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A classic, yes, but not perfect - 82%

Metalcoholic, August 21st, 2008

Exodus, one of the ''big four'' of thrash. What, they're not one of them?! Why? Because Anthrax got the fame for their ''humour'' and introduction of rap into thrash metal. Because Slayer caught the public eye due to their overtly satanic output. Because Mustaine, after being kicked out of Metallica, had ''set the world afire'' so loudly that his band was one of the big four even before he had started out to begin with.Why is this band so overlooked? They were around exactly at the same time as those aforementioned bands, if not earlier. These guys were kicking asses in Frisco while Metallica were still struggling in the Sunset Boulevard of L.A. with the hairspray-filled ''metal'' audience (ever wondered why there's so much smog in L.A?).

From what I've understood, the album was delayed for almost a year after it was initially finished. It's easy to make a conclusion that Exodus would've been rightfully regarded as one of ''the big four'' of thrash had this album been released in 1984. (Don't worry, I don't use the term ''big four'' very often. When it's about old-school thrash, I use the term ''big fifty'' or hundred to describe all the good bands of that era).

The cover artwork is cool, it's that eternal evil vs. good scenario, something world will never cease to wonder about. That's about all I can (or will) say about it, because overanalyzing art is for cynics and fools.

Production? Solid. While a bit muffled (in the vein of 80's thrash standards), every instrument stands out pretty well and, thank god, you don't have to turn the volume button all the way to the south-east, because this will kick your ass anyway (unlike Testament's ''The Legacy'', god, I can't listen to that album with a ''shuffle playlist'' -option on. Each time their song ends, another one, by some other band, comes out intolerably loud because of the shitty production).

The pacing on this album is very well though out. Between the fast neckbreakers, we have slow-paced, bouncy punishers, and it adds to the music's variety greatly. I hope they would've included some variety in the songs themselves, too. Sometimes it feels like that those mid-tempo grooves last for the entire song (which for me is a bit too long) and the fast tracks feel like you're continuously driving 30 mph over the speed limit. It's nice to do speeding for a while and show off to your buddies, but you grow tired of it soon. Same applies to the songs here.

There's no problem about songs themselves. Every one of them is filled with great riffs and drumwork. And that pacing, like I said: when the title track has massacred the entire club, including the bartender, it's time to take a deserved beer and relax with the mid-tempo grooves of ''And Then There Were None'' (see, even the name suits the situation). But then it's time to fight again, with the faster ''A Lesson in Violence'' and the time to relax comes again after those bastards have begun to obey ''The Metal Command''. The enemies are up to you to decide. I like to think them of as emos (yeah, I know, not very original, but still necessary) while listening to this album. Back then Exodus guys probably regarded hair bands as their mortal enemies. There's not much doubt about it actually, there are pretty straightforward capital punishment, they don't hide anything. Not any ''backwards-hidden-satanic-message'' bullshit either.

Most of the solos are a bit reminiscent of Kirk Hammett's work on ''Kill 'em all''. Not surprising, considering Kirk was one of the founding members of Exodus and probably a big influence in the start.

Lyrics? Like I said, they're pretty violent, although in a good way. I'm glad to see no trace of any Satanismus here, this is the real thing. Some years later, when grunge hit the spotlight, Kurt ''I-swear-I-don't-have-a-gun'' Cobain obtained the status of a teenage icon with his ''rape and kill me'' lyrics, but this is the real deal. When you're mad, desperate, frustrated and disillusioned, alt-rock says: kill yourself. Thrash says: kill EVERYONE ELSE! See the difference between metal and alt-rock?

I remember one interview where Gary Holt was asked about the meaning of the lyrics for ''Piranha'', probably by those PMRC-buttheads. He said something like: ''why can't we write about piranhas? should we sing of trout, salmon, or tuna fish''?

Needless to say, the vocal delivery by late Mr. Paul Baloff is amazing. He's certainly not the best singer out there, let alone the best thrash singer, but when it comes down to how well the vocals suit the lyrics, Baloff is the man to pick. What annoys me at times is the excessive amount of reverb in his vocals, although I understand that they were looking for a bit more intimitating approach than usual, to match the powerful lyrics. But at times it makes me feel like that the rest of the band recorded their instruments in the studio proper, while Paul just kicked the vocal booth down and recorded the vocals in a bathroom.

Overall, we have a very solid, classic release here, although I must say that in my book this is not Exodus' best album. Songs are awesome, there are some flaws in the pacing and in the production, but overall, a classic of early Bay area -thrash. If you wanna get a good taste of how the REAL pioneers of thrash metal sounded like, put this on your shopping cart.