Xecutioner's Return by Obituary
Release date : August 2007
Reviewed by Anthony Morgan
When the name Slowly We Rot is spoken in Death Metal circles, astute admirers immediately know the full length being conversed over. Cut at Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida with now legendary producer Scott Burns, the tapes were laid down via an eight-track machine. Initially pencilled for release by Borivoj Krgin's Godly Records, Krgin exposed the group in question to none other than Monte Conner, A&R of Roadrunner Records. That chronicles the tale of how Death Metal pioneers Obituary inked a record deal way back in 1989. Several other albums followed, namely September 1990's Cause of Death, April 1992's The End Complete and 1997's Back from the Dead. Obituary's profile went ominously quiet from that time on, and didn't truly make noises again until July 2005's Frozen in Time. Amongst the discography of Florida's genre defining Death Metallers Obituary, Xecutioner’s Return is a landmark full length. For the only time in the group's career, a full length is issued minus the participation of Roadrunner Records. Obituary had survived Roadrunner's mass cull during the early to mid 1990s (which saw the likes of Suffocation and Gorguts et. al. being released from their contracts), yet the label opted not to rid of the Death Metal juggernaut. Later efforts such as Back from the Dead and the group's supreme offering Frozen in Time witnessed distribution, yet minimal promotion. However, Roadrunner’s historic catalogue boasts numerous lone full lengths, and scarce whole discographies. A fresh day beckons though, and Xecutioner’s Return (a sly hint at the group's days prior to signing with Roadrunner) comprises a fresh Obituary.
In April 2007, Obituary inked a record contract with UK based label Candlelight Records. That same month, lead axeman Allen West was ordered to serve time at Gainesville Correctional Institution in Gainesville, Florida for driving while under the influence. With a vacant slot needing an occupant, Ralph Santolla (ex-Death / ex-Deicide / ex-Iced Earth) joined the fold. Mixed with Mark Prator at Redroom Recorders, Xecutioner's Return was mastered at Morrisound Studios during June 2007. Andreas Marshall, who had lent his artistic services for the cover artwork to 1992's The End Complete and 2005's Frozen in Time, returns in his third outing with the group. An exclusive Itunes single released in advance of the full length, “Evil Ways” was available for purchase beginning July 31st.
Dubbing this incarnation a “new Obituary” is possibly an exaggeration of the truth. In fact, it's a blatant exaggeration of the truth. A likely surprising phenomenon from the listener's perspective, a frenetic speed largely defines Xecutioner’s Return. The drudging guitars remain present, building a magnificient canvas in which the strung out vocals can dwell. When critiqued as a whole entity, Xecutioner’s Return beams a dynamic energy which has been absent from Obituary for many, many years. The flame simmering in the candle of Candlelight Records apparently flickers directly beneath the backsides of all members involved, and this yields beneficial rewards. Ranking amongst the quickest tracks Obituary has ever committed to tape, opening number “Face Your God” commences the onslaught. The composition's rapid pace blindsides the listener however, so much so that one fails to take note of the song's actual worth and merit. In all, this is the only negative aspect which the track holds. Armed with the correct type of brutality one would expect from a group christened Obituary, “Lies,” “Seal Your Fate,” “Bloodshot,” and “Evil Ways” all maintain an inspired swiftness. Destroying all that lies in its path, “Evil Ways” marks the album's crowning achievement. When a guitar solo is strummed, the solo is exceptionally towering. “Seal Your Fate” most nearly brushes its shoulders against Thrash, and is destined to be a crowd favourite. Cementing the track's status as a recurring staple within the group's live arsenal, it'll likely feature as part of Obituary's set until the Floridan act meet their eventual demise. A few “traditional” Obituary stompers also figure, so longtime admirers whose tastes lean towards doom need not worry.
“Contrast The Dead” dredges the lake nicely (bluesy soloing and all), as does “Feel the Pain,” and “In Your Head.” Reminiscent of immediate predecessor Frozen in Time, those who specifically take delight in that full length will particularly relish these songs. Xecutioner’s Return revolves around two concerns; excitement, and balance. Obituary radiantly strides forward, and adeptly avoids the mistake of alienating those longtime supporters. Fiercely dismissing the shackles which had previously confined them, Obituary seemingly possess homicidal intentions. What is actually refreshing is the fact that Xecutioner’s Return hasn't been wastefully issued via a record label who wouldn't adequately supply promotion. Obviously, Obituary possesses the mighty strength to fuel another two decades in the music industry. Now boasting a promotional team which holds faith and belief in Obituary, wonderful things likely loom over the horizon. Xecutioner’s Return is a monster of the greatest variety; Obituary is the blueprint kiddies.