In the beginning, there was violence and there was metal. Two entities that, while separate in nature, became fused forever when bay area thrash originators, Exodus, wrote and recorded their debut album, Bonded By Blood. Now, twenty-four years after it was first released, Exodus returns with a re-recording of their debut album to bestow their metal command to a whole new generation. Let There Be Blood, which is the title of this upgraded rendition, is a note for note, word for word replica of the original. The album was a bi-coastal effort with the music tracks recorded at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, CA and JKZ Production Studio in San Rafael, CA, and the vocal tracks recorded by Jon Ciorciari at J. Rod Production Studios in New City, NY. The album was produced by Exodus guitarist Gary Holt and is set to be released on Oct. 28 by Zaentz Records.
The new album is not intended to replace the original, but rather pay tribute to all the elements that made it great; most notably the performance of original Exodus vocalist, Paul Baloff who passed away in 2002. It was Baloff’s unique vocal rhythm that made his performance on Bonded by Blood stand out. His vocal style on that record was at times frantic and irregular, but worked within the songs. The emphasis he put on certain words, and speed at which he approached others really added another layer to these songs that can’t be achieved with a traditional, straightforward vocal approach. Sadly, it is also the vocals on that album that make it sound dated. Not so much the performance, as the presentation. There is a very apparent echo on all the vocals that flatten not only Baloff’s performance, but also hinders the music underlining it. That is another reason the band chose to re-record the album — to give these songs the benefit of today’s technology with overall better production quality.
Let There Be Blood crushes from the moment you press play. The first track, “Bonded By Blood,” jumps right in with both feet and kicks you in each side of your head. Current vocalist, Rob Dukes, sings with all the venom, malice, and intensity that should accompany this music. As he does when performing live, Dukes makes these songs his own. His vocal nuances can be heard throughout the album, as there is no attempt on his part to imitate (or replace) the work Baloff did on the original album. Since his debut with the band on 2005’s Shovel Headed Kill Machine, Dukes has refined and honed his vocal talent. The growth he achieved on 2007’s The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A has only furthered his ability, which is most apparent on Let There Be Blood.
The album continues with the same order of the songs as on the original. They are all along the lines of Bonded by Blood in terms of presentations. Every track sounds like an assault on the listener. The mix is tight, clean, and brutally “crunchy.” Songs like “And Then There Were None” sound more punishing than ever and still resonate as a commentary on today’s culture and politics. Other songs that were great to begin with, such as “A lesson in violence,” and “Metal Command” are not only relentless, but re-establish the tone of the album, as well as the genre.
The second half of the album is what really benefits from the re-recording. Songs that were really dated musically and lyrically, like “Piranha,” are given a new life on this recording. Even the little things like the transition into the bridge and solo’s on “No Love” is much smoother. “Deliver Us To Evil,” has all the crunch of a song you’d expect to hear on the way to Hell. The original set of songs ends with a full on thrash rendition of “Strike of the Beast,” which somehow manages to capture the intensity of such a pursuit.
The real treat on this album is the tenth and final song, “Hells Breath.” Although this is the first time it is being recorded the song was actually written in the early days of the band. It features a riff from original guitarist, Kirk Hammet, which he took with him to Metallica and later became part of their song, “Trapped Under Ice.” This is also the only song on the album to be mixed by recording engineer, Jon Ciorciari. The rest of the album was mixed by Andy Sneap, who worked on their previous album, The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A.
Overall Let There Be Blood is a grand improvement over Bonded By Blood from a production standpoint. The quality of the recording is better, the mix is better (you can actually hear the bass), even the artwork is better; and relatively speaking, the vocals are better. Facts are facts and if there’s one thing that can be said about Exodus it is that they always had the right vocalist for the right time. It is a tragedy that Baloff couldn’t be a part of this project and showcase his professional growth between then and now. But there is also no way he wouldn’t be proud of his band mates for preserving his legacy.
These songs are timeless and this album proves it. They stand up today just as well as they did in 1985. Would it have been better to do a tour and play the album in its entirety like Primus did with Seas of Cheese, and Frizzle Fry — and make the songs available for download? Maybe. But that wouldn’t necessarily urge someone to pick up the original and revisit it. Nor would it be a longstanding tribute. If anything Exodus should have packaged the two together seeing as how these albums are in fact “Bonded by Blood.”
Exodus is Rob Dukes [vocals], Gary Holt [guitars], Lee Altus [guitars], Jack Gibson [bass], and Tom Hunting [Drums].
Be sure to check out Peter O’Brien’s thrash metal documentary “Riphouse 151: Could’ve Been’s & Wanna Be’s” which is currently on the festival circuit.