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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.