Sorry for the double post, but I've written my first (real) review.
Obituary: Darkest Day
I was having a look through the record store in the mall the other day and, lo and behold, I came across the new Obituary album, Darkest Day. Having heard mixed opinions on it, and due to Xecutioners Return being so boring, I was a bit skeptical. However, nothing else in the store was of much interest at the moment, and since Obituary was the band that got me to like death metal in the first place, I figured I'd buy their latest output.
The album starts out quite nicely with "List of Dead". Yeah, it's sort of a lame song title, but it's a nice, speedy (well, for Obituary) track with plenty of headbangable riffs and little shred solos. One thing I noticed right away is that the production has been kicked up a notch. Unlike this band's previous offering, the guitar tone is actually heavy. That massive, muddy tone that characterizes Trevor Perez's groovy riffing is still present. The drumming is style is unaltered and sounds like vintage Donald Tardy. Obituary sounds like they are expected to.
"Blood to Give" follows the opener, and it's reminiscent of "The End Complete" in how it shifts between mid-paced grooving and up-tempo thrashiness. As a matter of fact, this entire album is highly derivative of middle-era Obituary. The band doesn't introduce any new concepts; groove-laden riffage accompanied by bizzare vocals and simplistic yet competent drumming are what these guys have been about since their third offering. The material present isn't idealy different from what was on Xecutioner's Return. It's just done with seemingly more effort and more of an adherence to what made their previous albums so celebrated, and that's what makes Darkest Day superior to its predecessor,
I found every track to be of similar quality; there were no real stinkers, but at the same time there weren't really any tracks that stood far out above the rest. That's not to say there aren't any memorable tracks though. "Payback" has a catchy chorus that will implant itself in your memory for days ("Payback by default!"... as always, the lyrics don't make much sense). "Left to Die" is very repetitive, but it's quite catchy and it manages to keep your attention. "Your Darkest Day" is a slow crusher, but unlike the previous release's "Contrast the Dead", it doesn't drag on and break your balls for seven minutes. "Violent Dreams" is a faster track that resembles the classic "Words of Evil" from the debut, with a song structure that is almost identical to that of the aforementioned track. There really aren't any "singles" (technically "Blood to Give" is a single, but I don't find it to be a standout track), but each song has characteristics that distinguish it from the rest.
Ralph Santolla seems to get a lot of flack for not "fitting in" with the rest of the band. Personally, I don't see what the problem is. His leads aren't Murphy's, but I fail to see why Allen West was any better. Santolla's leads may sound a little more "ubeat", and if this were Slowly We Rot, I could see why this may be a problem. However, this album lacks much of the dark atmosphere found in the aforementioned debut, so Santolla's leads don't really cause any issues in that department. Both have contributed neat little shred solos that spice things up and add a little more excitement to the constant groove-laden riffage.
The vocals are almost exactly the same as they were on Frozen in Time, with possibly a little more aggression. Tardy doesn't sound like he did in the early days, but he still sounds like no other. However, he doesn't sound as "tired" as he did on the previous album. It definitely sounds like he is putting forth more effort, and in turn, his growls sound more hostile. Overall, his performance here is fair.
In conclusion, Darkest Day is a solid piece of groovy, mid-paced death metal. It's not Cause of Death, but then again, I wasn't expecting it to be. Those days are long gone, and what we're left with is a solid, old-school death metal band that is still able to churn out quality material.
If you're a fan of Obituary, don't hesitate to give this one a listen.
Final Rating: 80%