One of the true pioneers of a genre, Obituary has always shown that you don’t need to be chock full of blastbeats and speedy guitar licks to be an effective force in the death metal community. Relying more on slow or mid-paced groovy riffage with a higher pitched growl in vain of legend Chuck Schuldiner, Obituary quickly carved their pace in history with classic records such as Slowly We Rot, Cause Of Death, and The End Complete. The band, whose approach never changed, was pretty much flawless until the release of 1997’s Back From The Dead. An 8 year hiatus had followed and with that, a very hit or miss catalog of releases.

When Obituary, returned from their hiatus in 2005, they couldn’t have come back on a higher note than the Frozen In Time album. A perfect title for an album that seemed to have captured their signature style to perfection. 8 years seemed to have done them good and they seemed completely rejuvenated and Frozen In Time became one of my most listened to albums that year. Unfortunately the feeling was relatively short lived because the two follow-up albums weren’t exactly anything to write home about. 2007’s Executioner’s Return and 2009’s Darkest Days seemed a bit forced. With the exceptions of more leads, they strayed too far from the path to break the mold but for most of the length of each album, the mold grew a little stale. Now it’s been 5 years since the last Obituary release and after crowdfunding the recording, the band has teamed up with Relapse Records, who used to breathe all things death/gore/grind, for their 9th full length, Inked In Blood.

The idea of crowdfunding irks me a little when it comes to established acts but it gave me some hope that they would be doing this record on their own terms and putting out an album they wanted to release, rather than what a label was expecting of them. Signing with Relapse halfway through the process gave me even more hope since they’ve been kind of letting their bands do whatever they want anyway. I’m happy to say that the 5 years off between records and new approach to releasing the album paid huge dividends because this is much, much better than either of the last two records. Songs like Violence, Centuries Of Lies, and Visions In My Head have already sunk in their claws and the hooks haven’t left my head for days. It’s more of the same old Obituary but with that seemingly energetic feel that Frozen In Time had. While it may lack creativity, it makes up for it by being simply heavy.

I must also make note of the production of the record. When a few tracks started to make their way onto the internet, some of my more seasoned producing friends immediately wrote the album off because they hated the production. Having only listened to the songs on my computer without a solid sound system, I wasn’t so quick to judge. Now that I have the full record and have listened to it in my car and on my home stereo, I must say, for a first time solo effort by the band, this turned out rather well. If you have a keen ear for this sort of thing you will notice a little bit of issue with the drums (mostly they sound a little fake in certain rolls and a little flat overall) but it’s a minor complaint that really doesn’t take that much away from the record. It was never noted that Obituary was comprised of audio engineers so this stands leaps and bounds above what a vast majority of bands would put out if they self-produced a record.

I guess you could say Obituary is back…again. Inked In Blood is more of the same that we’d expect from the self-proclaimed rednecks and quite honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. If you’ve been yearning for Obituary to return to form, look no further than Inked In Blood.