OBITUARY – Keep it Simple
Death metal legends OBITUARY make their Relapse debut with "Inked in Blood" , their 9th full length LP. Almost three decades in, "Inked in Blood" stands out as one of the finest moments in OBITUARY‘s already godlike discography. The riffs, groove, snarl and rage are as fierce as ever, putting most all other contemporary death metal bands to shame.
OBITUARY are THE definitive death metal band, and"Inked in Blood" is an instant classic amongst their already storied catalog. OBITUARY are both the originators and the torch-bearers of the genre! ‘Inked In Blood’ is the sound of true death metal kings reclaiming their throne!
Eternal Terror got an early chance at talking to the band about this upcoming release and below you will find comments from Donald Tardy about various aspects of the new album and the process that the band went through prior to its release.
"Inked in Blood" is a release that sees the light of day more than 5 years after the previous one, Darkest day. I know there was some touring during these years that surely played a big part in this ‘long wait’, but are there any other reasons?
No reason in particular. We are not a band that thinks it’s necessary to put an album out every year and we never pressure ourselves to do so. We just allow the music and album releases to come whenever they come.
We spent nearly 4 years writing this album and took our time and had a good time in that process. We also had the opportunity to play the classic set list live and once we did that every promoter and fan wanted to see it which turned into us touring for that. Once the new songs were ready we took our time and practice them and worked on them, trimming the fat and turning them into bigger/badder songs and rehearsed them until we were comfortable with all of the new songs. That makes for a much more fun recording process and studio sessions.
Does the fact that the album is produced by the band’s drummer and recorded in a band member’s own studio contribute to making the process so long? I guess it’s not the same time pressure as when you book the studio for 10 days and you have all sort of deadlines influencing your productivity.
Owning the studio is a luxury that we are very lucky to have and it makes things very calm and fun while recording. No pressures of deadlines, no making engineers wait around til a band member is ready. It really does make for a great time for us and what is usually a stressful process turns into a blast.
We decided to do this album on our own and although we tracked the last 2 albums there as well we went for it this time mixing and editing it as well and we are super excited about the end result.
What you hear is what you get…only microphones and band member instruments. There is no sound replacement, no triggers, no fixing things up afterwards…it was recorded old school with the mics around the drumkit and that is the sound of the room. Nothing was put on guitars, no EQ’s, compression or layering. One mic one guitar take. That’s it. Same with John vocals. We left it as clean and dry as we could to keep it as natural sounding as possible. The was a conscious decision and though it might not be the most properly recorded album and the studio is just a glorified jam room, but we like the sounds we are getting out of RedNeck Studio and had a blast doing everything ourselves.
(Photo: Ester Segarra)
What is the duration of the recording itself? Did you combine the recording process with your everyday life or did you set some days apart strictly for gathering in the studio, shutting down the ‘real world’ and working with the album sounds?
It was a very laid-back atmosphere for the recording of this album. With band members’ families and children involved in our lives there is no shutting things down…we just worked around the real world. This might have contributed to a little bit longer recording process but we were okay with that and just had a good time doing it. Music is there for everyone to enjoy and there is no reason to stress over it. The more comfortable Bandmembers are in the studio the better performance you pull out of them and this was definitely the case on this new album.
How much of a difference is, in your eyes, in the fact that a band member is actually doing the production? Do you think that might make an album feel more ‘natural’ since it has no ‘3rd party’ influences when it comes to the final product? Can’t it get boring for the producer to both compose, play and listen to the same music over and over and over again? Also, were all band members involved in the producing process, did everyone get to come with their ideas and suggestions?
Yes the entire band produced this album. Everyone was involved with giving ideas and opinions. We really just wanted to make a natural sounding album so we kept it as simple as possible with the recording process. When it came to the mix, we again did not try to hard and just allowed the song to mix itself. This was easy to do because there were no triggers sound replacement for fixing after-the-fact, we just mixed the songs as they were and made sure we got the best sound we could out of what we recorded. In the world of modern metal this might not be the perfect scenario recording process but again we are old school and just wanted to keep it real.
Who, besides the band members, might be named as playing a big role in this album?
This was an album we recorded and mixed 100% ourselves and as always we had our long time friend and engineer Mark Prator on call at all times to help us with any issues that came up with the computer or the pro-tools sessions. It’s always good having Mark around because he is the king of ProTools but this was a band effort and we are very proud of that.
For the ‘old’ band members, are there novelties in the making of these album versus previous materials? Instruments change, techniques used, etc? Or, if the previous recipe was successful, you didn’t make any changes to it?
Yeah we definitely keep things super simple and really did not change anything with the equipment or recording process. Trevor has been using the same guitar and amp set up for 20 years and there’s no changing us now. His sound is unquestionably old school and the minute you hear Obituary you know that guitar tone. I think it’s what fans want and expect from us. We have been making music for a long time and want to keep the feel and style of Obituary true to what it was and is.
Believe people by Obituary records hoping and expecting them to sound like Obituary. We know this and feel the same way. Keep it Simple/Stupid.
(Photo: Ester Segarra)
Is the album a collection of strictly new songs (composed/jammed after the last release) or you always have many leftovers that you pick up when making new materials?
