Exodus - The atrocity exhibition/Exhibit A 3.5/5

Reviewed: 12-21-07


1. A call to arms
2. Riot act
3. Funeral hymn
4. Children of a worthless god
5. As it was, as it soon shall be
6. The atrocity exhibition
7. Iconoclasm
8. The garden of bleeding
9. Bedlam 123

One of the absolute paragons of classic U.S. thrash return with another strong CD that holds tight to their traditions, no matter what trends may come, and it features some outstanding strengths and minor weaknesses, but ultimately will remain a matter of personal taste and preference. Those that really love the aggressive stylings of thrash that Exodus ushered in the 80s will likely be in heaven with this release.

With an incredible history that includes Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, and even more importantly, the seminal thrash opus of 'Bonded by blood' in 1985, there is no doubt whatsoever that Gary Holt and his crew are thrash royalty, and the quintessential example of “Bay Area” sound. That raw, savage, and yet catchy work evolved with new singer Steve “Zetro” Souza, then from 'Legacy' (Testament), and with 'Pleasures of the flesh' and 'Fabulous disaster' more clearly carved out a sound that was always heavy and brutal, but had a kind of dark playfulness to it as well. After about 12 years from their last studio album, the newer version of the band stepped forth with the welcome 'Tempo of the damned', which featured a combination of their earlier sound honed to darker, angrier, nihilism, and in "Scar spangled banner" spewed out dissent we thought we might never hear again after 9/11. Zetro left after that CD (I recall seeing them live on that tour and thinking, “Hmmm, that doesn’t LOOK like Sou za”) but the band forged on with Rob Dukes in 'Shovel headed kill machine'.

'Atrocity exhibition' is a magnificent and unrestrained example of classic Exodus thrash in all its glory, maintaining that unique tone and sound which is instantly identifiable from Slayer or Testament, but the instrumental work seems to be taking everything up one step higher, with riffs and leads that are faster, more dynamic, and dazzling, and while this is aggressive, angry thrash, the precision and tightness of the results are amazing, as the drums, bass, and guitars all blaze out a pattern which is so technical and dazzling that it will leave your jaw on the floor. This is all coupled with a production which is simply and absolutely sublime. While many bands that tread around this genre have unwisely added an unwelcome “modern” note of buzz, hiss, or rasp to their production, this is the absolute opposite and features a sound so clean, so sharp, so clear, it should be cutting through your speakers and doing them permanent, if cauterized, damage.

Additionally, while Exodus’ lyrics have frequently been entertaining in their own special way, this could be some of their very best, treading a step or 2 beyond the level of their prior work. Or perhaps, as a former law student I’m just swayed by any band that will use “Lex Talionis” in their lyrics, but overall they really are strong.

It’s almost shocking when the band departs ever so slightly from all things Exodus, with a somewhat melodic chorus in “Children of a worthless god”, that sounds a bit like Marshall Law, and which is in no way bad, just because the rest of the CD is so full on and umistakedly Exodus.

Vocalist Rob Dukes, from my personal standpoint, is a small setback for the band. It seems to me that his vocals have changed just slightly from the predecessor, going up just a touch in the harshness scale, and perhaps 2 touches down on the catchiness scale. It certainly varies, and overall his vocals are decent, and sometimes quite fitting on this CD, but the raspiness dragging at your ears can make the CD, on the whole, drag on more than it would have had been singing in just a slightly more Zetroish style, or in any other manner which conveyed just a tad more emotion and memorability to the songs. Some may prefer this approach, others may even be more turned off by it than I am.

And, in an utterly superficial criticism, can bands/ labels stop giving us hidden tracks at the end of a huge gulf of blank space? In this case, the hidden track is a playful and rather amusing hilly-billy edged bluegrass version of "Bonded by blood", but the problem is the huge blank space at the end of the prior song which precedes it. To me, CDs and songs are things I want to listen to again and again, and a one time joke which forever more slightly fouls up your listening experience is still annoying.

Those that really loved the last 2 Exodus CDs should be delighted with this one as well, keeping in mind my personal comments about to the edge to the vocals, which might slightly alter exactly how much the CD will appeal to you.




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