Monday, March 11, 2024

Obituary - Slowly We Rot: Live & Rotting (2022)

Slowly We Rot: Live & Rotting is one in a pair of special concert presentations released on physical and digital media through Relapse records. Having seen Obituary a number of times through the years, I can attest that whatever inconsistency their studio output might have brought me, this is an arena in which they are quite good, translating their simplistic, evil old death metal into roiling entertainment, fit for a crossroads of extreme music audiences what with all the grooving and moshing potential. This live album, I am happy to say, captures the experience with a professional sound, without going too far into an over-mixed or over-polished territory. In fact, I'd take this over the vast majority of the studio albums they've put out across the decades beyond 1990.

The material is mostly presented in the order of the original album, with an ominous stage intro and then an extended title track at the end. The lineup is the same as it has been since Inked in Blood, with the three original members joined by scene veteran Terry Butler on bass, and second guitarist Kenny Andrews, but it might as well just be the whole original studio incarnation, because it does the debut album great justice. The guitars are soaked in distortion, making the rhythm crunch just as evil as it did 30+ years ago, while the leads sound like whipping, spontaneous serpents that scream out into the atmosphere over the tight performances of Butler and Donald Tardy, both of whom sound excellent. The bass is really thick and the drumming feels even more intensive than on the studio version, and it all ends up pretty much flawless. John also sounds great, his trademark growl might miss a syllable or two, or at least it felt that way, but it's still got the same gruesome sustain to helm the band whether they're blasting away or settling into one of their swampier grooves. It's difficult to pick a favorite among the main tracks here, because each is delivered with precision and care for an audience that must be psyched to see this.

There isn't a lot of fan interaction, or noise, it's all pretty slick, and they've added a couple of later songs to lengthen out the set and release; they aren't really necessary, like "Redneck Stomp" from the crappy Frozen in Time album, which is just as dull here as the original, and "A Dying World", which was a single they put out as part of an [adult swim] series a few years before this. That's not an impressive tune either, but it's much more energetic and fun than "Redneck...", and it's cool that it was included due to its scarcity. The best of the bonus tunes, however, is their cover of Celtic Frost's "Dethroned Emperor", paying tribute to the band that is unquestionably the hugest influence upon their own sound. To be honest, though, I would have been satisfied with just the Slowly We Rot material, it seems that presentation and the accompanying Blu Ray would be enough here, and a few of those later tracks drag it down a little. Overall, though, this delivers what it promises, an ageless performance of what many consider their best album.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]

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