PREVIEW Inevitable vocal chord-corrosion aside, many of death metal's earliest bands have managed to stay exciting for a remarkably long time. Working within a genre that tends to shift toward increasingly challenging frontiers, an elite corps of older acts seems to find inspiration in recent innovations, or, conversely, forgotten older tropes due for a nostalgic revisiting. So how do we account for the enduring relevance of Obituary, a group known for its unwavering devotion to metal at its most primal essence?
Obituary's legend began in Florida, 1985. Playing under the somewhat hokey moniker of Xecutioner (imagine how badass that would look scrawled in a spiral bound notebook) the band soon rechristened itself with its current nom de metal, and released a string of landmark records. With Slowly We Rot (Roadrunner, 1989), Obituary introduced a heavy bottom end stomp to the still-nebulous genre, a rancid meatiness that imbued its thrash metal foundation with Sabbath-like authority. On standout cuts like "Intoxicated," Donald Tardy's punky upbeats propel the crunchy bass and rhythm guitar forward with manic intensity before plunging them into one of the single greatest breakdowns ever recorded, a dumbass berzerker groove unmatched in hypnotic power. (Gorilla Biscuits' "Big Mouth" [from Gorilla Biscuits, Revelation, 1988] and, perhaps, Suffocation's "Liege of Inveracity" [from Effigy of the Forgotten, Roadrunner, 1991] come close.)
Obituary has consistently explored the power of steamroller directness laid down in the musical DNA of its first release, allowing monolithic power chords to resonate in ways a thousand sweep-pick solos and orchestral flourishes full of sound and fury but signifying nothing, as the poet says never could. Oh, and John Tardy's voice? Just as offensive as always.
OBITUARY With Goatwhore, Krisiun, The Berzerker. Thurs/10, 7:30 p.m. (doors 7 p.m.), $28$30, all ages. Slim's, 333 11th St., SF. (415) 255-0333. www.slims-sf.com