Obituary's John Tardy Reflects On Their Latest Album, The Promising Direction Of Heavy Music and Their Unwavering Love For Death Metal - Knotfest
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Obituary’s John Tardy Reflects On Their Latest Album, The Promising Direction Of Heavy Music and Their Unwavering Love For Death Metal

Posted by Corinne Westbrook in Culture on January 16, 2023

The Floridian stalwarts share how ‘Dying of Everything’ was a combination of patience, passion and power that can only come with more than three decades of tenure.

Death metal legends, Obituary are one of the most foundational and influential death metal acts in the game. They remain consistent, executing some of the highest quality old-school death metal albums around. Initially starting out as Xecutioner, Obituary was born in 1988 in Tampa Bay, Florida and were one of the bands that spearheaded the Floridian death metal signature. 

The band features the Tardy brothers; vocalist John and drummer Donald, bassist Terry Butler, and guitarists Trevor Peres and Kenny Andrews, who have worked together to hone and perfect their unmistakable sound. 

But more than their skill, it is their passion for the music that keeps the band alive. On their upcoming album Dying of Everything, Obituary pulled out all the stops and sounds so comfortable, yet still so adventurous in their musicianship, even after a 30+ year career. 

The band just wrapped a mammoth run as part fo the Great Heathen Army trek along with Amon Amarth, Carcass and Cattle Decapitation. Wasting little time sitting idle, Obituary have already resumed their campaign, trekking Europe with Heaven Shall Burn and Trivium in support of their latest album. Finding a moment between tour stops John Tardy spoke of the album’s release and the un-ending fun they have creating music, the promise he sees in the metal scene, and how things have changed for the better. 

Tardy frames Dying of Everything as an exercise in patience for the band. “The album has been done for almost two years now and we’ve been painfully sitting on it.” Tardy explains. “We were determined not to release this thing in the middle of a pandemic, when we were sitting at home and not on the road. So, it was an easy decision for us to know what we had to do, and that was just sit on it until we had tours set up. We started doing singles, and then the big Amon Amarth tour, and now the album is going to be out and we will be hitting the road in Europe for the first time in SIX YEARS I think!”

“I’m pretty darn excited. We’ve been sitting on this thing and I’m ready to get it out there!”

While determined not to release during the pandemic, the album was definitely influenced by the turmoil of the past couple of years. Tardy explained the songwriting process, saying he was usually last to the table. 

“With the way we write and the way we do things, the lyrics, and certainly the song titles, are usually the last thing to take place. I’m always the last one in line. I usually know what’s going on, though. “Dying Of Everything” was actually something Donald [Tardy] came up with. He liked it so I wound up putting it in one of the songs and we got to thinking about it and, after what everybody has been though, with the whole pandemic. It seemed like every day you would wake up and learn something more horrible. It just felt like a fitting title after what all we just went through, it felt like you were pretty much going to die of everything at some point in time.”

After 30+ years in the game, it can be challenging not to fall into a rut, but the members of Obituary have kept their ear to the ground for new inspiration and ideas at all times. “We’ve never been a band that puts out an album every year, or even every other year for that matter,” John looks back. There have been times in our career where we’ve gone five or six years without an album, and I think it’s going on almost five years right now. When we’re ready to write, we do. But we’re always picking at songs, rhythms and ideas every day of our lives. Anything I hear or see, I’m always making notes for song titles or lyrics. And same with the other guys. Trevor [Peres], we might be sound checking or something and he walks out, flips his amp on and all of a sudden a rhythm comes out. He’ll make note of it or hum it into his phone so he can remember it. That’s how we build stuff.”

And taking their time to really sit with each track, learn it and hone it to the best it can be may take extra time, but it is well worth the wait when the final product is done.  

“We’ve really learned that when we do write a song, we give ourselves time to learn it. It’s not “This is how it goes. Hit record!” We take the time and jam the song, let it come to us, feel it out and we keep an open mind to add things or change things and that’s helped us over the years. With each album, we’ve done more and more of it. And with some extra time on our hands this time, we really took out time to learn the songs ourselves and that really helped a lot.”

“You’ve always got something you don’t like. At the end of the day, when the album is done, you’re like “Yeah that thing’s awesome!” But as years go by and you start listening to it you think “Oh, maybe I should have sung this a bit differently or phrased this differently,” DT is sometimes like “Yeah, I don’t like the snare drum sound,” or whatever it might be. So the more time you can give yourself to sit with a song and play with it, the better off it comes out.”

