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Reused Ideas Poorly Xecuted - 40%

InfinityX, July 7th, 2013

Seeing that badass cover art with a bargain bin price tag over it, I couldn't help but snatch it up. Sadly I poorly misjudged the album cover, and now it's my duty to warn all who would fall for that scaly thing with the impossibly impractical lightning bolt cane sword... thing and all the dragons silhouetted on a sunset sky's allure. Because everything else held within that jewel case is a disappointment. Even the reverse art. It's like a green blobby half circle with like the song titles just kind of written next to it.

The music is dull. The fact that everything here has been heavily heavily done before does not alleviate the situation. The riffs aren't creative at all. The song structures are simple, even the 'epic' track Contrast the Dead is just dull never churning up even a little bit of heaviness or atmosphere. The length of songs is honestly the only differentiator in the structure of each song. How many times is the one of two riffs repeated, who knows that’s the fun. Or maybe John Tardy screams a little louder, or maybe the music stops for an instant while he screams the title of the song! That has never been done before in the history of music!

Tardy's vocals here are honestly the only thing here that sounds like it has any enthusiasm. The monotonous, bland screams here are the one thing... that sounds like it had any passion. Ouch. Maybe he would have put more oomph in if he wasn't delivering such bland lyrics. Often the same derp lines are yelled a lot in even the shorter songs. Furthermore, at times his delivery is just annoying. Listen to his 'super edgy', up tempo vocals on Seal Your Fate. It's just grating.

The saving grace that has me not beating myself up too badly for buying this album is the riffs. Or at least a good number of them. Although no one will ever give this album a ribbon for creativity, a few riffs actually are a little memorable. Particularly the faster, shorter songs. They have a good bouncing rhythm that can get stuck in your head for at least a short period of time. But other times it is just boring. Look at Feel the Pain, that muddy intro that goes on way too long just to warm you up for Tardy to come in and say 'I feel your pain' over and over and over and over....

The album would be exponentially better if they had ANY punch. I like that they basically copied the Celtic Frost/Hellhammer guitar tone, but there is just no amount of heaviness. They seemed to attempt to go for a more airy, atmospheric sound, possibly in a feeble attempt at sounding different and unique, but it failed in that regard. So all that’s left is the reverb laden fuzzy guitar sound that would sooner hug you like a teddy bear then maul your face. The really bland, slower, drums worsen the situation a lot. There’s just nothing headbangable or eerie here. Just a few good riffs, with a mediocre vocal presence. The fact that all the ideas in the songwriting have been done a thousand times before, and better, just add to the suck pile. Not to mention none of the songs here work to set themselves apart.

So I must warn thee, this album is not worth your money, because even that cover art loses its appeal real fast. For just being not fucking entertaining, Xecutioner's Return gets 40 out of 100, or 2 out of 5.
Highlights: Let's call the first couple songs one block, and say that that's actually pretty damn good.

Unstuck from the suck of 2005, but not great - 68%

autothrall, June 15th, 2011

Obituary must have felt the pangs of nostalgia when putting this 7th full-length album, because not only did they break out their original moniker for the title, but they also reached straight back to where they left off with Cause of Death in 1990 and ripped out the old school, faster paced material. I've seen mixed criticism of the album through the years, some detractors insulted that the band would finally return to the roots as if it were 'selling out' to a sound that they themselves created, others praising it as the first decent thing the Florida veterans have released in well over a decade. I tend to side with the latter camp, but not because I think Xecutioner's Return is necessarily some triumph of a comeback, but because just about anything, ANYTHING would have been better than the pedestrian tripe branded Frozen in Time.

We've gone from the pathetic, phoned in riffing of that miserable pustule to something that is at least an approximation of the classic Obituary that sends shivers down the spine. Sure, the guitar tone is vintage Cause of Death being played at the speeds of Slowly We Rot, and there are treacherously few new ideas, but I'd take this in a split second over their tough guy groove metal libations of the mid to late 90s, and there are a handful of genuinely good songs here like "Lasting Presence", "Evil Ways" and "Drop Dead" which are all in a solid block near the beginning of the disc. The deeper you go into the track list, the band does seem to transform back into the vapid grooving of their last four discs, which might not be a negative if the riffs were catchy enough, but songs like the bloated "Contrast the Dead" and the dull "Lies" reek too much of disposable filler that was used to swell the play length of the album.

Also, Obituary continued to be pretty lackluster with most of the song titles and lyrics here, which can't have taken them more than a few minutes to throw together. To be fair, this was a trait present as far back as Cause of Death, but at the time the band felt so fresh with their blend of burgeoning Hellhammer guitar riffs and Tardy's atrocious awning growls that we were not, understandable, paying much attention to some of the trimmings. Xecutioner's Return might also be 'accused' of having the best (or worst) leads in the band's catalog: the best if you fancy a more melodic, memorable approach that doesn't cede the band's monstrous atmosphere, the worst if you are actively offended but anything outside of the zipping, wailing specters that graced the first few records. I rather enjoyed them, personally, because they at least offered some distinction against the band's history.

