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Obituary - "Xecutioner's Return" (CD)

Obituary - "Xecutioner's Return" CD cover image

"Xecutioner's Return" track listing:

1. Face Your God
2. Lasting Presence
3. Evil Ways
4. Drop Dead
5. Bloodshot
6. Seal Your Fate
7. Feel The Pain
8. Contrast The Dead
9. Second Change
10. Lies
11. In Your Head

Reviewed by on March 24, 2008

"as gritty and brutal a death metal offering as anyone could want, and possibly the band's heaviest release to date"

In 1985, while Madonna, Duran Duran and Whitney Houston assaulted the commercial radio airwaves, a Florida five-piece started to shape the future of death metal. Known initially as Xecutioner, they changed their name to Obituary shortly before the release of their debut album, "Slowly We Rot," in 1989. Obituary released four more great death metal albums over the next 8 years, including the genre-defining "Cause of Death," and inspired scores of imitators before calling it a day in 1997.

Fast forward to 2007, and here we have "Xecutioner's Return" - as gritty and brutal a death metal offering as anyone could want, and possibly the band's heaviest release to date. As the reference to their original moniker in the title suggests, this new album's sound is more in line with Obituary's older material than 2005's comeback effort "Frozen In Time," which is somewhat ironic given that the album was recorded without long-time lead guitarist Allen West, who was unavailable for recording (read: serving time for drunk-driving offenses). Picking up lead duties in West's absence, and doing an admirable job, is ex-Deicide axeman Ralph Santolla.

Although "Xecutioner's Return" contains some faster material ("Face Your God," "Seal Your Fate" and "Lies" will all give headbangers' necks a workout), the classic Obituary sound - ominous, unrelenting, and more than a little gritty - really comes out on the slow grind of "Bloodshot" and the impossibly heavy "Contrast the Dead." The inimitable snarl of John Tardy - just how does he manage that noise? - is in fine form throughout, but really grates on the mid-paced but surprisingly catchy "Evil Ways." Ralph Santolla's solos and lead breaks, while perhaps more melodic than Allen West's, fit very much into the Obituary mould.

Highs: Donald Tardy's drumming cuts through the mix far more than on previous albums, especially on songs like "Drop Dead" and "Seal Your Fate"

Lows: The lyrics still don't make a lot of sense for the most part. But then again, this is death metal - who pays attention to the lyrics?

Bottom line: There is nothing ground-breaking on "Xecutioner's Return," and nor does there need to be - this is pure old-school death metal at its best.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)