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Return to Form - 81%

aidane154, November 24th, 2021

Xecutioner's Return is a much better album than one might expect. Two years after Obituary's attempt at a comeback known as Frozen In Time, they returned, and with all the pieces they needed for success. With this release, the band somewhat eschews the lazy deathgroove philosophies which had been holding them back since the 90s and gives us a couple other surprises.

I don't know exactly why Obituary abandoned thrash-influenced fast parts for mid-to-slow tempo stuff for so long, but I'm glad they've brought them back. Obituary thrives when they play songs with slow and fast parts, it makes those slower parts all the more crushing and the overall listening experience much more dynamic. The drag which plagued many of their albums post-Cause of Death is reduced because of this album's more dynamic pace. It's not all sunshine and roses though, because while Xecutioner's A-side is great, its B-side lacks that dynamism. Most songs on this album are also very simple riff-wise. Luckily, Obituary doesn't overstay their welcome with this release, as it's only about 40 minutes long.

The band sounds better this time around. John Tardy isn't buried in the mix like before, plus every track has lyrics and they're much less lazy. Ralph Santolla from Deicide came through for this album to lay down some great shreddy solos. Others have said his performance is too flashy, which I would say is a bit true, but I also definitely look forward to hearing his solos when I listen to this album. His complicated solos are well-juxtaposed with the simple riffs, and he enhances many of the filler tracks, making the draggy B-side more bearable. Trevor Peres brings back some fast riffs like I said, but doesn't shy away from slow moments like the longest track, Contrast the Dead. While this track features many different riffs over its 7 minutes, the other slow songs on here like Bloodshot and Feel Your Pain don't, so they kind of drag regardless of their cool solos.

The only other real flaw besides the drag is that the production is not amazing. I read that this is the first album they did in their own studio, and it does definitely show. The guitar is a little muffled, the cymbals lack impact, and the mix at large is just not raw enough to make those slower songs pop like they did on Cause of Death. It's just too flat! But it at least gets the job done, and it is certainly not awful or anything.

I am still surprised that the release between such unremarkable albums as Frozen in Time and Darkest Day could be this good. They brought back much of what was missing before, like good lyrics (or lyrics at all), thrash sections, and fun solos. Although they rectified most of Frozen in Time's problems, they did lose the catchiness factor of that release, especially on the slower cuts. This is not exactly the true comeback people were looking for; alas, we would have to wait another 10 years for that. Nevertheless, even though it's not level with their classics, Xecutioner's Return is better than much of Obituary's catalog.