Exhibit B: The Human Condition
posted on 5/2010 By:
It's not a particularly radical notion that this latest incarnation of Exodus has become something of a polarizing outfit. While no one can deny the band's historical impact, since the second departure of their second classic vocalist Zetro some five years ago, the band has been stuck in something of a critical crossfire. On the one side, the band’s clean-and-groovy, modernized take on the thrash sound they helped invent is truly violent fun. And on the other side, that clean-and-groovy modernization has left some old-school thrashers behind. On top of that, the mere mention of latest vocalist Rob Dukes seems to send those long-time fans into apoplectic stuttering fits about "-core" and "bland" and the relative merits of Zetro, Baloff, or both.
That stuttered sentiment is partly true: Dukes is and will likely forever remain the third-best Exodus vocalist, but considering his competition, that’s not too terribly bad, and damned if this critic and fan didn’t enjoy the first Atrocity Exhibition and Shovel Headed Kill Machine. They may not reach the heights of Fabulous Disaster, but they’re good for what they are: shiny slabs of (mostly) blistering post-millennium thrash. Yes, Dukes can come off as ham-fisted at times, and his delivery does tread into the generic in spots (particularly on Shovel), but he’s improved with each release, and his energy and his enthusiasm are enough to overcome any negative tendencies. Say what you will about the man, for the most part, both of these Exhibitions rock like hell.
Of course, that’s not entirely because of Dukes (or even largely because of him)—Exodus’ continued streak of quality thrash is mostly due to Gary Holt, the one constant member in the band’s perpetually rotating line-up. (For Exhibit B, Holt and Dukes are joined by second guitarist Lee Altus, also of Heathen, plus returning off-again-on-again drum monster Tom Hunting and bassist Jack Gibson.) This newest incarnation has had time to gel, this being their third release together, and their comfort with one another shows in their tight, expertly controlled performance. Hunting especially shines, propelling these tracks with a rock-solid groove that is neither sloppy nor suffocating, neither blasé nor busy.
Where Exhibit A was a marked improvement on Shovel, in both songwriting and production, Exhibit B is again an improvement upon its older brother, particularly in the song department. As with Exhibit A, the Andy Sneap production is typically pristine—some may say too much so, but I would not. His clean and stout mix is punchy and tight, shiny but not flat—it does smooth off the rough edges, but it balances its sheen with heft. The guitar tone is thick and meaty, and Gibson’s bass tone is stellar (witness the groovy midsection of "Downfall"). Lyrically, despite a slight deviation into the evils of Hollywood (in the solid, if corny, "Burn Hollywood Burn"), most of The Human Condition deals with man’s inhumanity to man, filtered through serial killings, warfare, school shootings, and the like—not exactly new thematic fodder for a thrash band, but it’s certainly presented well enough, nonetheless.
Where Exhibit B does go slightly awry is in its sheer excess—at over seventy minutes long, with eight of the record’s dozen tracks over six minutes each, The Human Condition is just too damn long. (Even with that, if you still want more, there are two different versions with bonus tracks, one of which—a cover of the Scorpions’ "Don’t Make No Promises"—I’d be interested in hearing, but regrettably didn’t come with my promo.) Songs like "March Of The Sycophants" could easily be trimmed by a few minutes and pummel just as much, perhaps actually pummel even more by not overstaying their welcome.
Having come back strong with the Zetro-fronted Tempo Of The Damned and then slipped a bit with Shovel, Exodus has found solid ground again with both Atrocity Exhibitions, this one better than the first. A fine thrash album from a band that’s still going strong, twenty-five years and counting.
Register to post comments.
Shovel Headed Tour Machine (Live At Wacken And Other Atrocities)
Let There Be Blood
The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A
Shovel Headed Kill Machine
Tempo of the Damned