Blood In, Blood Out
Nuclear Blast Records
7 out of 10
Exodus has always been underrated in my book on every level: song writing, musicianship, vocalists, ‘frontman’, live show, the band, as a whole deserves more credit and certainly more album sales than they’ve ever received.
It may stem from the fact that the band has had a very long on again off again status as well as changing vocalists more than I change my overly ripe shorts. We’re talking starting off with the vocal stylings of the Mad Russian Paul Baloff (RIP) then moving on to Steve Souza, back to Paul Baloff, back to Souza, off Souza, back to Souza, off to Rob Dukes, and now finally (hopefully FINALLY) back to Steve Souza again. Time will only tell, it’s always been a tenuous relationship between Steve and the band to begin with.
Coming back from one of their many hiatuses the band with Souza as frontman released Tempo of the Damned. A solid ridiculously brutal album that should have seen them rise to the stratosphere… but the rise was short lived as tensions rose faster than the album sales and Souza was done touring yet again. In comes Dukes for three albums that were good, but never really accepted as real Exodus by many fans. Souza and Baloff had a very similar style and sound which was very distinct, Rob came in and his style and sound was something completely different, dry, raspy, growly, but not in the ‘traditional’ Exodus sound. It’s never been explained completely to the masses why Dukes left, but nobody was surprised that Souza was once again in (his 4th stint in the band now).
When Exodus started out in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 80’s they were gods among men. Their shows were legendary, their crowds were rabid and brutal and unforgiving to any other band on stage (including Metallica). It was Exodus or it was shit. And if you weren’t an Exodus fan and you happened to be in the pit… may the metal gods have mercy on your soul because you were going to leave bloody and battered.
The pits at the band’s shows were so legendary that they even wrote a song about it called the Toxic Waltz. Their pits rival Slayers and would exceed theirs if their core audience were larger.
Their music has run the gamut of Thrash Metal stylings from balls out bay area thrash to the more tongue in cheek metal with a sense of humor to the head scratching wtf were they thinking (late 80’s early 90’s) musings that eventually were their downfall. After a short break of about 4 years the band reunited and broke up again. In 2001 the band reformed as most Bay Area Thrash bands did for the fabled Chuck Billy Benefit Show with Paul Baloff who died shortly afterwards and in came Souza. They finally put out Tempo of the Damned in 2004 and myself and many others thought they were well on their way finally in a clear direction with a monstrous album full of enough riffs, piss, and venom to take on the entire world. And then Souza left…. Again.3 Albums with Dukes later, Gary Holt has been performing with Slayer in the absence and (sadly) eventual death of guitarist Jeff Hanneman (RIP). And many wondered if Exodus were again done.
But in early 2014 rumor of a new album rose and as the album was about to be announced the band revealed the departure of Rob Dukes and yet another stint with Steve Souza.
And here is where I think the album suffers a little.
It is chock full of traditional Gary Holt riffs and pissed off lyrics that will satiate any staunch Exodus fan, but where Tempo was an education in brutally via metal, Blood In, Blood Out feels rushed and slightly incomplete. Maybe working together another few weeks on it or giving the material the time it truly needed it would have gelled a bit more and truly been a contender for the throne of ‘best Exodus album ever’. However Blood In, Blood Out comes across as a poor attempt at greatness.
Let’s hope Souza is on board for the long haul this time. They deserve better and so do we.
All that being said, this is still a good Exodus album. It is better than the last three, and it is a damn sight better than Force of Habit or Impact is Imminent. The title track is a good crowd chant along cut, Collateral Damage shows some great chops from drummer Tom Hunting, Salt the Wound is a stellar cut on the album and features Kirk Hammett on a wicked guitar solo. And Chuck Billy himself is featured in BTK.
Blood in, Blood Out is everything that is right and wrong with Exodus. That said it is a great album and better than most ‘metal’ being released this year. There is no doubt this album will be on my Top of 2014 albums list. I just expected the proper follow up to Tempo of the Damned that we never got.
Blood In, Blood Out comes out next Tuesday! Go get it and thrash on… you’ll thank me later, and your neighbors will hate me.