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well-done, though helped usher in whiffle-thrash - 75%

UltraBoris, October 18th, 2004

By 1987, thrash as a genre was basically out of the creative stage, well into the refinement stage, and entering the recession stage. The second Exodus album may have helped hinge the genre towards one of its most onerous developments: whiffle thrash.

Whiffle thrash, as practiced by bands like Sacred Reich and a thousand others, combines leftist-political and personal-violence lyrics with slightly weakened riffage, and a generally more poppy and upbeat production. While at times the work is still extremely enjoyable (Anthrax's "State of Euphoria"), there is also a huge potential for self-parody (Sacred Reich, "The American Way", Testament "Practice What You Preach"), and these efforts are not nearly as rotten-to-the-core as the thrash genre's evil progenitors: Slayer, Dark Angel, Kreator, etc etc...

And of course, add to that list, the first Exodus album. For 1985, a hallmark of brutality, that would've set the world afire in 1986, and completely ripped face had it been released on time in 1984. But by 1987, Exodus seemed to turn in a somewhat different direction. A 1986 demo with Baloff on vocals seemed to hint at Bonded by Blood Part II, but somewhere between that, and the release of this LP, things went in a more commercial direction.

Not overtly, incredibly so, of course. This is no Master of Puppets, and not even an Impact is Imminent or a The New Order. This does not drip with poseurrific lechery. It's just got sort of a soft production and a generally happy vocal delivery, combined with riffs that just don't hit hard with sawblades, like on the previous album. So I cannot pronounce this album BAD, I just cannot enjoy it in the context of its predecessor, and even the demo for it.

I keep mentioning this three-song demo: Seeds of Hate, Pleasures of the Flesh, and Brain Dead, all appeared on this LP. Brain Dead is the catchiest, most power-metallish number of the three, and would not have made quite as much sense on Bonded by Blood as the other two... even with Baloff's bizarro delivery, it is still melodic in a completely different way than, say, "And Then There Were None". There are sing-along choruses, and then there are sing-along choruses.

The other two, and also the non-demo tracks "Faster Than You'll Live to Be" and "Deranged", are Bonded-by-Blood thrashers, just with the aforementioned slightly cute production. This isn't the first-two-Razor speed metal holocaust, or even the slightly overcompressed sound of the third Overkill... this is basically Bonded by Blood, just without the edge. I cannot see Zetro going off at the crowd, demanding the blood of poseurs. Baloff was just a fucking maniac, and that showed in the entire band's performance. Here, we've got silly intros (title track, Deranged), random interludes (30 seconds), and the production, complete with that very recognisable not-quite-thrash lead guitar tone (you know it when you hear it!), as I mentioned, is just a slight bit poppish in that mid-80s-Judas-Priest style. Ram it Down, while sonically not close, is stylistically an equivalent.

The rest of the album? Try the political stuff of Chemi-Kill, and the generic aggression of Parasite - concepts that would come up later on such things as basically the whole Impact is Imminent album. They are pretty good songs... but you can see Zetro getting just a bit funny here: "tumors are growing in my spleen, the children are turning green". This isn't the persecution mania he would deliver on "I'm no patriot, just a hateriot", which is so over-the-top that it is believable again. This manages to be neither here nor there. See also his delivery in the opening line of "Til 'Death Do Us Part", which sounds like he's either just warming up, or trying his best Donny Osmond impression.

But, I rag on this album far too much. Exodus's first few are really quite good - it's only around Impact is Imminent where they fell off the map, and Force of Habit wasn't all that bad, and of course the new one is a crash-course in brain-fuck. There is some really great shit here... the title track alternates nicely between some rage riffs and that melodic riff... Chemi-Kill is not as cheesy as I had made it out to be, with the lyrics coming together quite nicely in that way only Zetro can do. Deranged, aside from the stupid intro (which is disconcerting in that it is twice as loud in the right channel as in the left), is quite awesome, as is Faster Than You'll Ever Live to Be, which Testament kindly borrowed and turned into "The Preacher".

Yep, listen to this, and you can hear good ideas being aped into bad ideas. But do listen, as it is a pretty good album. I find myself listening to it quite a bit, though again, expect no Bonded by Blood.