Xecutioner's Return is probably the comeback album the band should have released a few years earlier, but it does not at all abandon the distractions of the escalating 90s, and it ultimately sits at a crossroads between Cause of Death and Back from the Dead. Its got a solid Morrisound mix that really draws upon the throwback tones, but there are no songs here like "Body Bag" or "Memories Remain" that I'm going to find myself enamored with for decades. That said, it does help soothe the scarring left on me by the lazy and terrible Frozen in Time, even if its ultimately not stronger than a World Demise. There is at least an Obituary inside this album, struggling to find its way back to the rot and regret of its ominous origins.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

A step above Frozen in Time - 89%

MorbidAtheist666, June 10th, 2008

This is Obituary’s latest offering, Xecutioner’s Return. I am extremely impressed by this record. This is definitely a step above Frozen in Time. Don’t get me wrong; Frozen in Time is a very awesome record and a triumphant return for Obituary. Xecutioner’s Return just happens to be better. Everything about this album is awesome. The minute I slipped this disc into my car’s stereo, I felt an adrenaline rush. I knew this album was worth the money. I did get my money’s worth.

This was a very well put together record. The production is above average, but to me it is a bit overdone. I really can’t put my finger on why it sounds a bit overdone. So it is not really a perfect album, in my opinion. All instrumentation and vocalization sound crystal clear except for the bass. That’s fairly common with some death metal bands. I do know for a fact that what Frank Watkins recorded on here has to be good.

I love the fact that the first three songs are under 3 minutes. Three songs under 3 minutes in a row! Face Your God is a nice fast tune. Lasting Presence is another nice fast track. They both feature awesome drumming, guitar work and vocals. Obituary is a bit known for their sludgey and kind of slow songs. They are very capable of pulling off fast tunes though. It is evident throughout the whole entire album. The song Contrast the Dead is the slowest and longest one, but it is an excellent one. I am not very fond of slow songs by death metal bands, but Obituary knows how to pull them off very well.

Evil Ways is the best track off this album. It has the coolest riffs and guitar soloing. The vocals by John Tardy sound excellent on this track and this is John’s best performance on the entire album. Of course, you can decipher what John is saying and he is like that on the other songs. This song is extremely catchy. I find myself vocalizing along with John when I listen to this track in my car or when I’m at home. This is one of the best songs Obituary has recorded, in my opinion.

One of the best aspects about this album is the fact that they have a guitar virtuoso on here. Ralph Santolla is a mind-blowing guitarist who pulls off awesome guitar work with Trevor Peres. They are a good team. Ralph’s material on Deicide’s Stench of Redemption did not impress me and he makes up for it on this record. Some of his guitar playing sounds a little bit reminiscent to James Murphy’s work on Cause of Death. However, they are two totally different guitarists.

This is a must have for any Obituary fan. I suggest you to buy this one, rather than download it. Obituary are one of the hardest working death metal bands in the world. They claim to be the heaviest band in the world as well. They did put out a heavy record that is worth picking up at your record store. If you don’t own this, what are you waiting for? Pick it up right now! You will not be disappointed if you are a big fan of Obituary.

Shit - 23%

pinpals, April 10th, 2008

I always figured Obituary to be one of the more overrated original Florida death metal bands. They definitely had their moments back in the first few albums, but after breaking up and releasing a couple of mediocre comeback albums it became obvious that with each subsequent album they were tarnishing their image even further. The only intriguing aspect to "Xecutioner's Return" is the arrival of Ralph Santolla, whose entrance in another Florida death metal band known as Deicide completely revamped the band. His guitar work was an integral part of what made "The Stench of Redemption" so damn amazing.

Sadly, Santolla falls victim to overindulgence where all of his solos are just endless streams of "meedley-meedley" with no theme or common melody at all. The rest of the band lacks any sort of technical talent whatsoever and are relegated to simple riffs, bass lines, and drumming. There is not much variation in anything that is played, especially the riffs, and their only two speeds seem to be somewhat fast or slow. Of course, the speed does not really matter, because the songs suck regardless. "Contrast the Dead" drones on for seven unbearable minutes while "Evil Ways" is done in less than three, but the lengths do not make a difference because the music is worthless anyway.

