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All hyperbole aside... - 40%

hells_unicorn, November 19th, 2012

Like many fans of old school thrash metal, I'm not particularly big on the concept of rerecording an entire classic album, especially given the inherent inferiority of modern thrash recording techniques. This isn't to say that all modern sounding "gray" thrash metal is necessarily bad, but it largely pales in comparison to the rawer, leaner and meaner approach that ruled the tape-trading world in the 1980s. However, Exodus is definitely treading in dangerous waters in attempting to rework their magnum opus "Bonded By Blood" with the same approach that gave us "Shovel Headed Kill Machine". The sound on said 2005 Exodus album, which has since become the standard of their present sound, is possessed of a certain level of charm from a standpoint of sound levels and heaviness but doesn't really work well within the template of 80s thrash.

It has been stated that this inferior rendering of "Bonded By Blood" dubbed "Let There Be Blood" is borderline metalcore, which is true in a sense, but also somewhat deceptive. This is more along the lines of what a metalcore band attempting a modernized version of retro-thrash would sound like, and the result is very different from a typical Trivium or As I Lay Dying album. You can hear some frightening similarities between the vocalists of both those groups and Rob Dukes' gimpy, pseudo melodeath shout; a sound heavily borrowed from the Anders Friden catalog of the early 2000s, but otherwise the character of the music is a bastardized, yet clearly non-metalcore take on the style. The formula has varying degrees of offensiveness, the worst offenders being the slower songs like "No Love" which listen like a mishmash of mid 90s Pantera worship with a sliver of 90s Overkill when the tempo picks up.

By the same token, when the faster and somewhat more busy songs are in question, this album starts to take on something akin to a poor man's "Bloodletting" or "Necroshine". Specifically on "Exodus", "Metal Command" and "Piranha" the feel is a bit more agitated and manages to work a little better with the modern production character, almost as if channeling some of the stronger elements of recent works along the lines of what Heathen and Death Angel have been putting out, or at least that of Dublin Death Patrol. From a purely instrumental standpoint, everything is in good working order, from the wild guitar soloing to the bruising feel of the riffs and the battery of the bass and drums. Nevertheless, the fatal flaw in all of this is that even when at its best, this album shouts out the shortcomings of its stylistic attributes in relation to the original versions of these songs, as if an elaborate art work that confesses its own lack of purpose.

It can be said with confidence that this album came out as good as it could have given the musicians involved and the professed goal of modernizing the songs of "Bonded By Blood". The problem lay in the very concept of trying to modernize a classic and legendary album in the first place, not to mention tapping an inferior vocalist with the task of filling the shoes of the dearly departed icon Paul Baloff. Anyone who has heard the original album in question and treats it with the level of devotion that it is worthy of will not be able to get much enjoyment out of this, though it wouldn't be impossible for younger fans who just recently discovered Bay Area thrash metal through the present works of several reformed outfits from the 80s to like what's on here. If it weren't for these songs already existing in a superior form and the fact that Rob Dukes isn't a convincing front man, this could maybe pass for a 2nd rate 90s Overkill album, but as is it isn't really much to even sneeze at, let alone blow money on.