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Murder in the front row! - 99%

Brainded Binky, December 8th, 2014

The Big 4 this, the Big 4 that, we've heard it all before. Some of us have also heard of the significance of one of the first Bay Area thrash metal bands, Exodus, which originally had Kirk Hammett as their lead guitar player. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be with the band long enough for him to be a part of their smashing debut, "Bonded by Blood", one of the finest thrash metal albums ever created that also set the standards for many thrash albums to come in the following decades.

Gary Holt and Rick Hunolt are very talented guitarists, but rather than create a complex musical masterpiece worthy of making the band the next Iron Maiden, they decided to cut some corners in order to make the songs more aggressive. That's just fine by me, 'cos when it comes to thrash metal, the more aggressive, the better. Much of their riffs are somewhat simple, consisting of chugging e-note rhythms and a few basic power chords. Those were all the band needed to put more of an intimidating and powerful sound. It is proof that you don't really need to be that intricate in order to please a crowd, sometimes a simple riff could be all that would be necessary to get a circle pit going. Unfortunately, this simple formula would be ripped of by band after band, wannabe after wannabe, in the years that followed, particularly in the 21st century, when retro-thrash bands became all the rage, no pun intended.

Exodus has more than their fair share of stellar material, but "Bonded by Blood" has to be my all-time favorite, particularly 'cos of the vocal performance of singer Paul Baloff. His voice features the gruff and aggressive growls that is common among thrash metal bands as well as some high-pitched barks and squeals that often go along with it. Those barks, squeals and growls give the voice more energy and make it more powerful and heavy. I think it fits the music better, rather than the gruff, nasally vocal delivery of Baloff's successor, Steve "Zetro" Souza, which can get a little annoying at times. Zetro's voice also doesn't have as much power as Baloff's does, as Zetro's sounds a little wimpy and whiny (not that he's a terrible vocalist, though, he does metal screams well). Baloff's voice conveys the rage and aggression of the music even further while Zetro's merely supplants the music itself. Even if the lyrics are a little uncreative and unintentionally hilarious at times, Baloff delivers them quite nicely.

Also a signature of thrash metal, and particularly of Exodus, is the fact that some of the music seems to display a sense of humor. "No Love" is a sort of bait-and-switch song in the sense that it tricks the uninitiated listener into believing that it's a sweet breakup song using a somewhat passionate-sounding song title and a light, acoustic guitar solo that sounds so pleasant and pristine. Then, after a minute, the song strikes at full force playing Exodus' signature thrash metal sound and occult-related lyrics, shocking the listener. In later years, their sense of humor would be more obvious, as they did a cover of the infamous War song "Low Rider" on their "Fabulous Disaster" album. That kind of humor would also be ripped off by many retro-thrash bands, leading a lot of people to criticize the genre as dishonest and silly. The subgenre was meant to convey a sense of anger towards the oppressing authority and only a slight touch of humor, but sometimes with many retro-thrash bands, that humor got quite out of hand. The band only used humor at most only once or twice throughout each of their albums, keeping their usage light, and the same could be said for this album.

When the aggression of any of the Big 4 isn't enough to please you, "Bonded by Blood" should do the trick. The album is to thrash metal as "To Kill a Mockingbird" is to American literature, 'cos it's an unspoken rule that all thrashers should have this album in their collection along with any of the material released by the Big 4. It's an excellent example of Bay Area thrash that many "pizza thrash" bands would rip off in the new millennium, which is a shame, since now this brilliant sound is made cliche because of them. Nonetheless, it still stands as one of the greatest thrash albums ever created, if not the number one thrash metal album of all time.