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Too pretentious for its own good, but not bad - 72%

Agonymph, April 27th, 2008

Exodus has once again succeeded in releasing an album which is quite controversial. Yet, this time it's not the cover art or the lyrics which have provoked people, it's the actual songs. 'The Atrocity Exhibition - Exhibit A' contains heavy, mostly lengthy modern Thrash songs and either the length of the songs, how modern they are or both has insulted many longtime fans. Many people claim that the band on this album just isn't Exodus anymore and although there is some truth in that statement, I think we have to keep in mind that Exodus will always be a reflection of Gary Holt's feelings and influences, rather than a band that will desperately stick to the niche they carved for themselves in the eighties.

With that in mind, Gary Holt must have been heavily influenced by Machine Head's most recent offering; long songs with many changes, guitar solos and a long time to build up. But while I considered 'The Blackening' from Machine Head one of 2007's greatest albums, 'The Atrocity Exhibition' is pretty much a hit-and-miss affair. While the long songs on 'The Blackening' mostly make sense to me, those on 'The Atrocity Exhibition' sometimes have the tendency to drag on too long. Something which actually occurred to me when I saw the band live recently. A song like 'Funeral Hymn' is just long enough on the album, it's actually a good song, but when hearing it live, it bored the hell out of me and I even hurt my jaws sighing. I don't know why.

That doesn't mean all the songs on here are utter crap. 'Children Of A Worthless God' can easily be measured with the better Exodus-epics. It wasn't much of a surprise to me that Lee Altus co-wrote this song. The guitarist who also plays in Heathen is easily the best songwriter in the Bay Area scene, as previously portrayed on Heathen's brilliant albums. There are some great riffs, melodies and solos in this song. Rob Dukes even does a great, Zetro-ish, clean vocal line in the chorus. Damn, I miss Zetro. The point with this song is: even though it's eight and a half minutes, it feels like a lot less than - for instance - the three and a half from opening track 'Riot Act', probably the worst opening track Exodus has done so far.

Also great is the longest track of the album. 'The Atrocity Exhibition' is over ten minutes, but succeeds in remaining interesting all throughout the length of the song. The song features Gary Holt experimenting with dissonant chords and he does so quite successfully if you ask me. It's a relentless modern Thrash song which shows why we should be happy that Tom Hunting has returned to the band. I have nothing against Paul Bostaph, who did a sufficient job on 'Shovel Headed Kill Machine', but Exodus just needs Tom Hunting's drumming. And he is in optima forma in the title track. A lot of shifts and changes in the song, each being more vicious and merciless than the previous. And while Lee Altus mainly does the better solos on this album, Gary Holt's solo on this track is pure gold. It has a somewhat bluesy feel, which goes really well with the Sabbath-ish riff backing it. Lee's solo of course kicks ass too, but the riff backing it is the real neck-snapper here. I guess the difference between this song and the other long songs on this album, is that the changes in this one are a lot less predictable than the ones in, let's say, the horribly mind-numbing 'Iconoclasm'.

Apart from these two killer tracks, the album is an extreme case of hanging in the balance. There's a lot of that downtuned, 21st century Thrash, like 'As It Was, As It Soon Shall Be', which is a failed attempt to copy 'Blacklist' off of 'Tempo Of The Damned' to me. 'The Garden Of Bleeding' is incredibly uninspired as well. On the other hand, 'Bedlam 1-2-3' is an awesome closer. Especially that slow, creeping intro is amazing, but when the song speeds up (big-time!) it kills everything around you. And you might be pleasantly surprised by the hidden bonus track. I'm not going to ruin that secret for you.

It's not all crap, there are actually moments when you still can hear that Gary Holt was once the king of Thrash riffs, but overall, this album is a bit too pretentious for it's own good. It's definitely the worst thing Exodus has done since 'Force Of Habit', but some of the ratings this album has been given suggest that it's a piece of shit written and played by untalented musicians and that is of course not true. There are great songs on this album, but if Gary Holt wants to continue following this path, I suggest he puts on 'The Blackening' once more and tries to figure out what was REALLY the secret that made that album so interesting.

Oh and by the way, Gary, I know you probably don't want to, but: GET...ZETRO...BACK!