Back in the olden days of the original 80’s thrash invasion, it seemed Exodus always got a raw deal and lost out on the respect and exposure as one the top dogs of the movement. While Metallica, Slayer, Medadeth and Anthrax hogged the lion’s share of the limelight, Exodus was always relegated to second tier status. That’s all water under the bridge nowadays and Exodus has been on a serious comeback tear since 2004’s Tempo of the Damned all the way through 2007’s The Atrocity Exhibition – Exhibit A. With this second lease on life, Exodus has essentially surpassed all the former top dogs by virtue of being the last band standing and still releasing quality, worthwhile metal music. Now comes the second part of the Atrocity Exhibition series, Exhibit B: the Human Condition and Exodus seems damned determined to hold onto their newfound position.
From the opening track onward, its clear Exodus has decided to continue their trend of pushing the creative boundaries of thrash metal outward. Rather than the commonplace three to five minute thrash songs, Exodus has experimented with increasingly longer songs since Tempo of the Damned and that continues here with many songs exceeding the six minute mark with one over nine minutes. While this could be recipe for disaster, Exodus again manages to keep even the longest songs interesting and dynamic.
The opening track “The Ballad of Leonard and Charles” sets the floor plan for the over seventy minutes of epic thrash to come by showing Exodus in angry metal form. Sporting the ultra clean, modern thrash sound they started adopting from Shovel Headed Killing Machine onward, the song rips along at blinding speed but includes enough variation to keep the listener alert for the seven plus minutes. While I found that a few of the longer songs on Shovel and Atrocity Exhibition become tiresome after awhile, this is less a factor on Exhibit B due to stronger songs and improved dynamic shifting.
Of course, any discussion of an Exodus album ultimately has to revolve around the guitars and on Exhibit B, Gary Holt and Lee Altus shred, chug and thrash with the best of them. This is probably the finest guitar outing the duo have set to plastic during this comeback tour, and the entire album is one long epic of axe attack excess. A big part of the success of Exhibit B also has to be credited to Rob Dukes, whose vocals have improved with each successive release since Shovel and he’s coming into his own as a thrash metal vocalist quite nicely here. While not blessed with a broad vocal range, his gritty, harsh snarl suits these songs well and he doesn’t start to wear thin as some as vocalists of this genre can over a long album.
One drawback for some listeners could be that the Andy Sneap production is extremely clean and clear; almost to the point of being too clean. While it’s hard to fault a production that allows you to hear every instrument clearly and pick up on the nuances, with thrash of this caliber, I always felt a little rawness and unrefined elements actually helped the overall level of brutality and heaviness. That said, however, across the thirteen tracks and seventy plus minutes, Exodus has fashioned an overblown thrash epic of ginormous proportions. At times exhausting but always quality, Exhibit B is well worth the investment of time for any fan of extreme metal and once again Exodus retains their current place at the top of the thrash heap. Take that Metallica!