Reviewed By Simon Milburn
Published 15 October, 2014
Part of the old guard returns and the result is scorchingThe age old argument about who should be in the “big four” if it were expanded beyond that always amuses me. Big Four or big five or big seven - whatever. Bah. Who really cares? The simple fact of the matter is that it doesn’t mean a damn thing because everyone knows that Exodus are the pioneers of thrash. They are forefathers and the ones that started it all. Hammett formed Exodus three years before he would leave the band for then upcomers Metallica. Exodus were Bay Area born and bred before Metallica were even a glint in a certain Danish drummer’s eyes. So, that’s the end of that discussion really. Drummer Tom Hunting may be the band’s only original member from the band’s first incarnation in 1980 but it’s riff master and guitarist Gary Holt who is the band’s continuous sole member who has been there through every high, every low, every album, and everything else in between. These days he is splitting his time between thrash titans Slayer and Exodus but he is still committed to Exodus 100%. He may have loosened the reins a little now but the band are in amazing form even with yet another major line-up change that occurred during the writing and recording of Blood In, Blood Out – the band’s tenth studio album.It’s been four years since Exodus unleashed their last studio album, Exhibit B: The Human Condition and like its partner album before it, 2007’s The Atrocity Exhibition ... Exhibit A, it was top heavy with lengthy songs for which a little bit of editing probably wouldn’t go astray. Still heavy and still very Exodus sounding, the band had clearly shifted from shorter, punchier numbers that always had the most impact. Looking across their impressive discography, there’s always been one or maybe two lengthier tracks on each album, but on the aforementioned pair of albums longer songs became the norm more than the exception. The shift back towards shorter songs and a line-up change that blindsided everyone are the two key things that make Blood In, Blood Out the band’s best album since 2004’s excellent return from hiatus release, Tempo of the Damned.You’d be forgiven for thinking that the opening track made you question if it was really an Exodus album you’d just started to play. It all begins with the unusual pairing of Exodus with DJ and producer Dan the Automator who has worked with Dr. Octagon aka Kool Keith, Ben Lee, Kasabian, and many others. Featuring industrial samples, noises and pulses courtesy of that are completely out of context for what would be normally expected, Black13 kicks into high gear around the 80 second mark. It’s an explosive start when the track comes to life as it bursts out of the gates in all its thrashing glory. Any previous doubts are laid to waste immediately and guitarists Holt and Lee Altus (also of Heathen) unleash riff after riff atop of Hunting and bassist Jack Gibson’s incredibly tight rhythms.But the best thing about Exodus in 2014 is the return of Steve “Zetro” Sousa. As much as I rate original vocalist Paul Baloff’s work on 1985’s Bonded By Blood and their untouchable live album Another Lesson in Violence (from 1997), there’s no doubt that Zetro’s ultra raspy vocal style is one of the signature aspects of Exodus’ sound and career. His style is unique in ways that Sean Killian’s vocals were unique with fellow Bay Area thrashers Vio-Lence. Former vocalist Rob Dukes had a menacing stage presence for sure and his work on the last three Exodus releases was decent but I found his vocals were rather generic compared to Zetro and I for one am glad to see Zetro back out front of Exodus where he belongs.With the lengthier, often slower paced songs shuffling back into the minority on Blood In, Blood Out, to say that someone lit a fire under Exodus’ collective arse is an understatement. Maybe it’s the return of Zetro, whose vocal delivery seems to be more venomous and pissed off than ever before, or maybe it’s just the more concise songs, but whatever it is, everything has really clicked and the band sound every bit as intense as they did when they delivered Tempo of the Damned a decade ago. From the blistering title track, to the excellent Salt the Wound (the first Exodus track to officially feature Kirk Hammett playing on it) and the crowd chantable Body Harvest, there’s no end of ripping riffs, thrashing tempos and snarling vocals across the eleven tracks that make up the album.I’ve little doubt that the vocalist changeover at the eleventh hour will ruffle some feathers within the fan base. But after listening to Blood In, Blood Out countless times and putting into perspective against the band’s back catalogue as well as other thrash releases of recent times, the simple reality is that album number ten delivers the goods and then some. 2014 has been a bumper year for albums and it’s going to make choosing a top 10 bloody hard and Exodus’ contribution has just made it that much hard. Blood In, Blood Out thrashes hard and assaults the senses in the best possible way. Time to get up and do the toxic waltz once more!
Nuclear Blast Records/Universal Music Australia