The only song that is worthwhile at all is the opener "Face Your God." The fast riff with John Tardy's yelling actually adds something to the song. Ralph Santolla's solo is still a meedley-meedley type, but it is rather fun to listen to. Even so, the solo doesn't really fit with the rest of the song, and that diminishes from its overall value. Actually, none of Santolla's work really fits in with the rest of the band; he was a far better fit in Deicide. In Obituary, his talents are being wasted.

Another major detriment to "Xecutioner's Return" is the production, especially concerning the guitar sound. What the hell where they thinking when they heard what their guitar was sounding like as it was being recorded? It is far from intense, heavy or brutal and only serves as an annoyance. Plus John Tardy's vocals are far too high in the mix, all he does is scream his (thankfully) incoherent lyrics at the same pitch throughout.

About 15 years ago, Obituary were an above average death metal band. Now they're just a bunch of talentless rednecks (and an out-of-place guitar virtuoso) clinging to a name that has not been relevant for some time. There are far better bands out there now who are writing albums that far surpass anything that Obituary will ever put out again.

Not quite back yet. - 67%

duncang, April 9th, 2008

Obituary’s first two albums are death metal classics. Their third album, ‘The End Complete’ is the best selling pure death metal album of all time, shifting over 250,000 copies worldwide. However, after those three landmark releases, people started to divide over Obituary. They released two fairly unremarkable albums before splitting in 1997, but there was a big surprise in the metal world when, seven years later, they announced that they were going to reunite and start writing and touring as a band once more. ‘Xecutioner’s Return’ is their second post-reunion album, following the mixed bag that was ‘Frozen In Time’. Any Obituary fan would have been excited when this album was announced because Xecutioner was Obituary’s old band name. This meant that, if the title were anything to go by, the new album would be a glorious return to their brand of sickeningly brutal gory metal from the 80’s.

Another reason to be excited about this album was that Ralph Santolla had joined Obituary for the album, due to Allen West’s imprisonment for driving under the influence. He’d just finished what is, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, the greatest album he or Deicide have ever made, ‘The Stench Of Redemption’. I was close to foaming at the mouth when I bought my copy.

When I stuck it in my computer and started listening, I was very disappointed to hear a fairly generic thrash riff to start it off. I was truly hoping to hear a massively brutal track like ‘Cause Of Death’, even if the rest of the album didn’t follow suit. Luckily, the rest of the CD is a lot more exciting. With Allen West temporarily out of the picture, Trevor Peres has a lot more creative force as far as riffs go. I like his style as he can throw down some top quality rhythm playing when he wants to. ‘Slowly We Rot’-like riffage is back, and while their quality isn’t quite as consistent or indeed generally as high as on those records, the style is always appreciated. As shown on ‘Evil Ways’, these riffs have also been applied to a faster context, with some interesting results.

The involvement of Ralph Santolla heightened my expectations but unfortunately I was disappointed as his solos were generally uninspired, and quite often out of tune. Sure, it’s death metal but this isn’t Cannibal Corpse or Vader, a guy like him just can’t get away with playing around a bit and committing it to tape. A crying shame.

Those 80’s riffs would have been nearly as legendary if John Tardy hadn’t been gargling like a madman over them, and thankfully he’s got his edge back. His performance on ‘Frozen In Time’ was slightly lacklustre, and while his voice isn’t exactly back to full force, you can tell he’s got more conviction and guts this time around. His brother Donald has not made a comeback, though this is simply because he’s never had a dip in form. Crushing performance from him as always, and if you look at every specific element the pieces are there, but the songwriting and I think also the tone and production make the album rather monotonous and quite hard to pay attention to.

If you know anything about Obituary you will know that the lyrics are basically not any good as John Tardy compromises a lot of his vocal duties without actually saying any particular words. The lyrics that are here aren’t great either, some decent imagery but honestly if you’re interested in the quality of Obituary’s lyrics you’re listening to them for all the wrong reasons.

If you’re into Obituary already then you’ll understand the situation they’re in, and probably won’t even be expecting much from the album (despite the hype-inducing title). If this is the case then this album has definitely got its moments and some interesting new approaches from the band. However, if you’re new to the band this really isn’t worth a purchase as the concentration of ‘really Obituary moments’ are more in the first few albums. This is no Slowly We Rot, or Cause Of Death and nobody expected it to be but it’s a step up from Frozen In Time regardless. We can only hope that things will continue to improve the band and that one day they’ll come out with a true return to the glory days. Not this time though.

Originally written for www.ultimate-guitar.com review team.

The True Rednecks' Return - 89%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, March 13th, 2008

At first I didn’t know what to expect from this new Obituary album after the quite good but not exceptional, Frozen In Time. That album in my opinion, featured only two great songs and the lack of fast parts was the main problem with it. It seemed they needed time to come back in a perfect condition.

