Obituary @ The Asylum, Birmingham – 26 August 2023

Continuing to support their January album release ‘Dying of Everything’, Florida death metal icons Obituary hit The Asylum in Birmingham on their ‘Barely Alive’ UK dates.

Obituary are legends in every sense of the word. Formed nearly 40 years ago, they stand as a pivotal force in the evolution of death metal, and as one of the most accomplished and enduring acts in the genre’s history. Still with three original members: vocalist John Tardy, drummer Donald Tardy and guitarist Trevor Peres; aside from an 8 year hiatus, they have remained active, to serve up a trademark blend of sinister, groove laden riffs and classic death metal.

For those who know what to expect, the anticipation builds into the viciously intense yet wickedly fun instrumental ‘Redneck Stomp’. The simple but perfect riffing offers a brooding and indelible presence that nobody with a pulse can possibly resist. Lead guitarist Kenny Andrews and bassist Terry Butler (formerly of Death), take up their positions, while every gaze is drawn to rhythm guitarist Trevor Peres, seizing the spotlight with his captivating headbanging flair.

Out from the smoke enters John Tardy and his scorching low register growls for ‘Sentence Day’, during which there’s an early reminder of Obituary’s musical prowess when Andrews unleashes some uber-intricate leads. From the catalogue comes ‘Lesson In Vengeance’ and ‘Visions In My Head’, both executed with merciless precision and a sonic intensity, from a band hammering home the fact they have not lost an ounce of their brutal edge over the years.

Like most dates on the tour, tonight is sold out. Not because the 600 capacity venue is full of nostalgia-seekers, which perhaps I am one, but because Obituary have become important icons for fans of all generations. Some of the faces in this crowd didn’t exist when I, and possibly their parents, first saw the band up the road at Edwards No. 8, but I know why they’re here. Whether you’re 16 or 60, the guitar tone alone which emanates from the stage is transformative. Hearing it on record is one thing, but to have it live and in your face is intense and almost otherworldly.

The ever evolving circle-pit continually ignites with a celebration of tracks from the latest album. ‘The Wrong Time’. ‘Barely Alive’, ‘My Will To Live’, ‘War’ and the title track ‘Dying Of Everything’ leave no doubt that Obituary, whether they are appearing at huge European festivals or UK club venues, are still masters of their craft, and show no signs of slowing down.

Amidst the relentless assault of newer material comes ‘Chopped In Half ‘ and ‘Turned Inside Out’ from the band’s iconic 1990 album ‘Cause Of Death’. This pair of classics does offer that nostalgic trip back to death metal’s early greatness, which is echoed by the ground-breaking masterpiece, ‘Slowly We Rot’ to close out the set.

Obituary took a unique path, by distinguishing themselves from bands who were solely seeking aggression and speed. By doing so they not only forged a genre of metal, but remained distinctive. In a world where music trends come and go, they have continued to stand tall as one of the kings of death metal. Tonight was a testament to their enduring passion for the genre, and it felt like a night spent with old friends.

Review & Photography: Steve Johnston