable and, yet, inevitable. A non-commercial band can’t survive very long without a little hunger and a whole lot of commitment and across these 13 songs (yes, even “Loathe”), Obituary demonstrates that both hunger and commitment are in plentiful supply at the moment.
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