Review Summary: While it may not redefine the genre, Exodus produces yet another hard-hitting release that is more than worth the time it takes to sink in.
All throughout their career, Exodus have been given the short-end of the stick. After pioneering the Bay Area thrash sound, co-founder Kirk Hammet left to join Metallica, which later greatly eclipsed Exodus. It came almost like a slap to the face when the phrase “The Big Four” began to be thrown around, and Exodus wasn’t included (they were actually placed in “The Little Four”, which was made up of Overkill, Dark Angel, Testament, and Exodus). Most of their work has been regarded by critics as a good time, if not slightly 2nd-rate material. However, with “The Atrocity Exhibition…Exhibit A”, Exodus might show a different sound formula, but they’re still pumping out quality albums, which is more than Metllica or Anthrax can say.
“Tempo of the Damned” was the band’s reunion album, which featured Exodus roaring onto the modern-thrash scene with pure aggression, and was later mirrored by “Shovel Headed Kill Machine.” Returning this time around is drummer/co-founder Tom Hunting, who was absent on “Shovel Headed Kill Machine”, and is joined with guitarist Lee Altus from Heathen. Combined with Gary Holt (guitar), Jack Gibson (bass), and Rob Dukes (vocals), Exodus promised an album that would redefine the genre of thrash and be a landmark in the metal community.
First off, this is not going to redefine the genre in any way. Nothing here is going to cause some kind of revolution, or provoke a new way of writing thrash, nor is this going to be hailed a classic for the ages. However, “The Atrocity Exhibition…Exhibit A” features some of the best material Exodus has put out in awhile, due to its high-level of intensity and mature tones. Following along with the popular trend of a moody, instrumental intro, “A Call to Arms” comes in softly with a military-style drum roll and soothing guitar. It soon quickly shatters as the distortion is kicked on, and very quickly “Riot Act” blasts through the speakers, unleashing 2-years worth of pent-up frustration at failed governments, religion, and society in general. Rob Dukes immediately makes his presence known as he calls forth for listeners to “Rise up and revolt, Overthrow the government! Level all the temples, Destroy the monuments!
” Lee and Gary blaze forth on guitar, putting forth pulverizing, jack-hammer riffs and scorching solos, all the while being backed up by Hunting’s frantic double bass.
While most of the tracks don’t feature “Riot Act’s” blistering speed, they make up for it in their raw power. Tracks like “Funeral Hymn” and especially “Iconoclasm” feature lock-heavy riffs that buzz like chainsaws, all the while being met by Rob Dukes’ frantic screams. Many might found Dukes annoying, since has more of a “hardcore” sound due to his past punk bands that he performed in, but he varies his voice constantly. On the highlight track, “Children of a Worthless God”, Dukes even engages in clean singing during the chorus. He’s no Bruce Dickinson, but it’s a nice change-up of the snarls and screams that he is usually emitting (at top-quality, mind you). Gary and Lee show off just how strong they perform together with face-grinding riffs, mainly on the anthem-thrasher “Bedlam 123”, which is bound to send crowds into a mosh frenzy. Also, the addition to Lee to the line-up was a great choice, since Gary and Lee constantly team-up to deliver melting solo after solo. Tom Hunting is also a huge benefit to this album, especially on the crushing “Iconoclasm”, where Tom blasts open the song with a mini-solo before beating the song into submission with his kit.
Most of the tracks on “TAE…EA” reach over 6-minutes in length, so this takes some getting used to. The title track at first listen may seem like one of the most repetitive thrash songs ever written, but given time to sink in, it turns out to be a complete winner, as it’s pinched-riffs help Rob to deliver venom-filled lines of “You speak to the sky, and no one answers back!
” The length also seems to speak volumes about the maturity in the lyrical content on this album, since it all deals with religion, war, and government. Gone are the murder themed, almost light hearted one-liners present on “Tempo of the Damned” and “Shovel Headed Kill Machine”. This exhibit deals strictly with the plagues of society, and Exodus aim to show the world just how pissed off they are. Probably the best example would be anti-Islamic track “Children of a Worthless God”, which accuses Islamic extremists of “praising the death of the free” and wishing to see a “United States of Islam”. That’s not to say that Christianity doesn’t get its fair share of bashing, since the title track openly mocks those who follow God. Nothing in the modern world is safe from Rob Dukes’ wrath on “TAE…EA”, and the fact that the lyrics don’t have him dealing out constant swear words to get his point across is a huge plus.
What holds “TAE…EA” back is that Exodus over-hyped this album too much. Calling it an album to redefine the genre was a huge boast, and they didn’t accomplish it. The tracks are very long for a thrash album, and take many repeated listens to get into. With the title track being over 10-minutes long, many might just hit the skip button. Over time, however, the album will sink in, but it’s still disappointing to see it take so many listens just to get used to, then even more to actually enjoy the album thoroughly. That, and the track “Garden of Bleeding”, which comes off as a filler due to its placement between two great tracks (“Iconoclasm” and “Bedlam 123”) and it’s dry riffs, are what really will frustrate a lot of old-time fans, as well as newcomers.
Exodus might not have created a metal masterpiece, but they’ve created something that screams to be acknowledged and not taken lightly. “The Atrocity Exhibition…Exhibit A” is a huge success for the band, and shows off a new level of maturity that wasn’t seen by them yet. Tracks such as “Children of a Worthless God” and “Bedlam 123” are going to become staples at Exodus shows, and fans will eat them up when played live. So until Exodus hits society with “Exhibit B”, this exhibit should produce frequent visits from those who can accept the long song lengths.
Overall – 4/5
A Call to Arms/Riot Act
Children of a Worthless God
The Atrocity Exhibition