Following five years since their last album, "Darkest Day", death metal legends OBITUARY hit the Kickstarter campaign trail to fund their ninth outing, "Inked in Blood". Partnering up with Relapse Records, OBITUARY slings out "Inked in Blood" with current guitarist Kenny Edwards and bassist Terry Butler, both making their first appearances on an OBITUARY slab.
As it seems to be a pattern this year in metal, "Inked in Blood" is dealt mostly on the slower side — if CROWBAR and AUTOPSY's latest offerings aren't indicative enough of this trend. OBITUARY has of late been experimenting with their sound on "Xecutioner's Return" and "Darkest Day". So it's no surprise then "Inked in Blood" resumes this inclination with relative unpredictability, which serves the album's cause. Speed is incremental on this album; heaviness is assured.
Off the bat, "Centuries of Lies" slams a speedy scorcher at mostly the same trad thrash tempo, decelerating only slightly in-between verses. Afterwards, "Violent by Nature" immediately throws a curve with a mincing mosher that's kept on the looser side by Donald Tardy's clattery rhythms and John Tardy's drawling woofs. The riffs from Trevor Peres, Terry Butler and Kenny Edwards are responsive to the hashing tempos, which push and retreat accordingly. A sizzling solo ushers the track to its pounding close before OBITUARY hoists the manacles and pours on the static with the harsh gradualness of "Pain Inside".
Already to this point, "Inked in Blood" sounds stripped and chewy, which is more an asset than detriment. The stitching grooves and chunky riffs of "Visions in My Head" are just as raw, yet well effective without pulling away beyond a mid-tempo march. As with the preceding two tracks, OBITUARY tools with slower passages on "Visions in My Head" to the point the guitar solo is dragged kicking and screaming until the final stamping bars.
It gets no faster with "Back On Top", but it does get heavier and louder as John Tardy screams all over the skulking cut. The hollow echoes of Donald Tardy's tom clubbing here and all over the album sounds like the old days of underground heavy metal, while the droning doom chords seeping throughout "Back On Top" are just bloody heavy. Smartly timed, the splatter-loving "Violence" afterwards peels off a much-needed thrasher.
The title track and "Deny You" once again opt for the slower-is-nastier motif and the gruffer John Tardy gets (considering his vocals are in the somewhat higher range), the rougher the riffs get in accordance. These songs ride on the power of their repetitive chords, supplementing them with random double-time patterns, filtered distortion and slicing solos.
"Within a Dying Breed" at least works itself to a frenzy after three dragging minutes, and then OBITUARY kicks things up notches, NUCLEAR ASSAULT style, on "Minds of the World". After that, "Out of Blood" trounces through a brutal hardcore stomp and then on "Paralyzed With Fear", OBITUARY serves a double-kicked, teeth-knocking mash between punk and metal for the first part. As the album's meatiest cut (meaty in particular from John Tardy's spit-laden snarling), even the second half slowdown of "Paralyzed With Fear" is the sound of severity.
Occasionally choppy, all over the place, but never boring, "Inked in Blood" is a winner in the fact it makes every grubby and gory minute count. OBITUARY's financial backers will consider this album a high dividend.