Revolver has teamed with Obituary for an exclusive "cyan blue" vinyl variant of Dying of Everything — limited to just 250 copies worldwide. Get yours now!
Over the past four decades, Obituary's iconic vocalist John Tardy's corrosive screams and hellhound growls have helped define and popularize the infamous Florida death-metal style. But lately, the 54-year-old singer has noticed a puzzling shift in his register.
"God, sometimes it feels like my voice is actually higher now than what it was," he says. "I'm not exactly sure why. I enunciate things a little bit better nowadays; where some of the older albums, it's almost impossible to hear what the hell I was saying. Sometimes I don't even remember what the hell I said. [Laughs] But I've been trying to enunciate … and maybe that just goes with a little bit more confidence in my writing and some of the stuff that I'm talking about."
Rest assured, Tardy's vocals are still scorching — and his message comes through loud and clear on Obituary's new Dying of Everything. The death-metal pioneers' 11th album (their first in six years) is a total crusher. From the double-kickdrum mayhem of opener "Barely Alive" and sludgy "War" to the rhino-heavy "Be Warned" and thunderbolt "The Wrong Time," the record seethes with vital energy, possessing the spirit of a hungry new band and showcasing the skills of seasoned pros.
That ferocity has been with the group — whose lineup currently includes Tardy, brother/drummer Donald Tardy, longtime rhythm guitarist Trevor Peres, bassist Terry Butler and lead guitarist Ken Andrews — since they first formed in Tampa during its fertile early-Eighties metal era.
As teenagers, the Tardy brothers would ride their bikes across their neighborhood, over to the garages where local bands Nasty Savage and Savatage rehearsed. "They'd be practicing, and they were always so cool to us," Tardy recalls. "They definitely are the ones that made us want to pick up instruments." A few short years later, the Tardy brothers would unveil Obituary (after a couple name changes from Executioner and Xecutioner) and release their killer 1989 debut album Slowly We Rot (which was mostly recorded when Tardy was still in his late teens).
The singer also credits bleeding-edge bands like Slayer, Celtic Frost and Hellhammer as crucial sources of inspiration. "Those are the bands that got the wheels turning in our head that we want to be as heavy as we can possibly be," Tardy says. "Just make it as heavy as you can make it — and, you know, none of that has changed."
Like fellow Florida luminaries Morbid Angel, Death and Deicide, among others, Obituary played a vital role in shaping the region's OG death-metal scene and the style's technical, intense and cathartic sounds. Today, Obituary stand as one of the genre's enduring success stories, and they continue to influence new waves of death metal, including current upstarts Tribal Gaze, 200 Stab Wounds and more.
Dying of Everything proves, once again, that Tardy still has the fire to push Obituary's music, and his voice, into exciting new places. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have to work to ignite that spark, especially during the recording process. "Walking out in front of thousands of people on a festival stage, you're fired up and almost anybody can start screaming," he says. "But 11 o'clock in the morning, sipping on a cup of coffee, my dog's lying there next to me … Trying to get in the right mindset and get pumped up to essentially get in a fight with that microphone — it's a challenge and always has been. You've got to get yourself mentally jacked up, do some push-ups, crank the song good and loud, hit that record button, throw the headphones on and just go for it."
In the interview that follows, Tardy discusses the satanic stigma of the early Florida scene, death metal's new wave, his deep love of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Willie Nelson — and why you'll never catch him singing about "sunsets and flowers."
WHAT SUBJECTS INSPIRED YOUR LYRICS ON THIS NEW OBITUARY ALBUM? WHAT WAS PUSHING YOUR PEN?
JOHN TARDY I mean, I've never sat down and wrote a set of lyrics, and then went to Donald and Trevor and said, "Hey, guys, I've got these lyrics. Can we try to write a song with 'em?" Never happens that way. I totally feed off Trevor's guitar and when D.T. kicks in [on drums]. … Now, the lyric content, it has to be something evil or something gory in a way, not to contrast with the music too much. I've kind of got to stick there. I'm not going to start singing about, you know, sunsets and flowers. [Laughs] It just wouldn't work out for me, which is OK.
But really, I think my writing has gotten better with every album. You know, early on we were very young … the first one [Slowly We Rot], there was not even a full set of lyrics. So, throughout the years, I take a little bit more time thinking about it. I usually kind of stumble through trying to get the syllables down, even if I'm just saying, you know, "1-2-3!" … coming up with cool things to say, cool catchphrases. "Weaponize the Hate" is a cool [title], and everybody keeps asking me if that's a political kind of thing, and in a way it kind of crosses my mind. But I try to stay out of that entire realm altogether because you know how that goes. [Laughs] No matter what view I might have, if I say it, there's going to be somebody that has a completely different view, and then it creates a mess.
DO YOU THINK TODAY'S CANCEL CULTURE MOVEMENT WOULD'VE KEPT THE EARLY FLORIDA DEATH-METAL SCENE FROM HAPPENING? AND DOES CANCEL CULTURE INFLUENCE WHAT YOU DO, OR DON'T, WRITE ABOUT NOW?
