Circle of the Tyrants

Album: Cause of Death (1990)

Songfacts®:

  • This is Obituary's cover of Celtic Frost's song from Celtic Frost's second studio album To Mega Therion, although the song also appeared as a bonus track on Celtic Frost's 1999 remaster, Morbid Tales/Emperor's Return. Obituary's cover of "Circle of the Tyrants" appears as the fourth track of Cause of Death. "Circle of Tyrants" was written by Celtic Frost founder Tom Warrior.
    In the book Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces, rhythm guitarist Trevor Peres gives us a clue how this cover came about: "[Drummer] Donald [Tardy] and I were still in the studio room and I started playing the first riff off 'Circle of Tyrants,' and Donald kicked in. He knew what it was because we used to play it live, as well as other Celtic Frost songs we used to play. We didn't know it and [producer] Scotty [Burns] hit record, just playing around..." The band later listened to the tape and liked what they heard, deciding to include it on the album on the spot.
  • The world of death metal and heavy metal in general is quite the tight little circle. Obituary's decision as to album length was partly influenced by Slayer's Reign in Blood, which was so short that you could let the tape cassette play on repeat and it would flip over and replay the entire album on both sides. Meanwhile lead guitar James Murphy came to them from Death. The cover artwork for Cause of Death was originally to be for Sepultura's Beneath the Remains, but the two bands swapped cover art - Scott Burns produced for both bands. This same cover art also graced the cover of books by H.P. Lovecraft - try and throw a stick without hitting a death metal band that was influenced by Lovecraft. The group photo in Precious Metal shows three of the band members wearing other band's T-shirts: Godflesh, Sepultura, and Napalm Death. You see, they're all just one, big, happy family!
  • Obituary lead-man John Tardy says that he's talked to Celtic Frost's Warrior, and Warrior says he likes the cover. Both Tardy brothers guess that Warrior might have made enough "to buy a six-pack of beer, probably, at least" in royalties from Obituary's cover!
  • One more word about that album cover art: Horror and science fiction fans will guess that it's done by Michael Whelan. Whelan does more cover art for novels than anything else; his work graces novels by Stephen King, Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Michael Moorcock, C. J. Cherryh - and those sexy ladies on the cover of Robert A. Heinlein's novels Friday and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. Respect?
    When the band was doing promo photos for the album, producer Scott Burns had the idea to pose them in mock-up coffins - cheap, rickety plywood coffins painted black. The band hated the results and sent them in believing that their label Roadrunner would never use such a cheesy set of shots. They did anyway. We'll leave the final word to John Tardy's summation: "Don't fart onstage and give it to a record company, because it will be used."

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