01. Face Your God 02. Lasting Presence 03. Evil Ways 04. Drop Dead 05. Bloodshot 06. Seal Your Fate 07. Feel The Pain 08. Contrast The Dead 09. Second Chance 10. Lies 11. In Your Head2007 Candlelight Records
Florida's slow-death legends Obituary are among the handful of true-to-the-bone lifers who, despite helping to spawn the modern metal and hardcore movements of the Nineties, continue to be underdogs in the truest form. This at least partially explains why their new album Xecutioner's Return is as authentic and loaded with up-tempo Celtic Frost riffs as were classics from the band's back catolog, Slowly We Rot and Cause of Death. While the stardom that critics had initially predicted would arrive to Obituary seems to have gotten stuck in traffic along the way, the band continues to defeat career obstacles with a success rate that most metal and hardcore bands can only write about. While the making of Xecutioner's Return saw some unexpected twists that impacted its outcome in a variety of ways, it ended up being an album that stands boldly alongside the rest of Obituary's classics and near-classics. Frustrated with their longtime label Roadrunner Records' lack of support for one of the bands that gave the label its name, not to mention some of the label's best-selling records prior to its foray into radio rock and nu-metal, Obituary could have easily thrown in the towel after their final album for Roadrunner, the murky and harsh beast of an album that was 2005's Frozen In Time. It certainly would have capped off an impressive and hugely influential career. Instead, Obituary signed with a rejuvenated Candlelight Records (Dismember, Opeth, Wolverine, Vader, Destruction, Starkweather) and are already benefiting from a metal label that comprehends the responsibility of signing a legendary U.S. old-school death act, the only artist of that stature on the label. What this new relationship has produced is the band's most focused and single-minded record since The End Complete, and possibly even Cause of Death. It is the first time since the latter was released 17 years ago that founding lead guitarist Allen West was absent from the songwriting process, as his ongoing battle with alcoholism has reportedly landed him in prison until well into 2008. Until future notice, his last contribution to Obituary will have been his performance on their awesome 2006 live DVD, Frozen Alive. A respected and highly influential lead guitarist whose tone and style on albums like Slowly We Rot, The End Complete, and the classics he created with Six Feet Under, Haunted and Warpath has been often imitated since, both in metal by virtual Allen West tribute band Torture Killer and in hardcore by notables Hatebreed, All Out War, 100 Demons, and Death Threat, West's absence from Xecutioner's Return has resulted in the album being more straightforward and less varied than many were expecting from this aging battalion. While nonetheless a cornerstone of Obituary's history and hopefully future, the troubled West and his absence seems to have lit a fire under the band that otherwise may not have been lit, as Xecutioner's Return succeeds in sounding raw, invigorated, and unapologetic. Much like in 1990 when Obituary recruited a young guitar prodigy named James Murphy to lay solos down on the Cause of Death album already completely written by Trevor Peres and Donald Tardy, this time it is the band's new lead guitarist, journeyman Ralph Santolla (ex-Death, Iced Earth, Deicide), who has laid down a sophisticated if slightly excessive set of solos that serve to enhance the band's unrefined and hardened trademark approach. Bottom Line: Since Obituary's political video for "Don't Care" from 1994's World Demise defined a generation and saw them experiment with hardcore influences like never before, the band's insistence to stick to a formula since then has solidified their cult status at the expense of popularity. Despite Obituary's age and the dismal state of CD sales, Xecutioner's Return may land in more players and iPods than their previous two. It also may very well be the band's most valiant stab at some much-deserved success in over ten years.