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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.