Saturday, June 26, 2010

Review: Exodus, "Exhibit B: The Human Condition"

I understand that there are some people out there who don’t like Rob Dukes-era Exodus, and I get that. But I, for one, love it. The three records that feature Dukes, including this latest effort, have been some of the heaviest and most aggressive in the band’s entire catalog.

If you didn’t like The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A, then Exhibit B will not likely be to your tastes either. In tone, style and heaviness, the two records are quite similar. The songs here are, for the most part, fast, brutally heavy and on the long side.
The near 8-minute second track “Beyond the Pale” kind of sets the bar for the record. That said, there are more moments here that fans of the band’s older style will appreciate. They lock into more grooves and offer some more tempo shifts and side trips than they did on Exhibit A.

Third track, “Hammer and Life,” is a perfect example. One of the shorter songs on the album, it checks in at just over three and a half minutes and features a less intense, but still enjoyable, classic thrash guitar riff. Dukes dials back his vocal style a little on the track, doing less screaming, and the result is something that wouldn’t have been out of place on any classic Exodus record. Album opener “The Ballad of Leonard and Charles” almost reminds me of one of those classic Metallica album openers from the 1980s with an acoustic piece that builds slowly into an uptempo thrasher. Once it hits the faster point, though, it’s pure Exodus. “Downfall” opens with some almost proggy guitar riffing and drum runs before settling into another ‘80s-influenced thrash riff.

We get a couple of departures from the break-neck pace (not counting the instrumental interlude “Perpetual State of Indifference”). “Nanking,” a mid-tempo number that goes for a majestic feel, offers up some huge slower riffs, and the exotic-sounding clean guitar licks laid underneath the heavier licks early on is nice. The downside here is that Dukes’ vocals on the verse aren’t very good, and it doesn’t flow well lyrically either. Because of that, it kind of wears out its welcome. More successful at the mid-tempo feel is “Democide,” which opens with some middle-eastern flavored guitar and a nice bass groove. It achieves the majestic feel much better early on, and Dukes’ approach to the vocals is better.

Those who liked Exhibit A also have much to enjoy on Exhibit B. We get blasts of energy and aggressiveness on songs like “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)” and the raging album closer “Good Riddance.” “March of the Sycophants” is a charging thrasher that has one of the more memorable riffs and choruses – a hardcore-influenced piece complete with gang shouts. Some of the heavier numbers, though, like “Burn, Hollywood, Burn” and “The Sun is My Destroyer,” do seem to repeat themes from the previous record, making them sound a bit generic and not quite as memorable as some of the other pieces.

The musicianship on Exhibit B: The Human Condition is as tight and superb as Exodus fans would expect, and those that dislike Dukes’ vocals should be pleased to hear him experimenting with some slight variations here and there throughout the record. Some work, some don’t, but at least he’s stretching a bit.

It’s another solid effort from one of thrash’s longest-lasting bands with enough new edge to keep things fresh and just enough of the old-school sound to still make it Exodus.

Get "Exhibit B."

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