DB HOF NO. 27
The making of Obituary’s “Cause of Death”
released: September 19, 1990
Death metal had never sounded so guttural and primal before Obituary’s 1989 debut, Slowly We Rot, infected record stores. Having only previously released a few songs on demos and comps under the names Executioner and Xecutioner, the group fulfilled the potential Roadrunner A&R Monte Conner had seen in them with their debut. John Tardy’s bass-heavy, nonsensical lyrics—kind of a collage of grunts and occasionally coherent horrific-sounding words—combined with the rest of the Tampa-area band’s relentless, pounding riffs took what fellow Floridians Death had released two years earlier on their debut and mixed it with a near-European Hellhammer-like delivery. Without even touring, the band—then comprised of singer John Tardy, drummer Donald Tardy, lead guitarist Allen West, rhythm guitarist Trevor Peres and bassist Daniel Tucker—inspired reverent chatter among death metal’s burgeoning literati. All this, and they’d only just graduated high school.
After Roadrunner asked them to record a follow-up, 1990’s unfuckwithable Cause of Death, everything changed. Bassist Tucker disappeared, found months later as a victim of partial amnesia from a car crash. In the meantime, Obituary drafted new bassist Frank Watkins, who quickly learned the group’s repertoire, and would play on every album since. Soon after, guitarist Allen West left the band to pursue family life, prompting them to enlist ex-Death member James Murphy, who would later become recognized as the closest thing death metal had to a guitar hero. When Obituary finally entered Tampa’s Morrisound Recording to work with producer Scott Burns, they had no idea they’d leave with a death metal masterpiece.
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