Review Summary: One of the few 2000s Thrash albums with staying power.
As many of the thrash bands of the 80s and early 90s saw rising fortunes in the 2000s, following the death of the nu-metal craze and the rise of more shred-friendly modern metal, most came out with albums that capitalized on their past successes. Some of these ended up being pretty good (Endgame, The Formation of Damnation, Worship Music), but few really had lasting appeal beyond being good efforts by veteran bands. Only two really stand out as worthwhile albums to return to today - Overkill and Exodus's 2010 efforts, Ironbound and Exhibit B.
Exodus had a more interesting run in the 2000s than most of their peers. Tempo of the Damned was the requisite "good comeback thrash album", with Souza returning for vocals, smooth production, and several catchy tracks. However, Gary Holt shifted the sound of the band towards heavier, darker, and somewhat more brutal territory with Shovel Headed Kill Machine, which utilized the new and decidedly more frenzied Rob Dukes on vocals, along with a unique, scratchy guitar sound. The more abrasive sound was then re-utilised on the more polished but bloated Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A, which was something of a failed experiment. Exhibit B showed the band attempting a similar formula to Exhibit A, but with less repetitive songwriting and more variety.
Exhibit B has probably the best production job Andy Sneap ever attempted, with a nice loud, clanky bass tone and a very clear, percussive sound from the guitars. This works very well for the album, which moves in several different directions with its style. The extended thrashy jams of the last album find their way on here, with tracks like Beyond the Pale
and March of the Sycophants
doing much of the same as that album, albeit with better organized and more exciting writing overall. There are also more attempts at slower and melodic writing here, with Nanking
, Hammer and Life
generally settling into a tidy mid-pace groove with bursts of melody injected. The overall quality of the songwriting is much more consistent than before, with better riffs and more variety between them.
The main improvement is that the extended song lengths of Exhibit B feel much more justified. Even the more blistering tracks, like Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)
, have more shifting structures and dynamic writing. That track in particular manages to be the highlight of the album, due to a crushing mid section and a bag of superb riffs that it cycles through very smoothly. Similarly, the longest track on the album, The Sun Is My Destroyer
manages its pace very well, with a long, slow mid section with some great solos and a voice-filtered melody line that helps it stand out from the rest. In addition, Dukes fits Exodus the best here out of all his contributions; the more aggressive, darker sound is well complimented by Dukes' more unhinged screams, compared to the more traditionally "rock n' roll" Souza. The usual highlights with the rest of the instrumentation remain, with the eternally underrated Tom Hunting serving as the backbone for Gary Holt's ever improving riffs with his speedy, energetic and intricate thrash beats. Jack Gibson also has his fair share of good moments, with his clanky bass lines adding to the scratchy abrasiveness of the rest of the band's sound, and with the technical chops of his time in Vile
to support it.
Whilst still not exactly any kind of reinvention of the wheel, Exhibit B manages to outperform many of its peers and is still a fun listen to this day, thanks to actually progressing from the band's earlier output with its darker, more melodic sound and slightly more progressive song structures. As a result, it probably manages to be the third best Exodus album, and one of the few thrash albums from the 2000s with any staying power.