The new Exodus album, Blood In, Blood Out, features the return of two former members – vocalist Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza and guitarist Kirk Hammett. Souza, who was their vocalist from 1986-93 and again from 2002-2004, has apparently returned for good, while Hammett, who was a founder of the band before going on to join that other band (Metallica), contributes a guest solo on the title track.
By and large, long term fans have embraced Souza’s return, even though it meant the unceremonious dumping of previous frontman Rob Dukes. It’s a little unsettling, given that Dukes presided over what were perhaps Exodus’s most monstrously heavy albums (e.g., 2005’s ***Shovel Headed Kill Machine**). That, plus a war of words between Souza and Exodus in the press in which the band’s main man Gary Holt memorably referred to Souza as a “pile of crap” make the transition somewhat vexing.
Unsettling as it may be on paper, the changing of the guards has nonetheless yielded a terrific result with Blood In, Blood Out. The band does sound like it’s returning to the roots of its sound. Recent albums, especially the two Atrocity Exhibition albums, fierce as they were, found the band stretching into epic/conceptual territory, with songs often clocking in at 8-10 minutes in length. The songs here are shorter, ranging between three and seven minutes, and the gang shout vocals will no doubt remind the old school fans of Bonded by Blood.
The songs aren’t just shorter, they have a thrillingly fast thrashiness to them. The shift from more epic to more thrash-y may have as much to do with Holt’s status as the more-or-less permanent replacement for Jeff Hanneman in Slayer. The riffs overall blaze by with a speed and intensity that’s reminiscent of that band.
Opener “Black 13″ starts off with an intriguingly mechanistic intro, an understated foreboding of what’s to come before the band kicks into high gear. The fourth track, “Salt the Wound,” features loads of the aforementioned shout vocals, and Hammett’s guitar solo nay not sound markedly different from his work with Metallica, the interplay between it and Holt’s chunky riffs is exhilarating. By the time the shouted chorus of following track, “Body Harvest,” kicks in, listeners will have a hard time resisting shouting along. The second half of the album is as pummeling as the first, with “Numb” being the likeliest standout, featuring a panoply of foreboding thrash and generalized shreddery.
On its own merits, Blood In, Blood Out continues Exodus’s winning streak since their reformation in the early 00s. The circumstances leading up to it may have been less-than-ideal, but it’s hard to argue with the end result.
A previous version of this article appeared in whatzup.