Thank god that Steve Souza rejoined Exodus before the band recorded their new album. I have nothing against Rob Dukes. He was a very serviceable vocalist for the band for eight years but I was a bit perturbed when Dukes claimed back in April that the new album was going to have more of a punk rock feel to it with shorter songs instead of the metal epics from the last few Exodus albums.
Clearly creative differences had a good amount to do with the band’s split from Dukes as the songs on Blood In, Blood Out are long with six of the eleven songs clocking in at over six minutes. However, there is still a fair amount of punk influence to be found on the album as the band went back to their 1980’s speed metal roots with hyper fast riffs, gang shouted choruses and solid mid song grooves throughout a good portion of the album. Fans of old school Exodus are absolutely going to love this album.
Of all the long running thrash bands out there, Exodus is one of the few that has never really deviated from time-honored thrash principles. Slayer is another of the few that has mostly stuck to the formula but Exodus’ latest album offers much more variation in sound, tempo and song arrangements than Slayer’s last handful of records. Songs vary from the fast riffs, harmonized guitars and amazing solos of “Blood In, Blood Out”, “Salt the Wound” and “Food for the Worms” to the slower tempos, catchy grooves and great bass work of “Body Harvest” and “My Last Nerve”. The songs are all diverse but are linked by two commonalities; that signature Exodus technique and the awesome extreme metal style vocals of Steve Souza.
In addition to all of these considerably positive aspects, Blood In, Blood Out also offers some really cool guest appearances from Testament’s Chuck Billy and original Exodus guitarist and current Metallica member Kirk Hammett. Billy supplies extra vocals on the track “BTK” and Hammett has a positively stunning solo in the middle of “Salt the Wound”. I almost forgot about the unbelievable talents that Hammett possessed prior to having his creativity stifled by Hetfiled and Lars. Damn, I wish he had more of an opportunity to shred like this on a Metallica record. There is also the weird presence of hip hop/electronica producer, Dan The Automator, on the album’s first track “Black 13”. The song opens with a somewhat misplaced industrial/electronic portion that just didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the songs or the album. Two out of three ain’t bad. Plus the other five minutes of “Black 13” are awesome so that pretty much makes up for it.
Every track on Blood In, Blood Out is excellent but the faster paced songs seemed to shine the most. “Blood In, Blood Out”, “Collateral Damage”, “Salt the Wound”, “Honor Killings” and “Food for the Worms” offer the best guitar and bass work, the catchiest mid song grooves, and the most well crafted guitar solos and harmonization. “Food for the Worms” stands out as the fastest song on the album. It actually shocked me that the Exodus still has the ability to play with that type of breakneck speed. Guitarists Gary Holt and Lee Altus are clearly at the top of their game right now and Tom Hunting’s drumming has never been better. These songs will really bring that old school Exodus feel back to the forefront of everyone’s minds.
Blood In, Blood Out proves that Exodus is a band that is not afraid of their past. While others like Metallica have either refused or have downright forgotten how to create an album with elements of what got them to the show, Exodus continues to embrace their origins. Blending their speedy past with their epic present made it possible for Exodus to construct this stellar album. It’s not often that you hear songs this fast that are well over five and six minutes. How the hell do they keep up that intensity for that long?
This is one of the best records to be released by one of the originators of American thrash is quite some time. I challenge Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Testament and Anthrax to try to come up with something even close to this good with their next records. The likelihood of all of them accomplishing that almost simultaneously is probably impossible but a rebirth of that magnitude would be pretty fucking sweet. While you are waiting for that to happen (yeah right), crank the latest masterpiece from Exodus and remember what it was truly like to windmill the shit out of your neck.
Blood In, Blood Out will be released on October 14, 2014 via Nuclear Blast Records. Take a listen when you get the chance and sound off with your opinion in our comments section.