I will first decree my absolutely unfailing judgment to then state my quite possibly faulty and super lame reasons: Bonded By Blood is the greatest thrash album ever. The fact that so many people, many of them avowed “thrashers,” so criminally forsake this band, and particularly this release, is a testament to just how intense of a statement it is. Recorded in 1984, but withheld from release for a full year, Bonded By Blood suffered from being released when the other “classic” thrash bands were already established and on the way, leading to it wrongly being classified as derivative and carelessly overlooked.
Bonded By Blood is an album with nothing to hide, it shows its full colors right from the first, crushing riff. The guitars are sharp and aggressive, the drums pounding, loud and hyperactive and, most importantly, the riffs are downright brilliant. Of the album’s many strong points this is the strongest; every riff is extremely memorable. Not only so, but every transition is also intelligently crafted and instantly memorable, riffs don’t simply follow each other, they appear to logically conclude or compliment each other. The songwriting is a mixture of riff-based construction and, well, real songwriting and it works marvelously. The riffs have the strength of true motifs, and the flow of it all is so seamless that it demonstrates either unbridled, inspire genius or some serious hard work, either of which is greatly admirable. The secret of the riff is that beneath all their aggression lay actual melodies, each one catchy, memorable and smart, and most importantly, brilliantly conductive to the next one.
Now it’s not just that the songs and the riffs are great, they could not be performed by a better group of musicians, nor could they be mixed more appropriately. The performances here are feral, chaotic and wild, particularly the drumming, which somehow manages to sound extremely angry and violent through every second of every song on the album, while still being precise and exciting. The solos are wild yet melodic, and I cannot emphasize enough on the beauty of Tom Hunting’s frantic percussive rampage. The instrumental atmosphere is that of barely controlled chaos, of nihilistic violent madness, yet the compositions and the performances are subtly elegant and wonderfully crafted. The healthy amounts of distortion in the guitars and reverb in the mix only help to enhance the experience, as riff after brilliant riff and fill after incredible fill fly by in concise and hard-hitting succession.
And so we arrive at this album’s most controversial aspect: the vocals. Paul Baloff is not a technically gifted vocalist, nor is he a well-trained one. He is not all that tuneful, nor necessarily is he always singing in key, in fact, more often than not he is shouting more than he is singing. This is exactly why he is the perfect vocalist for this album, and why his vocals and his lyrics elevate it to the status of an absolute classic. Thrash metal prided itself on occasionally tackling subject matter that was a bit more “street,” a bit more “real” than the mythical and satanic preoccupations of their heavy metal predecessors. However, they often did so from a distance, as observers and judges, not participants. Exodus take no such stance; even though Satanic imagery abounds in the album, no other record in thrash is as degenerate, as twisted or as genuinely terrifying as Bonded By Blood. The lyrics deal with violence, misanthropy and hatred in shameless glorification, made all the more impacting by the fact that Baloff doesn’t sound like some high and mighty dragon slayer, nor like an otherworldly demon; he sounds like a seriously unbalanced man that you may actually meet on the street.
All these elements come together to make a mechanically seamless, aesthetically brilliant experience of pure, unfiltered and unadorned violence. Make no mistake folks; this is the ultimate experience in Bay Area transcendental decadence, a monument to the darkest side of human nature carved from the mightiest and most splendorous of riffs, a veritable symphony of evil: in short, the heavy metal Maldoror. Be very afraid.
Turn to look at Baphomet
From below and not above
Welcome to my sacrifice
Tonight there’ll be no love