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Let There Be Blood

Zaentz (2008)
Rating: 9.5/10

For those unfamiliar, Exodus are and have likely always been one of the best kept secrets of the thrash metal genre. In thrash circles the band are credited alongside Metallica as the birth of the genre, followed by bands such as Slayer, Heathen and Testament. In my youth, their wild burst of aggression for Torrid Records in the US, entitled Bonded By Blood (1985), was as good as metal could get. My friends and I raged (while inebriated mostly) many, many times over the years to this classic of the metal genre giving rise to my first experiences with “the pit”. As with many fans, I was not excited to hear that Exodus was re-recording this legendary album, but I was, admittedly, curious.

If there has been one thing Exodus’ reunion has taught us, it’s that Gary Holt is as trustworthy a name as they come. He has taken Exodus to unbelievable new levels in this millennium while staying true to the heart of the band and it’s because of this that the “new” Exodus commands respect.

Let There Be Blood is no exception to this rule. Produced by Holt himself, the album is intended to give the original “the benefit of modern production” rather than replace the original and is titled differently to accentuate that idea. The album also includes all-new artwork that revisits the original cover and a bonus track of ‘Hell’s Breath’, a song written during this time frame but never recorded until now.

It’s hard having so many memories dedicated to an album when trying to give a re-recording a fair shake. The band has obviously tried to make this as faithful as they can to the original and I love that about it. This doesn’t seem to be about Gary Holt making this the album he always wanted it to be or something he thought would be better if he changed this or that. The album sounds pretty much the same, just much bigger and more pristine. As with most 80s recordings, the original has a tin sound quality that is absent here.

The title track, ‘Exodus’ and ‘Metal Command’ benefit the most from the new production. ‘Bonded By Blood’ sounds insane to be honest. While the original holds a special place in my life, Rob Dukes more than proves his worth on this song (which he’s likely been singing every night for years now). I have always been on the fence about my enjoyment of his vocals but he sounds great, in particular, on this song. He sings it like he means it. Likewise, ‘Exodus’ continues to bring a unified feeling to the pit with its “us against them” lyrics and massively aggressive guitars. ‘Metal Command’ sounds the most different in my opinion. It’s a much overlooked song. Lyrically, it’s slightly more immature than the rest of the album, but it’s also a lot less violent! The guitars sound like freakin’ buzzsaws on the re-recording and the boost gives it some deserved attention. The whole album just sounds super tight, as if the band has been playing it for a good long time (and they have).

This is one of the very few albums where every song is an absolute classic that deserves your time. Although it surprises a good many longtime thrash fans, Let There Be Blood is nearly as classic as the original. One of the main reasons is vocalist Rob Dukes. Just like the late Paul Baloff drew you into the original, Dukes pulls you into this re-recording at the very beginning and holds you down until you admit that he deserves to be in Exodus. This album is both a defining moment and a respectful look to the past.

Mark Fisher