Well, with this one the things are getting better for sure also for those, like me, who wanted more speed and violence in the sound. So the first thing that came to my mind was The End Complete; this album has a lot in common with that one, production too, that now is more powerful, and the great muddy guitars sound.

The first two tracks are fast as hell on continue up tempo! Great! The solo by Santolla are very good…they can be technical, fast, evil at the same time. The two Tardy brothers are always young in their way of playing and sing while with the good “Evil Ways” the mid tempo parts are more present but never so obvious, also compared to a genre that surely doesn’t shine in originality by a band that made the true DEATH METAL a way of life.

It’s been awhile since Obituary left the obscure, weird intros in their songs, focusing on their own created music, but surely they don’t need a lot these things when you face the mid tempo and the doomy parts in “Drop Dead” or “Bloodshot” for example, with a catchy main riff. “Seal Your Fate” is again total up tempo madness.

To return to the classic Obituary suffocating down tempo, I recommend the 7 minute long “Contrast The Dead” while “Lies” is bit faster but with final “In Your Head” we are again stuck in the same purulent mud. Their riffs are unmistakable, really unique in gloom and stench of decomposition. Finally Obituary returned to very good levels.

Xecutioner's Return - 85%

Maikkeli, February 2nd, 2008

After Obituary's first reunion album "Frozen In Time", their lead guitarist Allen West had to left the band because he got arrested. He was replaced by Ralph Santolla, who has played with Deicide, Iced Earth, Death and many others. Anyway "Xecutioner's Return" is a great album. And this is in my opinion their best album since "The End Complete", if not better.

Musically this is really close to their older albums, closest would probably be "The End Complete". There is a lot of good riffs on this album. They sound a little bit more thrashy than on their previous album, but most of the riffs does still have that death metal sounds on them. I hope you understood what I was trying to say with that. This album has a lot more solos than "Frozen In Time", which is also a small nod to their earlier albums. And most of the solos are amazing in my opinion. Santolla's solos are a little bit different to Allen West's solos, as Santolla's solos are a lot more technical, but they are missing a vibe that West had on his solos.

The whole band gives a good performance here. John Tardy's growls are as good as ever, but they are a little bit more cleaner than on their earlier albums. Donald Tardy's drumming is also great, he doesn't really bring anything new, but why fix something that works. Guitarists Trevor Perez and Ralph Santolla both does a great job. Trevor's riffs are good and heavy, and Ralph Santolla's leads are great. Also Frank Watkins bass work is great.

Production is also good. Although some people seems to dislike it, but in my opinion it's good. It's not as clean as the production on "Frozen In Time", but I like this kind of productions that are not too clean. It reminds me of the production that is on "The End Complete", especially guitars sound similar.

This is not a perfect album by any means, as there is a few duller moments, but I'm quite sure that most of the Obituary fans will find something to enjoy from this album.

Highlights: "Face Your God", "Evil Ways", "Drop Dead", "Seal Your Fate", "Feel The Pain", "Contrast The Dead" and "Lies"

If you like this you were dropped on your head - 13%

Noktorn, January 30th, 2008

I won this for free in a contest, which SLIGHTLY takes some of the edge off how badly it sucks. I can't be the only person to feel the irony of Obituary returning with a damned good album in 'Frozen In Time' just to crap out completely on the next LP. This sucks and I have only a faint idea of how so many people are honestly deluding themselves into thinking it's good. Maybe everyone bought this for like $20 at their local record store and are now desperately trying to justify their purchase. Really, though, I think there's another, deeper, and again more pathetic reason.

A lot of people operate under the assumption that oldschool = good, without any taste for quality. Even the worst oldschool death or black metal band will be better than the best modern brutal death metal band. A popular term for this group of people is 'retarded'. I'm not saying that new things are invariably better, but a significant number of times, a style has CHANGED FOR A REASON. It's not like oldschool death metal was the perfect form of music and everyone involved one day up and decided, "Well, this is just TOO good, let's make a shitty version of this music to get back in our comfort zone." There's plenty of stuff that sucked about oldschool death metal, and denying that is something only the most staunchly mongoloid among us would attempt. Of course there are numerous great and underrated albums in the field of oldschool death metal, but the forgotten bands and albums of the past were FORGOTTEN FOR A REASON.

'Xecutioner's Return' is what happens when an older death metal band decides to, after a period of reasonable modernization, 'return to their roots'. Apparently Obituary thought that the somewhat modern 'Frozen In Time' was a failure because it had, you know, good production and songwriting and was worth listening to. The thought process must have gone something like this: "I know! Let's make a really shitty, boring, horribly produced, completely listless death metal album that's also super, super oldschool. Everyone will love it!" And apparently, judging by popular opinion, they were correct. 'Xecutioner's Return' is a fucking laundry list of all the shitty things about oldschool death metal, compiled and codified into forty five minutes of complete ASS. Seriously, how much effort do you have to go through to actually pretend that this doesn't suck? There must be some multiple step program involved with believing such a dumb idea, because I seriously doubt anyone can believe it in and of themselves.

