The importance of Steve “Zetro” Souza‘s return to Exodus shouldn’t have been lost on anyone familiar with the band. Although the released during his absence were certainly not without merit, the gremlin-esque quality that Steve (and Paul Baloff before him) had to his voice was a key ingredient in what are now considered some of the band’s best records. It tied the band to a certain tongue-in-cheek sensibility that was something I always felt they shared with AC/DC; a fun-factor that was one of their most intriguing qualities.With Blood In, Blood Out, they have taken the lessons of the last decade and merged them with the aesthetics that they used in the creation of Fabulous Disaster. The result is one of the finest records in the band’s storied catalogue.
After a brief intro (which could fool you into thinking you’re listening to a Prong album) Blood In, Blood Out wastes no time kicking into high-gear with “Black 13”, a song about a hellish game of roulette. I was immediately shocked at how vital and energized the whole band sounds, Tom Hunting‘s drum work being completely on point, Gary Holt‘s riffs leaping from the headphones with a purity of thrash intent that puts recent Testament works to shame. “Salt the Wound”, my personal favourite track on the record, works a “Chemi-Kill”-style groove with Zetro howling like a banshee over top of the pocket, giving what I would call his finest vocal performance to date.
There are no bad tracks on this album; every song is perfectly and painstakingly constructed to provide maximum impact, with Gary Holt proving beyond a shadow of a doubt why he was the only logical choice to replace Jeff Hanneman in Slayer. Lightning fast shredders like “Body Harvest” give way to mid-paced monsters like “My Last Nerve” without ever letting up on the intensity.
As if things couldn’t get any better, the album was produced perfectly. Gary, along with production partner Andy Sneap, have treated these songs with surgically precise tones, not leaving a single note out of place. While I always thought that previous Exodus records sounded just a little shallow in terms of rhythm guitar production, here that specific element hits like a jackhammer. The bottom-end is dominated by Tom Hunting‘s kick drums, while Jack Gibson‘s bass guitar is used more to texture the riffs and is a little more up in to the mid-range. This is textbook thrash production for the 21st century, and all the kiddies out there need to take notes.
With Blood In, Blood Out, Holt and co. have shown why they remain such a vital force in thrash metal. This is one of the finest thrash records of the last ten years and destroys nearly all challengers. I LOVE this record, and you will too. Exodus have, after 29 years, created the definitive successor to their classic debut. I shit you not.