Review Summary: An album that is sure to please longtime fans without sounding stale.
When, Florida based, death metal outfit Obituary
released their debut album, Slowly we Rot, in 1989 they were one of the pioneering sounds in the post-thrash American death metal scene. With down-tuned guitars, slower riffs and John Tardy’s tortured sounding, growl and moan, vocal style, the Floridian quartet set their sound apart from predecessors like Death
Obituary’s sophomore effort, 1990’s Cause of Death, is considered by many to be a staple of the death metal genre. Releasing three more albums until 1997, Obituary disbanded until 2003, when they reformed and began recording their 2005 release, Frozen in Time. That brings us to 2007’s Xecutioner’s Return. Prior to the release of their debut album, Obituary was known as Xecutioner.
Obituary’s seventh studio album follows the same formula that their earlier albums did. Some might perceive this as a lack of direction for the death metal veterans, but Obituary was never about progressiveness. They are about whipping up and dishing out quality old school death metal at its best. Despite the lack of musical innovation, Obituary’s sound is as tight as ever. Production quality on Xecutioner’s Return is well suited to the music, only leaving the sound muddled on a few tracks.
The Floridians keep up their sonic assault throughout the entire album. John Tardy’s agonized vocals make him sound as if he is in pain. Ralph Santolla employs guitar leads reminiscent of mid eighties thrash. The down-tuned riffage of Trevor Peres is tight and consistent and drummer, Donald Tardy, beats the skins in time at all tempos. Frank Watkins’ bass adds to the crunch without being overbearing, melding into the music flawlessly. Clocking in at about 45 minutes (special edition), the album moves along well with most of the songs under 3.5 minutes. The longest song, ‘Contrast the Dead’, does not detract form the album in any way.
Xecutioner’s Return kicks off with ‘Face Your God’ and plays, what seems to be, a heavier sound than previous recordings, Tardy’s tortured vocals perfectly compliment the heavier riffs that dominate most of the album. The group kick it up a notch on ‘Seal Your Fate’ to a death/thrash breakneck speed, never missing a beat. Then slowing it down to a much slower pace on the very next track, ‘Feel the Pain’, giving the song an almost gothic feel. The next track is the seven minute ‘Contrast the Dead’, which contains enough riff changing to keep the song from being boring. The album picks up the pace again with ‘Lies’ and then wraps up the album with ‘In Your Head’. If you buy the limited edition boxed CD, you get the bonus song ‘Xecutioner’s Return’.
Overall, Obituary proves that you don’t need tricks to put out a focused, solid death metal album. The album flows well from track to track with excellent musicianship all around. Standout tracks include ‘Face Your God’, ‘Seal Your Fate’, ‘Feel the Pain’ and ‘Lies’. The new material hearkens back to the bands heyday and still manages to sound fresh. Xecutioner’s Return stays true to the hardcore and thrash roots of a genre it helped to define without sounding dated.