The title of this album is, as you could probably guess, supposed to indicate that the band is, in some way, returning to the old, thrashy sound of their material as Xecutioner. Apparently Obituary forgot that they were supposed to combine their new skill as musicians and songwriters with that oldschool aesthetic, because the result is really, really piss-poor, overtly clumsy writing in a desperate attempt to seem raw and true. This sounds like what it probably is: a bunch of middle-aged guys playing music they wrote when they were fifteen years old, like some douchebag at your work who's obsessed with showing you pictures of their kids. Here's a hint, Obituary: no one cares about the shit you DIDN'T include on any of your own albums. Maybe you find some charm in all the awkward, pathetic tracks you couldn't bring yourselves to put out, but they're not fine wine, they haven't aged gracefully, and you suck for actually putting this out and expecting people to drink your piss like it's champagne.

I'd like to point out that this is the first album that Obituary has recorded in their personal studio. I guess Erik Rutan hasn't taught people that musicians should play music and engineers should get to engineering, because holy christ is the production here horrible. Hell, not even the production, though the vocals and drums are painfully sterile and dry; the main issue is possibly the worst guitar tone in the history of metal. It sounds like a Guitar Pro track run through a dozen distortion filters and recorded through a fucking wall. It's muffled and overproduced to the point where it sounds like a really loud, slightly crunchy hum. For some reason, the whole album sounds like it was recorded at a super low volume, like they were trying not to disturb anyone by playing too loudly or aggressively, so, of course, everything comes out sounding restrained and boring instead of, you know, metal.

I don't get how Obituary has managed to make something that sounds like an Obituary album, but lacking the qualities of all the others. Let's take a look at riffing specifically, just to start. This release lacks the sludgy, horrifying sound of 'Slowly We Rot'. It doesn't have the really tough, brutal riffing of 'Cause Of Death'. It even lacks the gritty, vaguely urban sound of later albums. What remains are a bunch of riffs that are extremely static in nature and convey no meaning or feeling. It's just a lot of blunt, aimless tremolo riffing (or at least I think it's tremolo, the guitar tone completely eliminates any detectable rhythm), cranking out riffs that go on for too long and are repeated much too frequently. There's no sense that what you're hearing is death metal, because none of the riffs seem very metallic apart from in the strictest structural sense. The strangest parts are when it seems that Obituary has lost all their good, simple ideas, and instead just go for steadily more convoluted riff patterns that never seem to resolve, like in 'Feel The Pain'.

Despite how everything's uniformly three to four and a half minutes long (with the obvious exceptions), each track feels like it's takes a goddamn lifetime to complete. This is probably because every riff on the album (they all sound the same, by the way) is repeated to fucking death, as if they're hitting you in the head and saying "HEY THIS IS OLDSCHOOL HUH? HUH? HUH? DON'T YOU THINK THIS IS OLDSCHOOL?" Yes, it's very oldschool. It's also fucking terrible, rehashed kind-of-deathy-thrashy riffing that sounds halfway between Machine Head, mid-era Obituary, and an episode of 'The View'. The only memorable one is at the beginning of 'Drop Dead' because it makes no sense whatsoever to appear in a death metal song with it's overly happy bends. What the fuck, Obituary?

It seems that John Tardy's voice is getting more and more ragged with age, and I don't mean ragged in the sense of early Obituary's tortured cries. The vocals on 'Xecutioner's Return' lack power, particular rawness, or seemingly much effort at all. There are no long, yawning screams; it's like Tardy went for a sharper, more percussive style instead of the sloppiness he was known for, which is an admirable attempt at differentiation, but it comes out as just a bunch of shouting without any intensity. The drumming is similarly predictable and lifeless, treading the same ground that Obituary has tread a thousand times before and in much better form. Obituary has never had a literary masterpiece of an album, but the lyrics seem to make even less sense than normal. Apparently they can't even write a song about being disemboweled, because Tardy decided to go for a more 'psychological' (meaning really repetitive and incoherent) lyrical approach. It sucks.

Yet another crucial part of what ruins this album, though, is an utter lack of atmosphere. Early Obituary is some of the most atmospheric oldschool death metal out there, with a genuinely dark, ominous feel. This lacks ANY semblance of atmosphere at all. There's no dark sound, no ominous riff structures, no deadly-seeming drum patterns; the songs just exist to exist, and they carry no weight either individually or in the context of the album. Death metal is something that honestly relies on feeling like it signifies something greater, be that an idea, an emotion, or an image, but this album is so damned aesthetically scattershot that it can never deliver a cohesive vision. But then again, it doesn't even intend to; it's little more than a collection of only vaguely related notes.

