"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Exodus - "Exhibit B: The Human Condition" (CD)

Exodus - "Exhibit B: The Human Condition" CD cover image

"Exhibit B: The Human Condition" track listing:

1. The Ballad Of Leonard And Charles (7:14)
2. Beyond The Pale (7:39)
3. Hammer And Life (3:33)
4. Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer) (7:15)
5. Downfall (6:18)
6. March Of The Sycophants (6:44)
7. Nanking (7:20)
8. Burn, Hollywood, Burn (4:06)
9. Democide (6:37)
10. The Sun Is My Destroyer (9:21)
11. A Perpetual State Of Indifference (2:25)
12. Good Riddance (5:25)
13. Devil’s Teeth (North American bonus track)

Reviewed by on May 4, 2010

"The band doesn’t make “Exhibit B: The Human Condition” accessible and because of that is able to churn out some of their strongest material in years."

Ever since Exodus reunited in 2001, their studio albums have leaned towards ambitious thrash metal. All of this came to a head with 2007’s “The Atrocity Exhibition... Exhibit A.” Taking cues from Machine Head and Heathen, the band pushed over the eight-minute mark several times. It was a bold move that the band seemed comfortable taking, though they proved to be in over their heads at times. Instead of taking a step back and analyzing what worked and what didn’t, Exodus pushes even further into unknown territory with “Exhibit B: The Human Condition.” Even more grandiose and abstract than “Exhibit A,” the album comes off as the sound of a legendary band doing what they want to do, for better or for worse.

This attitude can bite a band in the ass if they come off as clueless and stubborn, but Exodus oozes confidence and poise on “Exhibit B.” Unwavering in their epic approach, the band doesn’t half-ass any of the songs. The average track length is over six minutes and the band does this with relative ease. There is a lot of material on the album and absorbing it all could prove to be challenging for all but the most patient and vigilant of metal fans. The band doesn’t make “Exhibit B: The Human Condition” accessible and because of that is able to churn out some of their strongest material in years.

On the past few records, one of the things that Exodus has struggled with is finding a way to make the sprawling compositions engaging from start to finish. “Deathamphetamine” and “The Atrocity Exhibition” are just a few examples of the band not quite reaching their lofty goals. Opener “The Ballad Of Leonard And Charles” shakes these worries away, with a low-key acoustic intro fading into a vicious beating of the senses. The band weaves through sections of guitar harmonies and abrasive vocals, making the seven minutes feel like half the time. They replicate this technique to perfection on much of the album, including on the deadly thrashers “Beyond The Pale” and “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer).”

It isn’t all full speed ahead for Exodus. “Downfall” and “Nanking” flow in a menacing fashion, keeping a mid-paced tempo with a slight groove underneath the layers of buzzing guitars and booming drums. While the aggression may be toned down, the intensity is brought to a whole new level. The latter, in particular, has graphic lyrics concerning the Nanking Massacre in 1937. It is one of the most poignant lyrical tracks, as the rest of the album is seeped in the murder, anti-government and social commentary that has been the staple of every Exodus album to date.

While the shorter tracks are in the minority, as they were on “Exhibit A,” they have much more of a punch to them. “Hammer and Life” has “The Toxic Waltz” vibe to it that should make it a live favorite, while “Burn, Hollywood, Burn” is seeped in venom towards reality television and the “stars” that are born from it. “Good Riddance” ends the album on a harsh note that even the acoustic outro can’t undo. The drawn-out interlude “A Perpetual State Of Indifference” is the only outright negative track, lumbering along aimlessly for over two minutes.

When Rob Dukes came into the fray in 2005, a lot of fans were hesitant towards his vocal style. After three albums, Dukes’ screams and growls seem to fit in well with the band. He doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary, like his poor attempt at singing on “Children Of A Worthless God,” but his voice has gotten to a point where it is synonymous with Exodus. Guitarists Gary Holt and Lee Altus show the chemistry that has been apparent from the very beginning, Jack Gibson puts in his best bass performance to date and Tom Hunting continues to be Mr. Reliable on the drums. The band helps to make even the most overbearing moments, like the dull “The Sun Is My Destroyer,” somewhat redeemable.

The longest Exodus studio album to date, “Exhibit B: The Human Condition” will test the resiliency of even the most dedicated member of their fan base. It’s this kind of ambitious undertaking that has helped the band to withstand the test of time and remain relevant after three decades. In the three years since “Exhibit A,” not much has changed on a songwriting front. The band is still writing epics and slaying all in their path; whether anybody comes for the ride or complains about its length seems to be none of the band’s concern. This mindset lends a hand in creating the sharpest album that Exodus has recorded since "Tempo Of The Damned."

Highs: Unapologetic epic thrash sound, strong instrumental work, intense lyrics on "Nanking."

Lows: A few songs are too long, album's length will test the patience of even the die-hard fans.

Bottom line: Ambitious thrash album from a legendary band unafraid to step outside the box.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)