Released: 2007, Century Media
The second album with new singer Rob Dukes, who also sang on 2005’s SHOVEL HEADED KILL MACHINE, Exodus once again set out to prove that they are well and truly back. TEMPO OF THE DAMNED was pretty amazing considering the hiatus that the band had taken, while SHOVEL was again pretty good despite the presence of Dukes. Could this be the crowning glory of their comeback?
An emphatic yes answers the question. Now, this album is not by any means perfect. It has a lot of flaws that I’ll come to later. But I personally think that THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION…EXHIBIT A will be one of the better albums of 2007. What stands out is the sheer ambition of songwriting and riff-making. Gone are the four minute “bang your head against the stage” thrashers of BONDED BY BLOOD, PLEASURES OF THE FLESH and FABULOUS DISASTER. In its place are ambitious riff-heavy epics, with riff changes and great soaring leads. In its place are well-constructed, well-thought out, and progressive headbanging pieces. Yes, you heard me dammit, progressive. Fear not, Exodus has not become Dream Theater. There is very little excess fat on this album, every riff, every drum roll and every shouted lyric has its place. Think Symphony X in a dirty pub with mean bouncers and meaner patrons. This is the album …AND JUSTICE FOR ALL wanted to be, but with more bass, more riffs, more speed…well, more everything really.
The flaws are aplenty. Perhaps “flaws” is the wrong word, “weaknesses”? Not as such. Call it what you will. Firstly, I have a major issue with the guitar tone on ATROCITY. It’s too damn perfect! I don’t know about you, but I like my thrash guitars dirty as heck, with growl and snarl and bile spitting from the speakers. The guitar tone on ATROCITY is too smooth and rounded, almost reminiscent of some melo-death bands out there, and I’ve not noticed this about any thrash album since Kreator’s VIOLENT REVOLUTION. Secondly, Dukes is mixed slightly too far back. The drums, guitars and especially the bass are really prominent, and there’s nothing to complain about there production-wise. However Dukes sounds like the annoying whine of a mosquito almost in the background. I’ve not seen him live so I can’t testify as to the power and conviction of his delivery, but really he sounds almost squeaky in places. This is especially noticeable on “Children of a Worthless God”, “The Garden of Bleeding” and “Iconoclasm”, but funnily enough, he sounds great on “Riot Act” and the rest. Go figure. Thirdly, was it really necessary to have a “melodic” chorus on “ Children of a Worthless God”? Ugh…
Other than Dukes and the guitar tone, I really think there’s a lot in this album. The lyrics might be what some call CNN metal, but it doesn’t bother me. Call it shallow, sensationalist (in the media sense), whatever, but metal fans aren’t expecting an in-depth philosophical discourse on the world political situation today (although I’d love to see one try!). I think it’s laudable that metal bands are actually more politically aware than most other contemporary music, and I’ll take a line like “Twisted perverted minds/Think as we do or you die/Demagogue, fanatical tyrant/A false prophet seething with lies” over a “slap-my-bitch” dickhead from da hood any day. The audio samples of what must be a mullah at the end of “Children of a Worthless God” were a bit overt, but since when has subtlety been Exodus’ strong suit?
Musically, I think ATROCITY is complex, or about as complex as a thrash band can get. It still maintains its aggression, but the atmosphere dial has been kicked up a notch with some cool midtempo single-note chugging scattered here and there, but this never becomes the norm. “The Garden of Bleeding” and “Bedlam 123” start off really slow, building the tempo to fiery explosion. The drumming throughout is pretty much superb, courtesy of the returned Tom Hunting (although I do love Paul Bostaph’s drumming – who doesn’t?!), and the bass is thunderous and shit-heavy. All the tracks have some extremely amazing high points, with only the aforementioned downers.
I’ll repeat that I think this is an amazing album, worthy to stand up proud in the Exodus back catalogue, and in the thrash pantheon as a whole. One of the possible albums of 2007 I believe. I already cannot wait for EXHIBIT B…!