Released: 2009, Candlelight Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
To paraphrase a famous movie line, “Obituary is as Obituary does.” You pretty much know what to expect from a new Obituary album – thick death metal riffs under a fuzz of molasses, the occasional sparklingly crisp guitar solo and John Tardy’s one-of-a-kind snarl. DARKEST DAY is the band’s eighth full length studio disc (their third full length since reuniting in 2005), and is pretty much what you’d expect from the band at this point in their two-decade long career.
Whereas 2007’s XECUTIONER’S RETURN was a more polished and direct affair than 2005’s FROZEN IN TIME, DARKEST DAY takes a step back to rest comfortably between the two. Depending on how fans view that move will ultimately determine whether they embrace this album or question the decision making. Obituary’s built a career around sludgy, mid-tempo tunes that crush under their sheer density, but there’s usually some variety in the mix to keep things fresh. Outside of a few tunes like “List of Dead” and “Violent Dreams,” the whole affair tends to drag on in places and gets bogged down own weight. Not to say that the songs are bad or that I was expecting a prog-rock album, but knowing the body of work that Obituary’s crafted over the years, it’s kind of disappointing that the band didn’t opt to push their own boundaries here. On the bright side, songs like “Payback” and “This Life” harkens back to the band’s glory days and “See Me Now” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on CAUSE OF DEATH.
“Forces Realign” and “Left to Die” were both featured on last year’s LEFT TO DIE E.P., but as that release slipped under many radars, their addition to the album’s line-up here makes sense. The latter tune is a slower grind consistent with the new tracks, while the former is a more up-tempo and in your face shredder. But both feature some great guitar licks courtesy of (not so) new axe man Ralph Santolla. It should also go without saying, that the addition of Santolla to the Obituary lineup is the best thing that’s happened to the band in ages. Though his presence on DARKEST DAY is more restrained than on the previous disc, he expertly captures the traditional Obituary guitar solo vibe and gives it some much needed technique and versatility.
But at the end of the day, Obituary is as Obituary does. Again, DARKEST DAY isn’t a bad album by any stretch, but by the end of the disc you’re likely to feel like was some unfulfilled potential. There’s certainly some high points, but unless you’re content with Obituary treading the status quo, DARKEST DAY probably won’t hold your attention for too long.