These are all new songs but it was a writing process of nearly 4 years so each song has its own vibe, it’s only feel, it’s own style compared to the other songs which really makes for a monster record. We laid it on the line this time and really put everything we had into it and I think it shows. Obituary fans are in for a real treat with this new album and we are very excited to hear what they think about it and to get on the road and play some of these new songs life for them.
I got to listen a bit to the album and I got a bit stuck on ‘Deny You’. It might change on the next listen, but as I am typing the questions, this is the song I like best. And on this song, and pretty much on all the materials I heard, you are a band who have found a decent way of timing the guitar solos, without falling into the ‘neverending’ solo extreme. Was this a conscious process or you never felt the need to have 2+ minutes guitar solos?
We just allowed the songs and solos to happen when and where they were naturally needed. Having Ken in the band really brought us to a higher level of confidence of what solos should sound like on obituary records. Ken’s style is a combination of Allen West meet James Murphy I believe and his solos show this and his mixture of when he bar and dive bombs really fit obituary perfectly. It is what Allen used to do with the bitch worried that I think matches the music perfectly and can also has James’ style solos on this record as well which really compliment to the music.
How did the whole process go regarding the new band members, Kenny Andrews and Terry Butler? How much did they actually get to contribute to the album or is everything the product of the ‘old’ members?
Having Terry and Ken in the band is just a blessing in this band is having more fun than we’ve ever had. Everybody had ideas for the songs and everybody contributed. They are both super cool dudes and great musicians and we are all just best of friends which makes for a very relaxed fun recording process and any bandmember can tell you when you’re in a good mood your performance is always better.
(Photo: Ester Segarra)
How come the intensity of the songs and the feeling of anger still seems so fresh after 20 years? Or, to rephrase that, what drives you to continue writing the same kind of music? Sometimes, young bands playing similar genres state that ‘we play the music to let the anger out’. I don’t know if this was the motivation at the beginning of ‘Obituary’, but I’d like to know what keeps that anger alive today.
There is no anger and our mines while writing this extreme music and although it is brutal we are super normal every day kind of dudes that just so happen to play death metal. Anyone that has ever hung out with us know that we are delayed back Florida boys that don’t take things too serious. We just really enjoyed playing music together and writing albums for the fans. We’ve never been a band that relied on leather boots or jackets to set the image…we let the Music do the talking and although we might be wearing flip-flops backstage, we are not afraid to destroy each time we hit the stage.
Who and how thought about "Inked in Blood" ? Is the title a reference of any kind?
We have never been a band that worried about song titles album titles or even lyrics so the entire album was recorded before we thought of any of this. It wasn’t until the end of the recording process that we needed to start thinking of song and album titles so my brother started digging through his lyric sheets and came up with "Inked in Blood" . We gave this title to our artist Andres Marshall and he can mediate Lee had a great idea about the album cover and once we saw the final product we could not agree more. Absolutely brutal and fits the title perfectly.
What do you think would be ‘the hit’ from this album? And why is that?
Visions in Head is the song that seems to grab everyone’s attention the second they hear it. With a catchy riff and driving double bass and a middle breakdown part, it has all the elements of a great metal song.
Do you guys keep track of how much your music is played on various streaming sites or via music statistics websites like Last.fm? If not, why not. And if yes, do you find them reliable?
The band doesn’t but the Relapse guys are keeping tabs on what, where and had often it’s being played and we are all trying our best to get the new album as many spins as possible and to help spread the metal-love.
You have released the album with help from a very successful Kickstarter campaign. Do you think this might be the future of making releases in the metal music world? I have seen few other famous artists doing it.
We were blown away by the amount of support we got from our fans with KS. We had no idea what kick starter was before we started the campaign so it was all new to us and probably new to most of our fans. It is a very cool concept although I don’t know if it’s for every band because there is lots of like work to be done with running the campaign and fulfilling the orders and that something I don’t think most bands want to commit to but it was amazing to witness that kind of support from true fans of the band. We learned a lot from this campaign and if we ever did it again there are definitely things we would do differently to make things easy on ourselves and at the same time make it just as cool as possible for the fans that want to contribute and be a part of this again.
I haven’t managed to find out if the album is being released on vinyl or on CD, or both or …any other combination? There are bands today who stick to vinly and online releases and don’t bother with other formats. What do you think about such choices? Would you support the idea of simplifying everything to only online releases? Or do you think people would miss the physical album, the covers, the booklets, etc?
I can’t speak for other bands but with Obituary there’s no question the fans want every form of it and we knew we needed a massive distribution plan to make sure it is out there for everybody. That’s where Relapse stepped in with their distribution and marketing campaign to make sure that all fans are aware of all the versions and they did a great job at mixing things up and making many different prints of CD and vinyl and we are stoked on what a great job they did at execution the entire game plan with this release.
Why did you end up touring in the winter in Europe? Have you been in a touring bus in Europe, in January, before? I hope you won’t be chased by any snow storms.
Why not? We do what we gotta do to bring the Metal to the People!!
Do the new songs bring any challenges in the way you play them live? Or, did they demand any re-arrangement of the old songs?
No the songs on the new album seem to be geared for live performance and Obituary has always been that type of band. It’s one thing to listen to our albums but to see us live is the most honest way to feel the power of these songs. We’ve always been that way and anyone who has witnessed it live would probably agree. With the midtempo groove riffs and drumbeats Obituary songs are just better live onstage than they are on recordings.