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Cover your head, it's raining praise again - 95%

Gutterscream, April 21st, 2011
Written based on this version: 1985, 12" vinyl, Torrid Records

"...if you've got something to say, then come my way..."

Got time for a little story?

Like GasGiant (whose review has apparently left the building), my first innocuous flirt with Exodus was an edge-of-night metal radio show (they were out there, conservatively, this one The Metal Shop, I think), one of those good semi-undergrounders where platters by Hawaii, Loudness, Tokyo Blade, and Raven actually attained regular rotation. I was a diligent listener 'cos even if something obscurely '81 got a spin, it was still freshly baked and steaming to me and a lot of others. The deejay plugged the debut of this unknown CA band with a full-throttle taste - "A Lesson in Violence" - which held my attention prisoner while the scathingly extroverted vocals of a cannibal allied with riffs of unhinged thrash malevolence. The bands that played before and after suddenly seemed underwhelming to me. If it wasn't around midnight I would've tried to get a ride over to the indie record store in town.

Some weeks later the store gets the damn thing in and with great satisfaction I fork over the moolah I had been saving for such a joyous occasion. Mom, my ride, sees the cover and says, "oh lovely". Now I'm home, my poor stereo blind and deaf to what's in store for it, and Bonded by Blood fills every nook and cranny, bounces off every metal poster.

Twenty six years later and I still have a hard time finding albums that can stand stiff-kneed in the ring with this. It's not only the album's fierce conveyance that keeps it on the heavy-hitters list, but its Twinkie-like shelf life, its ode to the cantankerous mid-'80s style, and the metallic promise that the common above ground devotee of general music will feign death to get out of its path. By '85, thrash's soldiers were lining up, some already battle-scarred and breathing heavy, and the primordial Bay Area sound was about as realized and developed as a corn field. Sure, it's fairly common knowledge nowadays that BBB was complete and ready for destruction in the hot months of '84, but that didn't do anyone any good. I don't even know if it would've mattered. If anything it probably would've been more affiliated with the crumbling Euro borderland (because they sound so much like Grim Reaper) most early critics were still clinging to like the 25th story ledge of a building.

As a fan, though, it would've been cool.

BBB's biggest asset may be its actual dividing of its assets. The Kill 'em All-ish crossfade of hot-headed riffery and full-on toothy aggression does wonders for about half the album. B-side pounders like "Piranha", "No Love", "And Then There Were None", and the especially tempestuous journey of "Deliver Us To Evil" find their path to a birthpool of changeful (but not everchanging) rhythms and structural mutations that aren't meaninglessly absorbed, but set a balance for those sections that are fleet-fingered and remorseless. These songs revel in this demiurgic margin that make them the most interesting, circumvented tracks on the disk.

Crowd killers "Strike of the Beast", "Exodus", chorus-heavy "A Lesson in Violence", and to a lesser degree, the rather colorless title cut and audience-pleasing "Metal Command" are the fervent wallopers of the post-British movement. Full of violence, virility, and vehemence, it makes me sleep better at night knowing they exist, especially the first three. As for the playful "Metal Command", like most anthems it doesn't really fluff my pillow, the song pretty moderate to me in all traits except the metal-coded message that always seemed obvious enough that I didn't need pop-up book images to show me what metal is.

But as far as the Kill 'em All coincidence goes, there's a contradistinctive attitude toward it not so much in musical tone, but in rows of lyrics that are much more impiously vocal as well as bloodthirsty (which is where my 'ol lady who, unbeknownst to me, was listening beyond my door, storms in and hollers over the music, "Is this that new album you bought?! Gimme that!", and rips the lyric sheet from my hands while telling me to turn the record off). Talk of Satan, Baphomet, black magic, princes of hell, Master Lucifer - are we calling this black metal as well or can we just finally admit (and grasp) that subjects of a wicked, occult nature were just par for the course, par for the times - scary, localized, and extreme to match the music ingesting it?

Then there's the membership that's surprisingly accomplished in its unanimity, all pulled together by a superb Prairie Sun production. Tasmanian devil Paul Baloff spews liquid flame into "the redness and the horror of blood swept across the land I stood", a shearing anti-talent who sent vocal coaches running for their lives. Gary Holt and Rick Hunolt trade solos with Hanneman/King-level chaos, perhaps even a bit better, while cinnabar-maned Tom Hunting looks possessed in his white-eyed field goal pose on the back cover. Yeah, Rob McKillop's there, too.

Celebrated a hundred ways to Tuesday, up-down-right-left to stand squarely in the winner's circle, BBB maintains its stellar average that's seldom in dispute. It was almost a waste of time writing this review.

So anyway, my frazzled worry wart of an 'ol lady, inner sleeve in hand, feverishly phones her brother, my uncle (R.I.P. 6/26/17), and starts reading the pick of the lyrical litter - "I love to stab my victims until they're dead..." - to him. "He shouldn't be listening to this..." she says into the receiver. He, being about 30 at this time, had sparring matches with my grandparents about Hendrix, Zappa, and The Grateful Dead, so he's receptive to my plight and calms her worried ass down. Needless to say, I haven't pulled a Howard Unruh...yet.

"...if you think you can live, you're a fool..."