Sound: You'd be forgiven for thinking, upon hearing the first minute or so of Exodus' new album, that you had picked up the wrong record. The deceptively haunting and atmospheric acoustic intro leads you to believe that you are listening to a band with more emotional depth than Exodus. However, this is only a fleeting feeling as soon, the distortion kicks in and this album proceeds to kick your face in, and then pick you up for more. For hardcore Exodus fans, the first riff will seem familiar, and it is as it the riff they used to conclude their previous album; Exhibit A. This is purposeful as this album is intended to be a continuation of what Exodus started previously. And they have done so, with this album continuing with the same epic song structures and running length.
However, where Exodus fell flat last time due to a lack of diversity between songs, here they manage to keep the formula alive and maintain the listeners attention throughout the album. This is because they have diversified their songwriting somewhat. The material on this album is still Exodus to the core, but before where the songs suffered, they have been replaced by more interesting results. Exodus employs more varied tempos on this album and show an affinity toward strong melody's while not losing a shred of their heaviness and attitude. In terms of their performance, the band fires on all cylinders and rarely fail to hit the mark. Every instrument has a chance to step up to the plate and shine (I'm pretty sure I even heard a bass solo on "The Sun Is My Destroyer".) Gary Holt and Lee Altus should be particularity commended for their efforts. Not only do they effortlessly trade lighting fast solos, but the riffs themselves are more intricate, employing delicious harmonies as well as the usual crunchy thrash delights. And drummer Tom Hunting... all I can say is, I love you Tom.
Andy Sneap once again helmed the production of this album, and personally, I think the pairing of Sneap and Exodus is a sonic match made in heaven (or hell). The production is so thick and crunchy it feels you could literally pick up the guitar tone and take a bite out of it. // 9
Lyrics: The general lyrical theme of Exhibit B is detailing the horrors that man is capable of and the disgusting nature of the human race. With song titles such as "Downfall" and "Good Riddance", it's not exactly a subtle message either, but the lyrics themselves are incredibly intelligent and well researched. And they have a large amount of reference material to go on with songs dealing with such topics as the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, the wartime atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in the Chinese city of Nanking and the sadistic sexual murders committed by serial killers Leonard Lake and Charles Ng. Where most metal bands just sing about made up horrors, here the topics add that extra dimension of heaviness and authenticity that helps to set the band apart. For those with a morbid curiosity, I highly recommend that you read further about these topics, as they help you to fully appreciate the quality of the songs and the depth of the lyrics.
Exodus has always been able to spit out some of the catchiest and nastiest lyrics this side of Norway. The way they are delivered are a juicy delight. For example, on "Class Dismissed" some truly delicious lyrics are spat out with tongues planted firmly in cheeks such as "The halls of learning, now a shooting range/ my final exam with a gun." And again in "March Of The Sycophants" with reference to a certain "small minded, rifle packing hag" of American political fame.
The vocal performance of Rob Dukes is another highlight of this album, who, along with his usual razor sharp below, is able to throw out some truly memorable melodies on the likes of "Nanking", "Downfall", and "Democide". I get particularly pumped up every time he launches into the chorus of "Downfall" with "Our destiny is soon revealed". Dukes even managed to surprise me by belching out some amazing guttural vocals on "The Sun Is My Destroyer." I think the best way to sum up his performance is to quote "Hammer and Life"... "Born again harder, than I was before". Excellent stuff. // 9
Overall Impression: Let us not ignore the elephant in the room. One of the major problems that people had with Exhibit A was that it simply was too long for most people to stomach. The biggest hope for this album would be that Exodus would learn to economize their songwriting somewhat and give us something a bit easier to listen to. This is not the case. Clocking in at over 74 minutes and most of the twelve tracks averaging at over the six minute mark, this album is loooong. In the age of instant messaging and microwaveable soup, most people aren't willing to sit through 74 minutes of thrash. However, that's societies problem and as I stated before, Exodus has managed to remedy the problems they encountered on the last album by diversifying the songs more. Each of the tracks has its strong points and moments that make it stand out. To all those people who complain about the length, I say good riddance (pun intended).
In summary, Exodus is the embodiment of the reason that there is no school except the old school and Exhibit B is physical evidence of that fact. // 8