Waveform evolution associated with a depression interfacial solitary wave (ISW) over uniform slope or slope-shelf with different front slopes has been observed in many laboratory experiments and field studies since the 1980s, and by numerical modeling in more recent time. However, attention was mainly focused on waveform validation with KdV theory, wave run-up, reflection, energy dissipation and evolution on emergent mild uniform slope, rather on wave evolution and inversion across the plateau of a slope-shelf with steep front slopes, which are common in field conditions. Since it is often difficult to measure the entire process of waveform evolution in the field, laboratory experiments are adopted as an alternative to compliment field observations. This paper presents the results of laboratory experiments on ISW evolution across a submerged trapezoidal obstacle with four different front slopes, ranging from mild to very steep and vertical. Our results indicate that not only the likelihood of internal hydraulic jump, waveform inversion and the strength of internal wave breaking reduced, but more wave energy dissipated as well, as the front slope steepened. Upon using Hilbert-Huang transform to analyse the wave profiles recorded at four probe locations along the wave flume, the variability in the instantaneous characteristic wave period can be detected while an ISW propagated across a trapezoidal obstacle. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.