For Obituary, inspiration comes from passion for what they do. From both their hands-on approach to recording, to their emotional investment in their craft that investment pays dividends. “We’re still having fun with it! There’s no question. It’s not a chore for us to go out and write an album, it’s not a chore for us to record albums. We don’t dread practicing. We genuinely get into it and look forward to it. We get excited. The guys start showing up and I’m flipping everything on, the computers are kicking on, and it’s fun for us.”

“We’re also really hands on with everything we do. We take care of almost everything that we can. We record all of our own records and I love sitting down and recording DT’s drumming, and Terry and Trevor. I think being involved with it like that just helps also. It gives me a lot of inspiration.”

“But really, it all comes down to we’re just really having fun with it.”

Obituary is not shy when it comes to playing with bands that may seem odd or strange. It all comes down to reaching new fans, exploring new territory and supporting bands they love. “That’s why we’ve accepted some of these tours,” John elaborates.“For example, opening for Black Label Society. We’ve really started to love that opening spot for a bigger band and maybe getting in front of some fans who have maybe seen the Obituary logo, but have never come to see us live. I think it’s where we thrive. We have fun and we sound so good live. 

And the tours themselves are dominating. Tardy sees so much promise still in landscape of heavy music. “When you look at all the genres of music, because I listen to a lot of music, it seems like the heavy metal bands and the heavy metal tours right now are dominating. These heavy metal tours are doing just great! Me and my brother went and saw Max [Cavalera] in Tampa on that last tour, he and Igor, and what a pleasure it was to see him and Igor on stage again. And they were having fun with it. They were playing covers, they were playing old Sepultura songs and it was awesome! There’s just something about a metal show.”

As the barriers between genres continue to break down, Obituary has always been a pioneer on that front. “We actually did a tour with Agnostic Front in the early 90s!” John recalls. “That is one of the first times that I can remember a hardcore band and a death metal band getting together and doing that. Back then, there could be some problems, but that’s largely gone away. You have bands like Madball, Hatebreed, Agnostic Front and all three of those bands are great friends of mine and we’ve toured with all of them and they all love death metal. You can see those guys in Hatebreed walking around in metal shirts all the time. And I feel like the atmosphere and the attitude and the attack of the music is very similar. I think the biggest difference is the vocal style.”

“What we really do well is all that groovy rhythm. It’s not just blasting, which is great, but it’s not what we do. I think a lot of the hardcore fans can get into it because of that groove.”

“There’s a lot of bands that get serious about what they do, and that’s awesome and I love it, but it’s not what Obituary does. We’re not afraid to go out and open for someone like Trivium and band’s that are a little bit different, and maybe we can win over some fans. Which I think we do on a nightly basis.”

And Obituary isn’t just reaching new fans, but bringing them into the genre. At a recent show in Portland, Oregon, I was moshing with two young boys, around 10 and 12. The amount of fun people were having was directly related to the energy coming off the stage. “I’ve never seen so many younger kids and younger teenagers coming out to our shows! And lots of women and girls! I remember a decade ago it would be 99% guys that look like me. It has opened up quite a bit. I think some of those people are people who were our fans back in the day, now they have kids and maybe even their kids have kids at this point in time. It’s really great to see. It’s one of the things that keeps us going. How fun is it to see younger kids coming out to your show and walking around with your t-shirts on?”

Like his friend Max Cavalera, for whom he did guest vocals on the last Soulfly album, John Tardy keeps an eye on the underground, including supporting his own camp. For a band to keep an eye on, John said: “Our tour manager who also does our merchandise, Robin, has a band called Castrator and they’re all girls. Their new album is pretty darn killer. If you haven’t heard Castrator, their new album came out last year, and people should go listen to them.”

And last, but certainly not least, John shared his great passion for a certain carnivorous reptile from the Late Cretaceous period. 

I love the velociraptor! I love dinosaurs and the Jurassic Park movies. I think they’re great because they bring those things to life. You see those Brontosaurus and Supersaurus skeletons and the size of them is just unbelievable, but the velociraptor was just so quick, so agile and so mean looking, I just picture a pack of them attacking stuff and it’s so vicious.”

Dying of Everything is out now. It’s been six years since their last album and it is well worth the wait. Go grab your copy HERE. And if you’re in Europe, be sure to grab your tickets for Obituary’s first shows across the Atlantic in six years!

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