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Blood In, Blood Out

Nuclear Blast (2014)
Rating: 8.5/10

It all seemed to happen so quickly; Rob Dukes ousted and Steve “Zetro” Souza back in after a ten-year absence. But whatever shenanigans occurred behind the scenes I for one was happy that one of thrash metal’s most distinctive voices was back at the helm, and so to an extent there was a nervous anticipation for what is the 11th episode in this band’s career.

Now, it’s not as if Souza has been lacking the larynx practice after he’s been blowing doors and causing havoc with his fiery Hatriot combo, so for me I kind of knew what to expect with Blood In, Blood Out, and although a tad disappointed with the cover art I’m happy to say that this is another fully-loaded thrash barrage from start to finish that should please die-hard Exodus and thrash fans in general.

Deep down I was concerned that this new outing was going to be a rather rushed affair and I’m unsure as to what type of influence Souza had apart from delivering those snappy vocal rasps, but overall this is a volatile addition to the Exodus arsenal and an album that throughout punishes, particularly in the guitar department as we’d come to expect from Gary Holt and Lee Altus. Nevertheless, one can never overlook the pounding percussion of Tom Hunting or the belligerent bass lines of Jack Gibson, and with all that in mind we’re taken through a shredding machine of 11 tracks which rattle in for just over an hour of punishment.

Okay, so it’s not an innovative comeback, but hey, I’ve long forgotten the days of when thrash bands attempted to be funky and I certainly prefer an old school approach instead of the bruising Dukes-fronted muscularity, and so as each track hurtles by I’m just happy that it’s pretty much the same ol’ same ol’ for the thrash veterans.

‘Black 13’ begins with some unexpected electronic experimentation and I was a touch concerned that Exodus were going to go all Morbid Angel on us for a minute, but thankfully it’s far from it as they set us up for a crunching six-minutes of flesh conflict marching through the ears with blazing solos, fiery riffs and Souza’s typically eager and choppy sneers. The opening has a hint of Slayer with its fusillade; Altus and Holt gunning for victims and just waiting to complement that hurtful drum assault.

It’s strange how over the years the classic Exodus sound has grown on me, because for me their debut, Bonded By Blood (1985), was always their work of art and a pummelling that was difficult to beat, but now I appreciate those other earlier works and in turn find that by returning to the glories of Pleasures Of The Flesh (1987), Fabulous Disaster (1989) and, to a lesser extent, Impact Is Imminent (1990), I can finally revel in this air of predictability. That’s not to say that Blood In, Blood Out is tiresome – far from it – but in a sense you know what’s coming and the band are just so happy to tear the flesh with those sizzling wilds solos and grating vocals.

‘Black 13’ just doesn’t let up, and neither does that title track which seethes with utter fury built upon Gibson’s relentless slamming, and when Souza hurls “Tonight we’re gonna fight like it’s 1985” you had better just join in the good, friendly violent fun or else stay out of the way of this juggernaut. With those archetypal gang chants and that ever-present trundling bass the title track is a monster of a tune featuring some fantastic slower injections of groove metal.

If it’s thrash of the slow-building variety you’re after mind, then look no further than the avalanche that is ‘Collateral Damage’ where I’m sure as hell Gibson reduces his digits to gory stumps and Hunting wallops his kit into bloody submission. Suddenly, Exodus are walking hand in hand with fellow thrash titans Overkill, doing what they do best in the sense that this is just straight down the line, sweat-soaked thrash Armageddon not for the faint hearted.

And the downpour just refuses to let up; ‘Salt The Wounds’ drips with old school melody and even features original member Kirk Hammett thrashing away. I dunno, maybe Hammett’s finally bored at the fact Metallica hasn’t thrashed hard since 1987, but it’s certainly one of the album’s finer points featuring a staggering display of juddering bass and jackhammer percussion.

Elsewhere, I have to pick my way through the human debris and shuffle numerous other top-notch head crushers; mainly ‘Body Harvest’ with its bruising intro thrash, the hostile ‘BTK’ (featuring Testament vocalist Chuck Billy) as a homage to the notorious Wichita serial killer, the dastardly ‘Numb’ with its worming opening chords, and the equally lengthy ‘Food For The Worms’ which kicks like a mule in all departments but one cannot help be reduced to slop by that vicious drum hail.

I’m sure some will probably mock the rather straightforward zip of this opus, but for me this is what classy thrash metal is all about and with Andy Sneap’s production packing a mighty punch I can’t see how anyone in their right mind can find major faults with this apocalyptic serenade. Blood In, Blood Out is an expression of fury and a fitting return to that old school rampage… so dive in and mosh up!

Neil Arnold