Bay Area thrashers unleash part 1 of hell
San Francisco (California, U.S.A) legendary thrashers Exodus have quite the head of steam coming into their third album since reforming for 2003's Tempo Of The Damned. It's successor, the even more potent Shovel Headed Kill Machine (2005) introduced new vocalist Rob Dukes, new guitarist Lee Altus (Heathen) and new drummer Paul Bostaph (ex-Slayer, ex-Forbidden) alongside sole original member, guitarist and mainman Gary Holt and long standing bassist Jack Gibson. The group, which now features original drummer Tom Hunting back in the fold, are back with part one of a two part aural assault, dubbed The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A.
The appropriately titled intro, Call To Arms, marches to a simple beat as it builds from the early stages of clean guitar chords to an absolutely crushingly hot distorted guitar tone before unleashing hell via Holt's trademark thrashing riffs that signal the arrival of the album's first real track, Riot Act. It's everything you'd expect from Holt and Co. as the quintet unload in furious fashion. Dukes is in top form as he belts into the mic, and Messer's Holt and Altus shred over Hunting's flawless kit work and Gibson's rumbling foundation of bass work. It's short and very sharp and packing plenty of punch early on. From here on in, a trend of longer tracks begins with the eight plus minute Funeral Hymn. It's an interesting move for the group, well known for their punchy and shorter thrashtastic anthems. The tempo is relaxed for the most part but the heaviness flowing from Holt and Altus is unending throughout before the almost as long Children Of A Worthless God settles into a quick flowing pace early on.
As It Was, As It Soon Shall Be is slower and whilst the riffage is reliable, the song itself isn't up there with the likes of some of the other thrashers found on here. The title track, The Atrocity Exhibition, which clocks in at an epic ten and a half minutes, builds for a while before bursts in and out of thrash mode as it flip flops between verse and chorus, all the while managing to avoid becoming one dimensional and boring as lengthy songs can be. Iconoclasm ventures through varying dynamics and tempos before The Garden Of Bleeding kicks things off in an almost Machine Head like manner. It isn't long however until it shows its true colours. It is a little daunting and concerning to see that Bedlam 1-2-3 racks up at almost 20minutes in length, but this ball of fury is classic modern day Exodus, and a strong closer to the album as it manages to tick just short of eight minutes. Scan through the next ten minutes of silence and you'll be rewarded with a hilarious country version of the band's defining track, Bonded By Blood - well worth the effort indeed.
There's no mistaking that The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A is true to form modern day Exodus. However, it is on the whole slower, and dare I say groovier than what we've come to expect from these Bay Area legends. There's are thrash fuelled passages but there could be more. In fact, even just one or two shorter tracks like we've heard from them in the past would be an asset to the album. Don't get me wrong - the album itself isn't bad by any means. It's still stronger than most, if not all, of the generic, tough guy, whatever-core garbage that is passed off as metal these days. Bottom line is that whilst this is a very good album in the grand scheme of things, as far as Exodus albums goes, it's a good album, not great one.
(Nuclear Blast Records/Riot! Entertainment)