Predictability isn't such a bad thing, is it? Just ask JUNGLE ROT. Maybe "reliability" is the better term since we're discussing another seminal U.S. death metal band three albums (and one EP) into its reformation. OBITUARY follows "Xecutioner's Return" with another classic-sounding album in "Darkest Day", both of which are superior to comeback album "Frozen in Time", at least as far as I'm concerned.
Often imitated, but never bettered, even the most passive of death metal fans can recognize an OBITUARY riff when they hear it and sure as hell can pinpoint a one-and-only John Tardy vocal. Nothing on "Darkest Day" will change those facts. While OBITUARY hasn't broken their mold, they have managed to give each album its own vibe through arrangement tweaks and subtle alterations to the established sound, as evidenced on "Darkest Day". There continues to be plenty of swampy belly-crawls and mid-tempo dirges, such as on "Payback", which has a fetid "World Demise" quality about it, and an ode to morbidity and hopelessness called "Your Darkest Day". Opener "List of Dead" and the pointed "Violent Dream" are the album's speedsters and aside from the odd up-shift in tempo (e.g. "See me Now" and "Blood to Give"), the pacing is traditional OBITUARY.
But it the band's penchant for tweaking, if you will, that injects personality into this album, not the least of which is Ralph Santolla's accomplished soloing. His cascading solo on "Fields of Pain", though brief, is an engrossing contrast to the mud-bogging riffs; the classy fret flourish during "Violent Dream" is similarly appealing. Drummer Donald Tardy is the other ace card. Just listen to his perfectly timed percussive burst on "This Life", his tribal dashes on "Blood to Give", and his ability to take complete control of a song with a solo fill during the second half of "Truth be Told".
We're not exactly talking tech-death here, but the band has learned a few tricks of the compositional trade over the years. Aside from the unnecessary inclusion of the previously released "Left to Die" and the terrific "Forces Realign", which to some extent robs last year's EP of its fan-value, "Darkest Day" is dyed-in-the-wool OBITUARY. It's about giving the people what they want; nothing more, nothing less.