Simple to the point of atavism, and crackling with more energy than the band's been able to muster up in at least a decade, "Xecutioner's Return" is pretty much exactly what OBITUARY fans were hoping it'd be. It's a bone-basic tour de force of old-school death metal infused with a bleeding organic groove and dripping with sepulchral atmosphere. It's OBITUARY doing what they do best, short and sweet, a record that dredges up the primal muck of their earliest work and delivers it, raw and seething, to an overstimulated metal world that scarcely knows what to do with such bluntness.Right off the bat, with no bullshit intros, we're dealt "Face Your God", which immediately proves a few things to the faithful – the band's grinding, droning guitar tone is blearily intact, their fixation on primitive CELTIC FROST riffing is still just as joyfully slavish, and John Tardy still delivers the kind of wet, ambient agonal wail that sounds like it ought to be leaving gobbets of bloodsoaked flesh all over your earlobes every time he delivers a line. The even faster and more blunt-edged "Lasting Presence" lumbers out of the swamp next, just to drive the point home that OBITUARY is here to party like it's 1989, free of any modern trappings or distractions. And if all this talk of speed worries you, fear not, there's plenty of that hypnotic mid-tempo moan to follow. Examples? See "Bloodshot", "Contrast the Dead", and especially "Feel the Pain", where the CELTIC FROST worship gets close enough to make lawyers' ears perk up. There's some of that inexorable midtempo avalanche stuff too, like "Lies" and "Drop Dead", which may only seem "fast" in the comparatively doomy world of OBITUARY, but which make perfect sense while trapped in their universe. About the only upgrade under the hood is the presence of lead guitarist Ralph Santolla, whose soloing is markedly better than usual axeman Allen West's. Just having the intuition to drop a short, frantic and somewhat flashy solo at the beginning of slow chugger "Evil Ways" is a minor stroke of genius, and it adds a nice bit of flash to a transitional song on the record. And listen to the way the drums come in before the solo midway through the same song – basic it may be, but this is a prime example of OBITUARY knowing exactly what to do at which moment to achieve maximum impact with minimum fuss. The whole record benefits from that kinda loose, live, off-the-floor feel — "Xecutioner's Return" doesn't sound created so much as it seems to have grown, stinking and fetid, from the soil of a marshy and forgotten cemetery somewhere in the Everglades. It would suck if you were too far up the ass of Rubik's Cube-metal and pig-squeal splatterfest science experiments to recognize and respect true, original, old-school death metal when you hear it. OBITUARY fall into that rare category of living legends who've still got the inimitable spark that made them so special in the first place — the agonized, pulverizing drone of their bludgeoning, unstoppable tank-tread rhythms is something no one else has been able to adequately copy in two decades of trying. Give in to the mesmerizing headbang and face your xecution.
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