THIS is the return we've been waiting for
Many, myself included, were stoked at the reformation of Obituary after several years apart. Frozen In Time, their return album from 2005, wasn't classic by any stretch, but it was a solid return from one of the most influential band's from those formative death metal years. Adding weight behind the theory that there must have been something in the water in Florida (U.S.A.) - the same state was home to fellow death metal legends Death, Morbid Angel and Deicide - Obituary's (who were originally called Xecutioner) Frozen In Time showed that the quintet, who were then vocalist John Tardy, guitarists Trevor Peres and Allen West, bassist Frank Watkins and drummer Donald Tardy, could still churn out a crushing album that could still stand out in today's seriously flooded death metal scene. But with Allen now behind bars for another D.U.I. offence and after recent shows as a four piece, Obituary soon recruited now ex-Deicide guitarist Ralph Santolla and the result is the band's strongest release since 1992's The End Complete.
Right from the get go, Face Your God is instantly identifiable as the product of this formidable, Floridian quartet! The sounds of thick, down tuned guitars with a tone that could only be a Peres trademark set the scene quickly, and it isn't long until the band's unique style topped with Tardy's throat work is in full effect! Speed seems to be the order of the day as Lasting Presence continues with a short, blistering burst that reminds of the mood generated by the band's now legendary debut, Slowly We Rot (from 1989). It's interesting to see to this point the return of more note-based guitar leads with Santolla in the ranks. Typically, ex-guitarist Allen West was more about noise based solos, where as Santolla brings a similar, but definitely not a carbon copy of what James Murphy did on their Cause Of Death album which gives the material a little more life at times without dominating proceedings.
The gas pedal is eased off throughout the syncopated Lasting Presence, whilst Evil Ways is a typical sounding Obituary title and song in every right, just as Rotting Ways from their 1992 album, The End Complete. Santolla's lead work on Drop Dead works well, whilst the crushing Bloodshot, the brutal pace of Seal Your Fate and slow, doomy Feel The Pain are all fine examples of classic Obituary that bring an excellent amount of variety to the plate. Contrast The Dead would easily fit anywhere on 1990's killer Cause Of Death album, and hell, the same can be said of Second Chance too - although perhaps The End Complete would be more suited. With Lies picking up the pace considerably and Tardy's kit work driving hard, it's overshadowed by the bludgeoning finale, In Your Head in every conceivable way.
If Obituary's Frozen In Time was a sign of things to come, then there's no better vindication of that than Xecutioner's Return. This is completely in line with classic Obituary material. Even with the melody of Santolla's work as opposed to overused whammy dives, the material itself is as fresh as it is classic. Muscular riffs, thundering drums, guttural vocals and the band's trademark sound and style are the key ingredients here and the mix is potent. Quite simply this is Obituary's finest release in 15 years.