Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Exodus – Blood In Blood Out

After a long, long wait, the new Exodus record has finally arrived. Since the band’s last full-length album, things have changed quite a bit. Band leader Gary Holt has been pulling double duty as he tours with both Exodus and Slayer (often times simultaneously), and just earlier this year, frontman Rob Dukes was left behind in favour of returning vocalist Zetro. While most Exodus fans could likely write an entire book about their thoughts on Dukes (either positive or negative; I fall somewhat in both camps), the band is moving on without him. “Blood In Blood Out” is definitely not “Tempo of the Damned Part II”, but it definitely does bring back some thoughts of that album, primarily because of Zetro rather than the songwriting.

To be fair to Exodus, they have not compromised their sound for a second since returning in 2004. But they have progressed. “The Atrocity Exhibition – Exhibit A” showed a move to longer, more epic and progressive song structures. “Exhibit B: The Human Condition” still retained a couple of lengthier tunes, but in general, it cut down the individual song lengths while favouring faster, punchier tracks. In this respect, “Blood In Blood Out” is a continuation of the last record, only with Zetro on vocals. This aggression is most noticeable on the opening two tracks; after a short intro from Dan The Automator (whoever that is!), Exodus starts thrashing and rarely stops. Although there are slower moments (such as the groovy “Salt The Wound” or the more melodic and epic “My Last Nerve"), “Blood In Blood Out” features a lot of speed. As the album continues on, it continually gets increasingly impressive how Gary Holt (who wrote 9 of the 11 tracks) spits out riffs like rapid fire. As the record nears the one-hour mark, you might be expecting the band to get a bit tired, but even the very last track, “Food For The Worms”, thrashes absurdly hard. In fact, this song has the most pummeling and insane riff that an Exodus album has seen since “Deathamphetamine”.

As was just mentioned, this album is long. Many Exodus fans have made it clear that the recent records are far too lengthy, and Gary has made it equally clear that he has no intention of changing things up, but the good news is that this album is definitely better in its playing time than recent efforts. For one thing, “Blood In Blood Out” is about 10 minutes shorter than each of The Atrocity Exhibitions. This makes a huge difference in terms of holding the listener’s interest, and makes the album quite manageable to get through in one sitting. The other reason why this record’s length isn’t a complete detriment is because Gary and other guitarist Lee Altus (who wrote the other two tracks) really stepped up the songwriting. There is not a single weak track on the record, nor a moment of boredom. It isn’t particularly clear which element caused Exodus’ reinvigoration (Zetro’s return, Gary touring with Slayer, or having 4 years to write and record the album), but it is clear that this is Exodus’ strongest effort in the last decade.

One thing that continually astounds me about both Exodus and “Blood In Blood Out” is just how much better the riffs are than 99% of other thrash bands. Longtime readers of this ‘zine are well aware of many Exodus clones there are out there, to the point where I often use the term “Exoclone” or “Exoriff” because so many bands ape this sound. Despite how many times it feels like I’ve heard an Exodus-styled riff, when written by the master himself, Gary Holt, they are much more original sounding, and of much higher quality. In fact, the only riff on this album that sounds a bit repetitive given the band’s back catalogue is the main riff from “Salt The Wound”. Nevertheless, Zetro’s fantastic delivery of the lyrics and even the guest guitar solo from Kirk Hammett prop this track up quite a bit.

At this point, it is worth discussing Zetro’s re-appearance in Exodus. Although his voice always has his classic sound to it, there’s no doubt he’s turned up the aggression considerably since the 80’s. In projects like Tenet, he screams his lungs out, but in both Exodus and Hatriot, he manages to vary up his vocals as much as possible. This shows both his melodic side and his hostile approach. His anger comes through well in a track like “Numb”, which gives an apathetic view of the world. Though Dukes was also quite harsh in his delivery, this is something only Zetro could really pull off. Another highlight of Zetro’s is the title track, where he spits out words at a mile a minute, all with the intent of creating a thrashing beast that cannot be tamed. When combined with Gary’s always-brutal riffs, the end result is one of the best tracks on the record.

From a production standpoint, “Blood In Blood Out” sounds quite similar to the last few records. Bassist Jack Gibson is definitely more prominent than he’s been in the past (though he’s always been easy to hear), but things are the same otherwise. The guitars have the heaviest crunch known to man, while the drums are thunderous and crashing. The mix is perfect, with nobody getting lost. Even amidst all of the mayhem and noise that this record puts forth, all band members are easy to hear and giving their full effort. 

Although four years is a bit long for a new album, it was well worth the wait. “Blood In Blood Out” is by far the most inspired Exodus record since Zetro left the band. It is possible to find flaws with this record, but you’d have to look pretty hard. As someone who loves thrash and can never get enough of it, this album is everything I could want and more. If listening to “Bonded By Blood” at home still sends you into a 1-person mosh pit, “Blood In Blood Out” is going to have you tearing through your whole house!

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"Black 13"
"Blood In Blood Out"
"Salt The Wound"
"Wrapped In The Arms of Rage"
"Food For The Worms"

Final Rating
4.75/5 or 95%. 

Written by Scott

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