Earlier in the year, Obituary played a one-off date in London and the rest of the UK said “Wait, what about us?” a question most bands would ignore but Obituary responded with a massive 18-date tour full of sellouts and even an upgrade for Liverpool. Pest Control would join as support.
Leeds-based crossover thrash outfit Pest Control was first and they were a surprisingly well-fitting act for this bill. Genre purists can get a bit picky when it comes to thrash mixing with death metal and it has had a history of sounding out of place but Pest Control did a great job.
Pest Control hasn’t been together long and started during the pandemic so they still need to work on their stage banter. But you can make the argument that they wanted to fit more songs in the setlist but seeing as they’re a crossover band, they probably played their entire discography twice in the space of a half an hour set.
Crossover thrash has a tendency to blend together into a mix of tremolo-picked guitar work and boot-camp-booty-camp drumming but there were plenty of songs that overcome that obstacle like the ferocious closer ‘Enjoy the Show’ and the Anthrax-inspired ‘Buggin’ Out’.
The whole band was filled with youthful exuberance in every department and despite literally wearing their Anthrax influences on their sleeves, they had an approach to thrash that sounded comfortable but refined and interesting enough to stand out from the crowd. It will be interesting to see what they do from here on in, but you can expect to see them again on the next big thrash tour.
It’s hard to pick out songs from the setlist to check out so luckily their new album Don’t Test the Pest clocks in at a brisk 21 minutes, and will fill you with venom and bite your head off.
Most death metal bands usually rush out on stage to the fastest and most intense tracks in their arsenal but not Obituary. Obituary took their time before getting to the crazy stuff opting for a slow groove-filled approach with ‘Redneck Stomp,’ a song which has opened their shows for years.
The grizzly guitar tone is unmistakable but the real feral animal is vocalist John Tardy. After 30 years and 12 albums, he still has one of the most recognisable and powerful voices in death metal. His stage presence is imposing despite him being fairly stationary throughout the set which is a difficult combination to pull off.
There seemed to be some hiccups at the start of the show with cues but by now, the show was airtight and mistakes were quickly breezed by as Obituary blasted through the punky breakneck intensity of ‘Sentence Day’ and ‘Lesson in Vengeance’.
It’s likely that some will be disappointed by the lack of older tracks on the setlist but it’s hard to feel too upset when it’s filled with tracks from Obituary’s best record in years, Dying of Everything. ‘The Wrong Time’ was the first of these tracks and it’s a contender for my favourite song Obituary has ever put out. The guitar riff is so simple but effective and the thunderous drumming shows everyone just how much of a force to be reckoned with Donald Tardy is, perhaps not from a technical standpoint but his understanding of the importance of groove is unmatched.
‘Barely Alive‘ shows Obituary stepping on the gas with full force once again as the centre of the room becomes a dangerous place to be. The crowds throughout the tour have been completely unhinged and Manchester was no exception with some people having their own private two-person pits in the corner. Much like in my personal life, ‘My Will to Live’ had been absent so far but once it reared its ugly head, it was time to bring out the slow caveman headbang. Its slow plodding pace gave people a break but it was still fast enough to dance to and inject some energy into.
Younger people may look back at records like Cause of Death and Slowly We Rot and dismiss their production as weak or dated and that’s fair, production technology and techniques have come a long way in the past 30 years. The songwriting and musicianship is all there and it’s worth experiencing these songs live where modern hardware gives them new life. The intro to ‘Chopped in Half’ could be the heaviest thing I’ve heard in a long time and that carried on through ‘Turned Inside Out,’ two iconic songs from Cause of Death.
The encore began with literal ‘War as Obituary’ came out to the sound of gunfire before the stomping caveman riff kicked in, there was even a nice clean break which lasted an entire bar before coming back to punch everyone in the face. Obituary are extremely confident in the new album given they have two tracks in the encore and that confidence is very well placed, especially for Dying of Everything but it’s the last two tracks that everyone is here for.
‘I’m in Pain’ is the only representation of The End Complete on the set which is a shame because there are some strong entries on that album that would have gone down well but Obituary have to focus on new material so they don’t risk becoming a nostalgia act like so many of their peers have become.
The final song came as a surprise to no one, it’s a hulking mess of sloppy guitar tones complete with crushing drumming and lyrics written by an angry 10-year-old in the blackest crayon ever conceived (seriously, go read the lyrics now). ‘Slowly We Rot’ is nothing short of a death metal masterpiece that seamlessly blends that punk attitude that spawned the genre with grim doom-filled sensibilities that have come to dominate the genre.
‘Slowly We Rot’ as an album is an undisputed masterpiece and its title track still holds the crown of being one of the best tracks in the history of the genre so it’s fair that Manchester responded with a wild flurry of uncontrollable violence that left the Academy forever stained in blood and gore that only Obituary could bring.
Classic death metal is largely being forgotten by the younger demographic but there are literally thousands of amazing albums out there by classic acts like Obituary, but perhaps that is starting to change as this tour sold incredibly. As the old heads start to rot, there needs to be a new generation of battle jackets sporting, blood-soaked messes of hair and anger to fill the void and this tour showed they’re here and they’re ready to kill.