OBITUARY is a band responsible for many things. One of them is for making Death Metal popular. They can proudly claim that they’ve released what is considered to be the most (commercially) popular "pure" Death Metal album in the history of the genre ("The End Complete"). Of course OBITUARY had to face a slight "problem" on their way to "progress" and commercial recognition: many underground fans who loved the band’s early works started to curse OBITUARY for making Death Metal accessible to non-Death Metal people. Their main point was that OBITUARY (along with other Roadrunner and Earache bands) have been responsible to a great extend for Death Metal becoming a trend for people who never understood what real Death Metal is all about. I guess the situation became even worse with "World Demise" where OBITUARY lost a lot of their aggression justifying the accusations posed on them. The band released the "Back From The Dead" album that was even less popular than their previous effort and a live album ("Dead") to mark the closing of a well-promising career. From then on, there was a silence of seven years… but only for a sign of life to appear around 2004 where OBITUARY announced their reunion. At that time I really wondered what such a reunion had to offer to the mainstream Metal scene (where OBITUARY mostly were referring to) that was already saturated. Not that I’ve lost my faith in OBITUARY but there was no way that they could do anything as impressive as their early works ("The End Complete" included) plus the fact that the Death Metal (of their trade) doesn’t stand a chance (commercially) in front of all those new Metal crap around nowadays. So I only started hoping that their reunion was simply an act of honesty and a need to perform some decent, crushing Death Metal again. One year after their reunion (and a couple of live shows) they released their come-back album "Frozen In Time" that was for sure a good album (and much better than most of us anticipated) but unfortunately my aforementioned speculations have been justified and "Frozen In Time" turned out to be a commercial failure for Roadrunner and that’s most probably the reason why OBITUARY got signed to Candlelight. Two years later, OBITUARY release "Xecutioner’s Return", an album that hopefully proves that the band can still deliver the goods. In my ears "Xecutioner’s Return" is OBITUARY’s best effort since ages. The first positive impression is the better "Death Metal" production / mix when compared to "Frozen In Time". The guitar-work is really great once more and that time it’s due to Ralph Santolla’s involvement (Allen West is still in prison), scattering all my "fears" for a weak guitar-work due to Allen’s absence. There are points that one could swear that OBITUARY have "written" them in 92-93 while other parts sound like the best of what OBITUARY had to offer with their last couple releases. I have the impression that OBITUARY have learned from past mistakes and have focused on the best elements from both eras old and new (with the "old" elements being more evident). I left the best part for the end though. For one more time John Tardy’s voice is incredible! John has one of the 5 best Death Metal voices ever! Period. And on "Xecutioner’s Return" his vocals are once again great making the album a necessity for everybody adoring Tardy’s voice. To sum it up, "Xecutioner’s Return" is overall a decent album and in my opinion deserves a proper listen. The only negative aspect is the poor cover-artwork (done once again by Andreas Marschall), but besides that I consider the overall package deserve since OBITUARY did an honest effort that would at least please people who enjoyed "Frozen In Time". Older fans should give it a try before investing. www.obituary.cc, www.myspace.com/obituary.
Related reviews:OBITUARY - Live Xecution - by Matthias Auch
OBITUARY - Inked In Blood - by Bart Gabriel
OBITUARY - Frozen In Time - by Edouard Vergriete
OBITUARY - Anthology - by Frank Stöver