While performing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on December 7, 1990 as part of a North American tour also featuring SEPULTURA and SADUS, legendary Florida death metallers OBITUARY used unauthorized pyrotechnics on stage during their classic song 'Til Death'. The flash pot device used to contain the pyrotechnic effect malfunctioned and a huge explosion was set off on stage. Part of the drum riser disintegrated and Donald Tardy's drums caught on fire.
Former BROKEN HOPE guitarist Jeremy Wagner (now in LUPARA) caught the action with his camera and posted it at YouTube.
(NOTE: The explosion can be seen around the 50-second mark).
Commented Wagner: “When I was in BROKEN HOPE, we got a chance to open for our heroes in OBITUARY. OBITUARY was on a Roadrunner tour with labelmates SEPULTURA and SADUS. The tag-line for their tour was 'Some Tours Were Meant to Stay Underground'. BROKEN HOPE opened the show as then unsigned, local talent. The show was in Milwaukee, WI on Friday, December 7th, 1990.
“When OBITUARY was about to go on, I set my video-camera up on a tripod in the balcony of the Eagles Ballroom to record them. As the camera recorded, I went downstairs and watched the OBITUARY show from the side of the stage.
“During the set, OBITUARY used some unauthorized pyro on stage during their classic song 'Til Death'. The pyro pot malfunctioned and exploded like a nuclear bomb on stage. I remember hearing an ear-splitting detonation, then feeling a massive wave of pure heat and being showered with splinters of wood from the drum-riser. A section of the riser flew over the crowd and landed on the light-board. Donald Tardy's bass-drum caught on fire, and I think Frank Watkins [bass] caught some shrapnel in his back. It was insane. It's amazing that OBITUARY just kept playing and that no one was killed! If you watch the video in slow-motion, you will see the screen 'white-out' from the explosion… that's how big this was.”
In the May 2007 issue of Decibel magazine, which includes an article on OBITUARY's 1990 “Cause of Death” album as part of the magazine's ongoing “Hall of Fame” feature, the members of OBITUARY discuss the incident in detail:
James Murphy (guitar): “One day, it was at the Eagles Hall [in Milwaukee], I think we had been told not to do pyro, and so [Big Daddy, our roadie] was just like, 'The hell with that, gonna do it anyway.' This was a place that [had] huge ceilings. We had 30 feet to the ceiling. And we were 20 feet to any wall. This stage was huge.”
Frank Watkins (bass): “What we didn't really calculate on was that some of the people that we brought to put it all together, some of Big Daddy's buddies, were drunks and idiots, and they left some of the gaffer tape on top of the pipes that shot the flames up. So when Big Daddy ignited everything, everything instead of shooting up imploded down and the stage completely blew up and stuff went flying.”
James Murphy: “I think it knocked Donald off his drum stool. It threw wood out into the crowd, like jagged, sharp pieces of wood everywhere. I saw a piece fly over the crowd's head and land behind the soundboard. I got shoved forward, and I thought it was just a concussion at first, but it hurt really bad. And I turned around and there was a piece of wood laying right behind me. And it was completely sharp and pointed on one end. And someone said, 'That piece of wood hit you flat across your back, dude. I thought you were going down.' It hurt really bad and I was deafened, but we actually continued playing and finished the set. If that piece of wood had spun around, that sharp point certainly could have killed me.”