Wednesday 15 October 2014

Exodus - Blood In, Blood Out (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 10/10/2014
Label: Nuclear Blast

‘Blood In, Blood Out’ CD/DD/LPtrack listing:

1. Black 13 (6:21)
2. Blood In Blood Out (3:42)
3. Collateral Damage (5:27)
4. Salt The Wound  (4:24)
5. Body Harvest (6:28)
6. Btk (6:56)
7. Wrapped In The Arms Of Rage (4:30)
8. My Last Nerve (6:10)
9. Numb (6:13)
10. Honor Killings (5:42)
11. Food For The Worms (6:21)

The Band:

Steve “Zetro” Souza  | Vocals
Gary Holt | Guitar
Lee Altus | Guitar
Jack Gibson | Bass
Tom Hunting | Drums


Exodus returns, once again, with Steve “Zetro” Souza on vocals and a fist full of thrash. No, really, this is arguably even more thrashy than the Rob Dukes era. And that was very thrashy indeed!

Exodus are one of those bands, never quite in the top tier for reasons more to do with their own issues than the quality of their material. They have had a bit of a revolving door of vocalists (Baloff, Souza, Baloff, Souza, Dukes, Souza) and the rest of the line-up has shifted on occasion as well. However, with the mainstays of Tom Hunting on drums and main-man Gary Holt shredding away, Exodus' output is always going to be worth a listen. To be fair, Lee Altus has been a consistent presence on guitar for many years and Jack Gibson has been on bass for even longer. Personally, I was disappointed when Dukes left/was fired. I loved his vocals and vibe- the perfect front man for Holt's aggressively antisocial music and lyrics. However, if anyone was going to replace him, then Zetro is the man for the job.

For those familiar with Exodus' career trajectory, this album is probably what you are after. “Bonded By Blood” is revered by all, and rightly so. For me, Dukes tenure with the band produced the next best batch of albums. “Shovel Headed Kill Machine” is a brutal thrash record of towering proportions. “The Atrocity Exhibition” album that followed are also very nasty indeed, particularly the second one.

It is good, then, that Holt's stint as Slayer's second guitarist has not dulled his passion for writing great riffs and songs. The band is at full tilt on this album- no doubt about it. ‘Black 13’ opens things with a drum machine and automated sounds... then gives way to a full on thrash fest. The title track is up next and it sums up all that is good about Exodus and thrash metal- fast, aggressive, violent, fun: a massive track revering the metal lifestyle and its protagonists' commitment to it.

For those of you expecting a let up... don't. ‘Collateral Damage’ is all twisting riffs with Zetro's Bon Scott-esque timbre all over the track. Holt and Altus turn in a thrash masterclass while the backing vocals work well, giving more aggression and thuggishness to proceedings.

Kirk Hammett shows up on ‘Salt The Wound’ (I mean, he ACTUALLY shows up- more so than on anything Metallica have put out for over twenty years!). It's good to hear him play again and good to hear the trade with Holt, reaching back over thirty years to play music together again. It's a beast of a track- metallic bass, screeching vocals and screaming solos. This is metal. This is classic Exodus. ‘Body Harvest’ follows, with all the subtlety of a massive punch in the face. Again, the riffs are stellar, the production suitably massive and the whole effect makes me want to destroy my living room. However, as my dog is too small to start any kind of meaningful pit with, I have so far resisted the urge and just continued on with the album and got to ‘BTK’ with furniture intact. This one has a triplet feel to it and thus takes the tempo down to a more normal number of BPM. Hunting's performance is excellent, by the way- it always is- being as it is groove ridden, inventive and razor sharp.

‘Wrapped in the Arms of Rage’ gets down to business straight away with a juddering juggernaut of a riff that keeps the song moving along before some knife edge stop/start dynamics around the two minute mark. I had been concerned that Holt's double duty would have taken away his focus, but there are no such issues here. ‘My Last Nerve’ pushes over the six minute mark again (a hallmark of Exodus in recent years) and uses mid tempo to good effect in the verses, even dropping to half time for the bridges and using stop start riffing again later.Numb’ is a more straight forward thrasher, Souza turns in a  great vocal performance throughout; venomous and barely controlled as he shrieks his way through what is for me, undoubtedly, his best record with the band. This knocks “Tempo of The Damned” out cold- much heavier, much fiercer, better sounding; better in every way. And that was a good album!Honor Killings’ brings a fierce critique of exactly what you would expect from the title- good. Even in the context of a nasty Exodus record, the reality of the subject matter is abhorrent. The echo of the word “decapitated” is very effective- the material is well thought out and deadly as a rattlesnake; probably about as fast, too.

By the time you get to ‘Food For The Worms’ you will be getting ready to put the album on again- I did on first listen. Having returned to it a number of times over the last week, it just gets better and better. The closing track feels like a gauntlet being thrown down; it's the fastest thing on the record and the most raging (in thrash terms). Heavy and vicious, it confirms Exodus' status as one of the best thrash units out there.

The notion of the Big Four has been questioned ad infinitum over the last few years. Most conclude that more bands should be given their due in the thrash genre- it shouldn't be about sales alone. I've made a case for Overkill in the past. I make a similar one for Exodus (honestly, I think Kreator, Testament, Destruction and Sodom are all up there too). Exodus has always been a street level band- violent, uncompromising material played by excellent musicians for people who just want to lose their shit and thrash. No concept records with Lou Reed, no radio friendly albums, no rap novelty songs, no churning out the same record over and over again: just thrash. Proper fucking thrash. This is a great record in every sense of the word.

Words by: Richard Maw

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