I mean, it definitely does not influence me — because I don't care. [Laughs] When we first came out though … We had bands around here like Deicide [and] the local news coverage immediately went to all the satanic angles. It was satanic this and satanic that. Blah, blah, blah. They always just wanted to punch us in there. Obviously, we sound a lot like Deicide, but we don't sing really about anything like that. But back then, I remember getting grouped in with that and people thinking that we're some type of satanic band just because we're playing death metal. But I hate to go out and start talking too much about the cancel culture and things because it's just not my gig. I'm kind of self-reliant. I just want to do my job and treat other people like I would like to be treated — but nothing more. And just let me go about my business, you know?
OBITUARY HAS BEEN AROUND FOR SO LONG, I GOTTA ASK: WHAT IS THE MOST SATANIC THING YOU'VE EVER WITNESSED IN THE EXTREME-METAL SCENE?
God, what the hell band was it that we toured with … Watain. They were bringing blood with them on the road and after one show, we were like, "Alright, that can't happen." Because it smelled. It stunk. It was everywhere. I remember it was the first night and we walk out afterwards, and the stage is sticky. It was real blood all over the place, and on all of their clothes. They wore leathers and things. There are still bands that wear leathers, and you get on a bus with them, and it just smells bad, you know? We're in shorts and T-shirts and they smell bad enough after about seven shows. But then I throw them away. [Laughs]
[LAUGHS] OK, OUTSIDE OF EXTREME METAL, I'M CURIOUS: WHAT'S THE QUIETEST OR MOST UN-METAL MUSIC YOU LISTEN TO ON A REGULAR BASIS?
Oh, dude. I listen a lot of country music, a lot of blues. Obviously, we grew up on classic rock and Southern rock and still listen to lots of it. I love Willie Nelson and listen to [SiriusXM channel] Willie's Roadhouse when I'm in my wife's car, because my car doesn't have XM. … I really like a wide variety of music. Big [Lynyrd] Skynyrd fan. The Outlaws. We played with Molly Hatchet one time. They literally invited us to their farm here in Florida, which is like in Jacksonville. It's not really close, so we never did make it over there, but it was really cool we got to meet them. I stood onstage and listened to them play and talked to them a little bit. They're a little older than we are and obviously they probably have no idea who we are, especially our kind of music. But that's what's fun about those big festivals. You get bands playing like ZZ Top and Molly Hatchet to Slayer and Obituary. It's fun for the kids, man. But I love my Southern rock.
IS IT TRUE SLOWLY WE ROT IS THE ONLY OBITUARY ALBUM WHERE THE GUITARS ARE IN STANDARD TUNING, AND THE BAND'S GUITARISTS STARTED TUNING DOWN AFTER THAT?
I believe that's the case. I'm pretty certain that was standard tuning. You know, that [album] was kind of weird. We had written a lot of that and then actually recorded half of it at the old Morrisound [Studios], and then they moved into the new one. Then we got a record deal, and we had to finish it and add two more songs to it. That was also done on eight-track [tape] … That's how long ago that was. Even thinking about recording to [analog] tape is insane. I think it was [producer] Scott Burns getting a razor knife out and editing things together, and I'm watching tape hit the floor and going, "What are you doing?" [Laughs]
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW WAVE OF DEATH METAL BANDS, LIKE TRIBAL GAZE, 200 STAB WOUNDS AND FROZEN SOUL? THEY ALL OWE A DEBT TO OBITUARY AND SING YOUR BAND'S PRAISES.
You know, I haven't heard a lot of those bands, but we did tour with the Stab Wounds guys, super-nice kids. Absolutely loved it. I love seeing young bands getting an opportunity and taking it and running with it. It's tough. There are thousands of bands that are way better than we are — way better than a lot of people — but sometimes things just don't work out for lots of different reasons. I love when we get to tour with young bands. You know, we do a lot of work ourselves when we tour and don't bring a lot of people out with us. So, the [younger bands] see that. They see me setting up Donald's drum set. They see all the work we do personally on that stage every day. And even as long as we've been doing it, we just enjoy it. You'd be bored to death on the road if you didn't go out and do something. So I'm like, Get me off this bus. I'll load in some gear and get something set up.
SPEAKING OF METAL KIDS AND SHOWS: DO YOU NOTICE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EUROPEAN AND U.S. AUDIENCES?
I really don't think they're that far off. I think metal kids are metal kids, anywhere we go. For a long time, going back maybe 10 years ago, we would go through Europe, and we would definitely say, "Man, our European crowds are better," because the venues and everything were nicer. Whereas we'd go out in America, and it seemed like you're in a club and the concert was an afterthought. But nowadays, the venues in America are awesome. But really, the metal kids are so similar. And I say it all the time, too — I literally cannot remember the last time I saw a fight at one of our shows. Metal kids are awesome. They come out to support you and have a good time, and it's always fun to be around.