EXODUS Exhibit B:
The Human Condition
…“Exhibit B” is a return to thrash metal form. The concept of the two albums as a whole deals with “man’s inhumanity to man” in a variety of ways.
Certain topics, like a strong disdain for Christianity & Islamic Extremism/Fascism are nothing new for the band in its current incarnation. But they are now covering real life horror topics such as serial killers and school shootings that their old thrash chums SLAYER are usually known for. In addition, there’s an occasional attack on far right reactionary politics – a topic the band (via longtime guitarist & principal songwriter Gary Holt) has garnered plenty of controversy with, starting back in 2004 with their song “Scar Spangled Banner” off of that year’s comeback album “Tempo of the Damned”.
The album kicks off with a soft guitar intro that leads into the end riff from the song “Bedlam 123” off of “The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A”. Or I could say that particular song ended with the opening riff to “Exhibit B”’s opening track “The Ballad of Leonard & Charles”. From there, the song kicks into high aggressive thrash gears, with a barrage of killer riffing from new-ish 2nd lead guitarist Lee Altus (also from the old school Bay Area thrash band HEATHEN, whom replaced longtime guitarist Rick Hunolt six years ago). The song deals with the notorious exploits of serial killers Leonard Lake & Charles Ng, a duo whose crimes placed a very dark cloud over the San Francisco Bay Area with a number atrocities they committed against mostly women and videotaping their torturous misdeeds before killing their victims and burying the bodies on their property. I still remember the news coverage on them. Lake killed himself with a cyanide tablet in police custody . Charles Ng (seen on the left) is still in prison, where he thankfully remains for the rest of his days on death row.
Next is “Beyond the Pale” – another kick ass thrash assault – brings the guitar riffage damn near into TESTAMENT melodic-thrash territory. Actually, quite a few songs on here kinda have that TESTAMENT vibe in the riffs, but with more bite and the complicated dexterity that Gary Holt is known for.
“Class Dismissed: A Hate Primer” covers the more notable school shootings from the Kent State shooting in 1970 and leading up and probably surpassing the Columbine High Massacre (1999) with the lyrics told from the shooter’s hateful nihilistic perspective.
“Burn Hollywood Burn” (no relation to the PUBLIC ENEMY song from their “Fear of A Black Planet” album) blows off some pent up steam at the ridiculousness of Hollywood celebritydom where even those with absolutely no talent have garnered fame & fortune well past their 15 minutes have gone up.
Lyrically-speaking, the song that got me the most was “Nanking”, chronicling the vicious exploits the Japanese soldiers did to the Chinese citizens (men, women & children) of this capital city in 1937, during WWII. Some of the vile experiments were touched upon in the “exploitation horror” film MEN BEHIND THE SUN, which is how I first heard about the atrocities that the Japanese had done during the war to its Asian neighbors (click the title link for wikipedia info). Interesting enough, there was a Nazi Party member John Rabe whom was deeply offended by the actions of the Japanese soldiers, including raping then mutilating women and children and beheading everyone with swords for sport, that many took refuge under his care. From my own research, Rabe tried to get Hitler to stop the Japanese from committing these reprehensible acts, but apparently Hitler had no interests in offending their ally. Of course, given the abhorable acts the Nazi’s committed during the Holocaust, this non-action is not surprising. According to wikipedia Rabe denounced his membership in The Nazi Party). There’s quite a bit of photo documentation of these exploits online. Supposedly as many as 350,00 may have perished in this attack known as “the rape of Nanking” – no exact number is known.
Though there is literature available, this massacre is not widely known when compared to other events that happened throughout WWII. A video documentary also exist, titled THE RAPE OF NANKING (click on the title link for more info., or order from AMAZON. And there are other titles and books now available on this subject. Kudos to EXODUS for giving me a history lesson.
The album ends appropriately (true to EXODUS form) with a no-holds-barred thrash anthem “Good Riddance” – a nihilistic ode to the human race’s existence on this planet. Musically-speaking, it’s my favorite track on the album.
“Exhibit B” marks new singer Rob Dukes’s 4th release with EXODUS. His addition was highly controversial for longtime fans. Dukes’s “hardcore-ish” screams being somewhat reminiscent to the type of so-called “scream-o” or “core-metal” vocals made popular by Phil Anselmo (in PANTERA). Not that previous vocalists – the late Paul Baloff and Steve Zetro Souza – were the most musical of metal frontmen. Souza though can actually sing in melody (albeit his voice was often compared to the late Bon Scott to a certain degree).
On “Exhibit B” Dukes actually adds a touch of range (and even melody), which is a welcome touch to an otherwise very angry, brutal and still catchy-sounding thrash metal album. Being released in the midst of the current neo-thrash revival that’s taking place with a variety of younger bands like WARBRINGER, SKELTONWITCH and EVILE, “Exhibit B” shows these newer bands that EXODUS is still THE band to aspire to in the songwriting & guitar riff department.
Other old school bands like SLAYER and TESTAMENT still carried the thrash banner amidst the ever-changing trends in the metal scene and music industry in general). Even METALLICA and MEGADETH have returned to their thrash metal roots. But neither has been as rejuvenated as EXODUS. With the previously mentioned “Tempo of the Damned”, it is safe to say EXODUS is solely responsible with thrash metal’s return to the underground metal scene. For that, I am truly grateful.
I think “Exhibit B: The Human Condition” is EXODUS‘s best since their 1985 debut “Bonded By Blood”! You can check out the album tracks on the band’s myspace page: HERE
If I have to grade the album, it DEFINITELY gets 5 stars or an A+!!!