Exhibit B: The Human Condition
07 May 2010
by Tom Dare
You have to feel for Gary Holt a little. Despite being there right at the beginning, and being the central figure of a band all of the major players in thrash – Kerry King and Scott Ian being just two – cite as one of the most important in the movement, Exodus have never quite achieved the wide popularity of the Big Four, and never quite fulfilling the destiny their debut suggested they were set for.
It is nigh-on impossible to talk about Exodus without mentioning Paul Baloff, the legendary, and sadly deceased vocalist from that first, seminal blast of 1985 noise. Yet Rob Dukes has grown into the role over the last two albums, and he’s very clearly the right man for the job now. Vicious, absolutely fucking furious and with a perpetually curled lip, his vocal delivery is excellent and hangs Exhibit B together. There can be no hankering after past glories if Exodus are to rise to the status their influence merits, and Dukes is a key component of this.
Another vital element is, of course, the riffing. Driving and snarling with all the aggression that made the Bay Area sound so popular in the first place yet with greater technical affinity than was the norm in the ’80s, Exhibit B is rammed so full of riffs that it will make you want to bang your head against the stage until metal takes its place. While Gary Holt may never have quite gained the reputation as a shredder that others outside the Big Four have – Jeff Waters and Alex Skolnick, for example – the leads here are far better than you might expect, and are far less concerned with massaging the guitarists’ egos than serving the song.
The song composition is superb, unafraid to fully explore all the ideas and maximise a songs potential. The lyrics are as horrible as you might expect, covering subjects that fit straight in with the Exodus canon but with a more grown-up perspective, taking in controversial topics like school shootings and World War II war crimes. The rhythm section are on fine form. The production is great, Andy Sneap once again handling the consoles, and once again enhancing his already excellent reputation, making sure everything is sufficiently loud like the world’s at an end. And if you can hear a rather large “but” coming, you are correct.
No single element of Exhibit B is anything less than great, but the problem here is when all these elements are put together, you have two albums, not one. Although twelve tracks might not sound excessive, with most of these between six and seven minutes long, the total playing time of an hour and a quarter (not including that bonus track), is simply too much thrash for one sitting when on record. There is simply not enough Exodus can do with their style of play to keep it interesting for that long on an album. None of the later tracks are any lesser than the ones that came before, but your attention is badly wandering by the time you get to them. You wish the album had finished after about track six or seven and the rest of the material kept back for another album altogether.
Watch Exodus in the studio recording Exhibit B: The Human Condition:
Exhibit B is very obviously an attempt to get the attention and acclaim that never came Exodus’ way, but unfortunately it narrowly falls short. This year has already seen two strong records from classic thrash bands and while Exhibit B is a fine record, it doesn’t have the sheer strength of song that Slayer and Megadeth – and even Testament- have delivered in recent years. The band’s debut, Bonded By Blood remains as important – and as good – as Kill ‘Em All or Hell Awaits, and Exodus’ latest effort is merely the latest chapter in the quarter of a century they’ve been unsuccessfully trying to eclipse it. While thrash connoisseurs will rightly give the band their dues, their chance to step up join Anthrax and co. in the metal-mainstream seems to have passed them by.
Sounds like: Death Angel, Testament
Top tracks: Hammer And Life, Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer), Good Riddance
Exodus – Exhibit B: The Human Condition tracklisting:
The Ballad of Leonard and Charles
Beyond The Pale
Hammer and Life
Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)
March of the Sycophants
Burn, Hollywood, Burn
The Sun Is My Destroyer
A Perpetual State of Indifference