The real killer of the album, though, is a complete lack of intensity for everyone involved. Did Candlelight tell them to 'not play so hard and fast' or some shit? Nothing ever feels fast or slow, just an endless division of completely unexciting midtempos. Nothing ever feels brutal or melodic, just 'there' with absolutely nothing to say for it. The songs half-heartedly play through before saying 'Fuck it, we've got nothing, just go to the next one' and promptly ending. This SUCKS. There is nothing interesting or memorable about it at all. I can't even say that it's an attempted cash-in, because I think Obituary was earnest about going for this sound, but just forgot to WRITE A FUCKING ALBUM along the way. This is painful to listen to, and it should be painful for everyone involved in it. Make another 'Frozen In Time' and stop embarrassing yourselves, holy shit.

This is Obituary - 90%

enshinkarateman, January 1st, 2008

Obituary’s “Xecutioner’s Return” is one hell of an album. Make no mistake, there is nothing contained within that will appeal to any “br00tal kiddies” that plague today’s death metal bands. There aren’t any done-to-death blast beats, there’s no soullessly “technical” riffage, and there sure as Hell isn’t any -core influence. What we have here is Death Metal stripped to its essentials-crushing riffs played at a variety of speeds, amazing solos, and a vocalist who sounds like he’s being tortured in the pit of Hell. What we have here is Obituary.

This album is loaded with fantastic metal, from the fast opener “Face Your God” to the swaggering riffage of “Second Chance”, to the finale of “In Your Head.” There’s something here for every type of metal fan, be it the thrashy “Lasting Presence” and “Seal Your Fate”, or the doom-filled epic “Contrast the Dead”, or, if you enjoy just about all metal, you’ll probably enjoy everything on this album.

The guitar solos on “Xecutioner’s Return” are breathtaking. With one, two, or three in every song, it’s so refreshing to hear guitar work like this in an era in which many bands seem to have a “solos-optional” mentality. Santolla has really outdone himself here. The riffs are heavy, and usually don’t change much throughout a song. Luckily, they are enjoyable enough to carry the entire song, which most of which, lucky for my attention span, are fairly short. The bass is low, and difficult to hear, and just follows the guitar. The drums are pretty darn good, and Donald Tardy is skilled at laying down a beat, whether it’s fast and thrashy, or slow and groovy.

John Tardy’s vocals must be praised. He has a unique voice that literally sounds like someone is torturing him, and yet you can still understand almost every word he’s saying. His lyrics are typical of Obituary, and don’t take away from the listening experience at all. He truly is one of the best vocalists in death metal, and his performance here only solidifies his reputation.

“Xecutioner’s Return” has proved to be one of the best releases of 2007, and, it’s nice to see a band wave the flag of old-school death metal in an era diluted by deathcore and watered-down "melodeth". Well done, Obituary, well done.

Highlights: Seal Your Fate, Face Your God, Second Chance

too much guitar wankery - 60%

gk, November 29th, 2007

If you're into metal then Obituary is a band that doesn't really need an introduction. They've been around for a long long time now and released their share of seminal albums.

Xecutioner's Return is the band's seventh studio album and the only change is the absence of long time lead guitar player Allen West. Replacing him is guitar slinger for hire and all round guitar virtuoso Ralph Santolla whose previous high profile entry into death metal was Deicide's Stench Of Redemption in 2006.

The album starts in typical Obituary fashion with Face Your God. The rumbling slightly sludgy sound of yore is retained and the song blasts out of the speakers. Evil Ways is another song with a groovy riff that bears some resemblance to early Six Feet Under. Bloodshot is classic Obituary being mid paced, heavy and with John Tardy's vocals gaining prominence. Seal Your Fate is a fast angry song with hints of Slayer where Santolla comes in for an extended lead guitar part and Donald Tardy turns in a stellar performance behind the drum kit. Feel The Pain comes closest to capturing the feel of the Cause Of Death era with a slow dirty riff and some mid-paced death metal rumbling. A good song but also at the same time it illustrates the problem i have with this album. Santolla takes two lead guitar spots in a song thats about four and a half minutes long. I think thats one solo too many. The very next song, Contrast The Dead is lengthy at over 7 minutes and sounds again like it could have been on any of the bands earlier albums but again, Santolla's lead guitar playing! There's just too much of it.

