Album of the Week 27-2012: Exodus – Exhibit B: The Human Condition

Essentially, a good Exodus album is characterized by a continuous kick in the face. That was the case when ‘Bonded By Blood’ came out and that tradition was carried forth with the 2004 rebirth of ‘Tempo Of The Damned’. Gary Holt’s songwriting has become somewhat more contemporary recently, but the solid Thrash punch is still there. However, things had become a bit stale on ‘The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A’. Holt’s insistence to write long songs was only partially successful (‘Children Of A Worthless God’ and the title track were awesome) and the band sounded like they were forcing something that wasn’t there.

Something must have crawled up Gary Holt’s ass then, because the ‘Exhibit B’-entry is much more vicious, inspired and powerful than its direct predecessor. These long songs actually make sense and my god they’re incredibly aggressive. It’s this sense of high-speed aggression that makes the seven and a half minutes of a song like ‘Beyond The Pale’ fly by as if the song is half its actual length. That is the essence of a good long song. And Gary Holt seems to have gotten a hold of that ability a lot better this time.

Another progression from the previous effort is that this time, the long songs are alternated with shorter burts of aggression, such as ‘Burn, Hollywood, Burn’ (not the Public Enemy song) and ‘Good Riddance’. It keeps the flow of the album strong, with the only exception that there’s two songs that could function as closer; after the punishing ‘The Sun Is My Destroyer’ – if those verses don’t make you want to go out and kill, nothing ever will – I really thought the album would be over, but there’s a little instrumental (‘A Perpetual State Of Indifference’) and ‘Good Riddance’ after that.

More variation is a huge improvement over ‘Exhibit A’ as well. The hyper-melodic ‘Downfall’ is a pleasant surprise, as are the slower, eastern-tinged tunes ‘Nanking’ and ‘Democide’. The latter is a contribution by guitarist Lee Altus, as is opening track ‘The Ballad Of Leonard And Charles’, the best “ballad” to ever open an Exodus-album.

Speaking of Lee Altus, apart from the rapid fire of riffs flying around, the solo sections of him and Gary Holt are nothing short of spectacular. Flashy, but not too flashy. Exactly like it was meant to be in Thrash. Tom Hunting shows why it’s an amazing thing why he’s back, with his powerful beats and trademark explosive fills and Jack Gibson’s bass work is remarkably present in the mix of this album. Also, Rob Dukes shows some improvement as a vocalist. Still pissed off and vicious (check his p’s and b’s, which are hardly distinguishable from each other, as proof), but a bit more varied. There’s this clean line underneath his typical shout in ‘Nanking’ that just lifts the song to a higher level.

So here it is, something or somebody (my guess is Lee Altus) lit a fire under Gary Holt’s ass and the result is possibly the best album since Exodus’ rebirth, or at least a worthy successor to ‘Tempo Of The Damned’. And they’re still a brutally lethal live band too. Exodus is here to stay and if it sounds like this, you won’t hear me complain!

Recommended tracks: ‘Beyond The Pale’, ‘The Ballad Of Leonard And Charles’, ‘The Sun Is My Destroyer’

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