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Rust and blood. - 55%

Diamhea, February 7th, 2014

This is superior to it's companion piece Exhibit B: The Human Condition for a number of reasons. Without question, The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A's riffs have more of a fire lit under their collective ass, driving many of these tracks forward with a grotesque, stomping persona that grooves nearly as much as it thrashes. Holt and Altus deliver their discharges of landscape-razing distortion via a chunky, modern tone that features eardrum-rupturing ardor as it snatches the reins away from Gibson's vehement bass, which was the standout on the previous release.

The album still reeks of the blowhard, protracted songwriting style that has dogged most modern Exodus releases. It isn't quite as melodramatic and overlong as it's direct successor, but The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A could still stand to lose some of it's excess baggage. The pointless twelve minutes of silence that conclude "Bedlam 1-2-3" reeks of an attempt at injecting subtle humor into an otherwise dead serious collection of songs. Dukes delivers his paranoid rants via his usual coarse bark, but his approach is slightly more varied than on Shovel Headed Kill Machine and Exhibit B: The Human Condition for some reason. There are sporadic clean vocal passages during "Children of a Worthless God", which shows that he is at least trying to shuffle his vocal cards a bit. Regardless, the anti-war, anti-Muslim blabbering present here is extremely dated, even by the time of this album's release.

Exodus made an earnest effort at rebranding themselves as a serious modern thrash act after years of doing The Toxic Waltz, but few were sold on the idea without a Baloff or Souza delivering the lyrical venom required to pull off such a coup. The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A hasn't forsaken the almighty melody in an effort to make the scene, so there are still some catchy scorchers like "Funeral Hymn" and "Riot Act", both of which are standouts due to their focused delivery and killer instinct. Others like the overlong quasi-title track "The Atrocity Exhibition" almost seem to make a concerted effort at sounding as dissonant and mechanical as possible, ultimately going in one ear and out the other. Hunting holds a lot of the more meandering songs together, acrobatically bobbing and weaving through a number of thrash beats and faster, more modern percussive styles. To compare this material to Exodus' close East Coast brother Overkill, many of these songs wouldn't sound too out of place on Bloodletting or perhaps ReliXIV, both of which are still far superior at the end of the day due to a timeless frontman in Ellsworth.

This is where The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A finds itself fatally flawed, as Dukes is just not capable of spitting the torrents of syllables required to evoke the off-the-wall atmosphere so critical to the thrash formula. His gruff snarls aren't terribly offensive on their own, but I find his lyrics way more counterproductive towards Exodus' attempts at earning serious modern credibility. The band's inactivity throughout most of the '90s would seem to be an advantage toward avoiding much of that decade's "baggage" that brought down other popular acts like Anthrax, but Exodus almost seem to be going through the throes of their experimental phase a decade later than they should have.

The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A is far superior to it's direct successor and stylistic twin, so it at least has that to hang it's hat on. The album is undoubtedly frontloaded, with nearly all of the better cuts present during the first half. Ignore the protracted bores that pockmark the second half of the album and you might find something of value in it's haughty confines. Not a complete waste.