The songs on this album are all vintage Obituary. Not as good as 2004's superb Frozen In Time album but certainly better than Back From The Dead. The one thing about Obituary right through their recording career has been that the band has favoured simple groovy death metal songs to technicality. The band keep it simple and over the years have perfected a song writing formula that has delivered some truly memorable death metal songs. Xecutioner's Return doesn't really do too much to change that. The songs are groovy, John Tardy sounds as menacing as ever and Trevor Peres lays down some very nice riffs. The big change though is in the lead guitar department. Santolla is a virtuoso musician and not since Cause Of Death has the lead playing been this good. In fact i would say that the lead guitar playing right through the album while tasteful and fitting into the song perfectly is a bit of a distraction. I'd even say that the lead guitar playing on these songs is a bit better than the songs themselves. Not sure if that makes sense but it's what I think.

By the time the album came to an end I was more impressed with the lead guitar playing than I was with the actual songs. At the end of the day, this is an Obituary album. I want to hear down tuned sludgy mid-paced death metal with some sick vocals and not some guitar virtuoso wank of for a minute in every 3 minute song.

If you're a fan of terrific lead guitar playing in your death metal then i guess you'll love this album. For me though, I think Santolla seriously overdoes it. I think his lead guitar playing is detrimental to these songs. Obituary has made a good album. There's no doubt about that. Still, I can't help thinking how much better this album would have been if Santolla had shown some restraint in his lead guitar playing.

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The return is sweet! - 96%

Chopped_in_Half, September 23rd, 2007

Coming off their comeback album "Frozen in Time" which turned out to be pretty successful, they return with this monster.

But in my honest opinion, for what it's worth, I think they topped "Frozen in Time" with this, this one sounds like they took more time to write it, more tempo changes and so on.

Now just because Ralph Santolla replaced Allen West for this album, doesn't mean it's super technical, because it isn't, but Obituary never was technical, if it ain't broke, why fix it?

The guitar work here between Peres and Santolla is excellent, they seem to work really nice together, infact, some of it reminds me of Peres' and Murphys work on "Cause of Death", while some of it also reminds me of "The End Complete", take for example "Contrast The Dead" sounds like it could've been on The End Complete, where as "Seal Your Fate" sounds like it could be on "Cause of Death", so some good variation on this album.

As for the production, I see people complain about it, but I don't really know why, I think they did a fine job producing it, it's not overdone, but it's not muddy either, I guess you could say the production is kind of like "Cause of Death" which suits the band perfectly I think.

Now as for John Tardy, he is his usual abnormal sounding self here, and is understandable!, so an excellent job by him as usual, Donald Tardy does some nice fills and riffs, even some nice doublebass work.

I know most frown upon track-by-track reviews, so I'll just mention a few songs that stand out for me, for instance "Evil Ways" the riffs are very nice and catchy, still maintaining the slow Obituary signature sound, and has a catchy chorus, "Drop Dead" picks up the pace a bit, still remaining catchy as hell too, and cool lyrics I might add, "Feel The Pain" slows it down again, with excellent doomish brooding riffs, and a shredding solo, "Contrast The Dead" REALLY slows it down, I think this might be the slowest song they've ever done, also the longest, clocking in at 7:01, stomp riffs everywhere, makes you want to bash your head into a wall, the chorus is nicely done too along with the solos.

The rest are good too, but it's more of the same, which is a good thing, any fan of Obituary should love it.

Best album since World Demise... - 95%

Critical_Madness, September 21st, 2007

Obituary return once again with one Hellish slab of old school death metal that we (or I at least) know and love them for.

Yep, it's all here - Trevor's sluggish, doomy guitar tone, Frank's beefy as fuck bass tone, Donald's great sounding, precise drumming, John's over the top voice from Hell, and of course the beautiful lead work of Ralph Santolla on display.

Call me crazy, but I would have preferred to have heard Allen West on this album. I think his solos and leads are just so menacing and evil and have always fitted the band perfectly - I don't think they need an absolute shredder like Ralph Santolla or James Murphy for that matter to make their music more effective - But alas, Allen got into some trouble and could not record with the guys this time around, but I most definitely hope to hear more from him on future releases. Don't get me wrong though, I think that Ralph was an absolutely awesome replacement.

Xecutioner's Return starts by ripping into the deadly "Face Your God", instantly reminding me of some of the material featured on "The End Complete"... Few riffs in this song, but very effective and a totally awesome tune nonetheless. Some of Obituary's fastest material can be heard on this album such as "Second Chance" (Trevor actually plays a solo in this song) and "Seal Your Fate", as well as some doomy-as-fuck tracks like "Feel The Pain" and "Contrast The Dead". Also featured is the ultra catchy "single" of sorts, "Evil Ways", In which one reviewer stated that when listening to this song it's like you're head is being controlled by some kind of sadistic puppet master, forcing you to bang your along with the song - I couldn't agree more.

