Exodus - Exhibit B/The human condition 4/5
1. The ballad of Leonard and Charles
2. Beyond the pale
3. Hammer and life
4. Class dismissed (A hate primer)
6. March of the Sycophants
8. Burn, Hollywood, burn
10. The sun is my Destroyer
11. A perpetual state of indifference
12. Good riddance
In the mid-to-late 80s there was a brief but serious surge of speed/thrash metal, carving an extra element of unrelenting speed and aggression into the classic metal sound, with bands like Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, Overkill and Testament snapping necks like never before, and no band was more seminal than Exodus, with their violent lesson of 'Bonded in blood'. While these bands and others purveyed their aggressive wares for some time, the movement and style seriously faded away, as aggressive thought itself more extremely shifted into death and black metal, while other existing bands lapsed into more friendly styles, more nu-metal Pantera-inspired sludge-fests, or simply disbanded. This ullage was more enduring than that which afflicted melodic and power metal, as metal’s 2000 resurgence didn’t include nearly as much of this style of metal... However, recently we’ve seen a ridiculously good onslaught of the art form return, with towering works from Testament and Overkill that are shocking in their return to brilliance, strong entries from Megadeth, a less-than-completely-embarrasing CD from Metallica ('Death magnetic'), and a brilliant new CD 'The evolution of chaos' from Heathen.
Much like they in the original birth of thrash, Exodus was as much at the forefront of this resurgence as anyone else, with their triumphantly nihilistic 'Tempo of the damned'. It was a return to form from the band itself, whose debut 'Bonded by blood' was full out anger and violence, lacking the more subtle variations and themes of some of their brethren, but their subsequent output, with Steve “Zetro” Souza, had an element of tongue-and-cheek melody mixed with the vitriol, increasing CD by CD to its nadir in 'Force of habit'. However, a dozen years later after that studio CD, Tempo brought back a vicious ferocity and full on nihilistic war not seen since 'Bonded by blood'. Souza and the band again quickly parted ways, and 'The human condition' is the 3rd CD with vocalist Paul Dukes, and their best with him.
Eternal guitarist Gary Holt is joined with Lee Altus (Heathen) for the ferocious display of precision sharp leads, Dukes delivers his razor edged vocals, while long time drummer Tom Hunting keeps the relentless rhythm pounding with Jack Gibson on bass. The result is a mostly thrilling CD which, like a few classics such as Slayer’s 'Reign in blood', is somewhat one-noted in its emotion and appeal, but devastating to convey frustration and rage with snarling power. If you seek a CD where the speedy leads are combined with more vocal melodies, or you want a more varied basis of lyrical topics, see the aforementioned Heathen, or Overkill or Testament. But if you’re looking for that outright pouring of driving anger, done with incredibly sharp, vivid production, deadly accuracy, and an unrestrained lyrical stick in the eye, welcome aboard.
While production isn’t the most important element in a CD, in this CD its sublime perfection is impossible to ignore. No muddy sounds, no bleeding cymbal noise, nothing but the fullest, sharpest conveyance of aggressive metal leads and chords, full bass and blasting drums... (it makes one cry to imagine how much better the infinitely-budgeted Metallica could have sounded on 'Death magnetic' if it had been recorded like this, even if it still wouldn’t have been as good as this.) That clarity gives Holt and Altus’s mind-blowing delivery of leads the best possible display, and helps propel the majesty of this CD, the array of outstanding sharp riffs and melodic leads is magnificent.
It is a good thing, because depending on your taste, Dukes vocals can be a shortcoming. On the prior CDs, I had some regrets with the harsh razor edge brought to most of the vocals, as it could feel too grating. That element has been slightly pulled back on this CD, it can still appear on some songs, but, for instance, on some of the best songs like “Beyond the pale” and “Hammer and life”, Dukes is able to convey a much catchier, engaging chorus that works even better, and on slower songs like “Nanking” he’s doing a better job telling the story of the words in a manner that is angry, but human and listenable.
There is some diversity in the lyrics, but the consistent element is brutality and violence. The opening track deals with the Manson murders, "Beyond the pale" is a savagely effective and powerful track from the view of another killer, as is the compelling but disturbing "Hate primer" dealing with a Virginia Tech-like sociopath. Nanking brings some history to the table with the oft obscured story of the savage occupation of the Chinese city by the Japanese in 1937, and while "March of the Sycophants" skewers the right wing political movement, "Burn, Hollywood, burn" reduces the entertainment industry to scorned ash.
The consistent musical and lyrical tone on the CD might be seen as limiting, and yet, it’s also a relatively rare voice remaining in metal, and when combined with its superb execution, you get something that is a masterpiece of nihilistic rage for those times where such an onslaught is an appropriate release of emotions, and can be enjoyed by anyone who once enjoyed that savage classic era of thrash.
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