Review Summary: Exodus finds a sweet spot, and delivers yet again
What is there to say about Exodus at this point? Their classic stuff is some of the best thrash to offer, they have one of the great rhythm guitarists in all of thrash in Gary Holt (only Dave Mustaine and Jeff Waters are absolutely above him), and have stayed remarkably consistent as they've aged. But they've never made the same album twice. Even 2008's re-recording of the classic Bonded by Blood sounded very, very different from the original. Every Exodus release has something particular about it that easily distinguishes it from all the others. So it's no surprise that their latest album, Exhibit B: The Human Condition, continues on this path and throws in plenty of new wrinkles that give this album it's own unique brand. Too bad it won't sound like the next one.
Compared to Exhibit A, Exhibit B speeds up the Exodus attack, while also throwing in more melody and variation to the formula. Due to the length of most of the tracks, you'll get multiple riffs per song, and oftentimes tracks have multiple sections (like progressive metal), executed to perfection of course. It really is impressive how skilled each member of this band is at their respective instrument. The result is an extremely tight, focused effort that allows for very creative solos and lead breaks, surprisingly good guitar harmonies, some cool atmospheric sections in the beginning and end of the album (as well as dead in the middle), and a lot of variation from track to track. Be it the guitar harmonies of Beyond the Pale and Good Riddance (in the chorus and solo respectively), the swagger of March of the Sycophants, the pure rage of Class Dismissed, the melody and articulate lyrics in Downfall, the gloom and doom of Nanking, or the light speed assaults of The Ballad of Leonard and Charles, each track has something to like about it that is its own. Just like the album in relation to the discography, no two tracks sound alike here. And if they do, it's not for very long.
I know it's cool to hate Rob Dukes, but this is definitely his best vocal performance with the band. His vocals on Shovel were just a generic rasp, while Exhibit A and LTBB featured more of a high pitched snarl. He still uses the snarl on here, but it's much less screamy and more listenable. He also throws in a good amount of diversity, showcasing a Souza-like sneer (Hammer and Life), rough, low-register vocals that harken back to early death metal (The Sun Is My Destroyer), and an odd, half-clean half-snarl approach on Democide and Nanking. Dukes always fit the music for Exodus, but I'd never thought I'd see the day when there was any extended diversity to his voice, so that's a pleasant surprise. He's still no Chuck Billy, but he's much improved.
Bottom line, Exodus brought their A game when they made Exhibit B. The length (12 tracks, 74 minutes) can be a turnoff for those who like their thrash short and sweet, but trust me, the flawlessly executed riffs, solos, speed, and honestly just the quality of the tracks will make this album fly by, and seem much closer to your average thrash album length of ~50 minutes. The only stumbling point is The Sun Is My Destroyer, which is overly long and stuffed with a few too many ideas. The classic days are gone and aren't coming back, but no Exodus fan has any reason to be missing them. This is very much modern thrash, Exodus just does it better than just about everyone else.
Recommended Tracks (if I had to pick 4):
The Ballad of Leonard and Charles
Beyond the Pale
Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)