This album has more tempo variation as oppose to "Frozen In Time" (which I also thoroughly enjoyed) Which definitely gave a fresh spin on things.

This album also marks the first time Obituary has recorded in their personal recording studio, and although I have heard some complaints about the production, I think the guys did a superb job. I really like the way it came out. Unlike the early Obituary albums that are packed with a dark, grimy atmosphere, the atmosphere on Xecutioner's Return seems like nothing more than a couple guys sitting in a room drinking some brews and jamming, which I think is equally as awesome.

To sum it up, Xecutioner's Return is nothing less than a great Death Metal release, and should not be passed up by any fan of the genre.

The Real Return - 93%

GuntherTheUndying, August 5th, 2007

There comes a time in every band’s lifespan in which the group writes and releases a set of incredible material; however, this cluster of excellence will never be reached again, and it will show with the band’s other releases. For example, Florida’s Obituary maxed out their momentum with “Cause of Death” in 1990, but they’ve never been able to touch their sophomore release since then. Obituary’s reunion after seven years of absence led to “Frozen In Time” in 2005, which was a neat surprise with all the great material it showcased. This was just the start for Obituary’s new run of greatness, because what came after “Frozen In Time” would resurrect the power and security of “Cause of Death.”

The squad’s second release after reforming, “Xecutioner’s Return,” isn’t just a great disc, but a rebirth in sound and identity. How did this come about? Well, the metal legends wrote some of the best material they ever have, and acquired a new member: Ralph Santolla. With all these pieces put together, Obituary was able to craft a fresh cut of supreme death metal; ironically, their capital release in over a decade. And while Obituary’s second post-reunion effort isn’t their finest record, “Xecutioner’s Return” marks itself a monumental reincarnation of old-school death metal mastery, and is Obituary’s best record since “Cause of Death.”

It would be improper to list what has improved since “Frozen In Time,” because Obituary has totally redefined every aspect of their signature sound. For instance, Donald Tardy is given several occasions in which the legendary drummer dishes out multiple fills whenever the opportunity presents itself. Forget about simple formulas, because Donald is always unleashing snare rolls and tom hits whilst maintaining a decent pattern; it’s really incredible to hear how dominant Donald is here compared to other Obituary releases. And yes, John Tardy still sounds like a demented crocodile with all his classic assets intact: low growls, barking screams, awesome pitch control, and that bizarre vocal tone.

The trade from Allen West to Ralph Santolla seemed like a shaky switch at hindsight, but the former Iced Earth axeman performs a series of crushing grooves and lightning-fast riffs that takes Obituary’s shredding game to a level of excellence. Not only that, but his solos are certainly miles ahead of West’s leads due to his added technical elements, rapid playing speed, and natural style. Ralph Santolla is a machine, and his unique shredding ability unquestionably aids Obituary beyond the talents of Allen West.

Don’t label “Frozen In Time” Obituary’s return to metal, because “Xecutioner’s Return” is definitely the redefining album we’ve all been waiting for. It’s very clear that every member of Obituary has drastically improved since “Frozen In Time,” and this is certainly the REAL return of Florida’s finest. “Xecutioner’s Return” is certainly their best since “Cause of Death,” and an essential grab for all metal fans.

Ralph Santolla is AMAZING!!! - 95%

Deranged, July 31st, 2007

Wow! This is some really impressive stuff. When I heard that Obituary were going to be releasing a new album, I knew it was going to be worth a good listen, but this is their best since Cause of Death, in my honest opinion. When I first heard that the title of this album was going to be Xecutioner’s Return, I suspected that they were going to try and bring back what they’d accomplished on the first 2 albums, and I was right.

Okay on to the music, this album really shows me what Trevor Perez can do without Allen West. I really think that Allen was holding them back, because Trevor can write some really good riffs. The riffs are very thrashy sounding, and more Celtic Frost influence it seems, but they still keep the death metal sound. Oh and I couldn’t leave out Ralph Santolla’s guitar work, holy shit, these solos are phenomenal, they fit in so much better with Obituary music than Deicide’s. I hope Santolla stays with Obituary because, technically he is so much better that West. You know how on the first couple of albums, there was sort of a dark atmosphere to the music; well you don’t hear that in this album. It has more of an upbeat feel to it, and that isn’t a bad thing.

Of course, Tardy’s still has his abnormal vocals, I have never heard any vocals like this in the death metal scene, and that is what really attracts me to their music. The drums are the same as always, Donald Tardy’s drumming style is one thing that hasn’t changed since Obituary conception, and they are better than ever. The production on this album is more like the earlier albums than the recent ones. It is not as clean sounding as Frozen in Time, and that is the part that reminds me most of Cause of Death.

This is a much better album than Frozen in Time, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the early style of Obituary. Great Release!!