The last year or so has exposed too much of the ugly business dealings and back-stabbings of a few of our classic metal bands (Slayer and Testament come quickest to mind). With the firing of Rob Dukes and the rehiring of Zetro Souza, it seemed Exodus was the latest to put (very limited) commerce before friendship and brotherhood. We ain’t saying the Bay Area veterans did and we ain’t saying they didn’t but… “Blood In Blood Out” is, at the very least, completely worthy of standing on it’s own.

The Rob Dukes-era Exodus line-up was marked by consistency, something that certainly wasn’t there during the Paul Baloff and first Zetro chapter. That’s something that can’t be overestimated because it continues through on this largely excellent disc. Although tempting, it’s not fair to rank this among other relatively recent Exodus efforts.

Here is what’s evident after a dozen or so listens:
Steve “Zetro” Souza has never sounded better in Exodus. His work with Hatriot hinted that he was more in control of his voice these days and that’s a huge plus for someone who could sometimes be all over the place (listen to “Fabulous Disaster” for examples). He’s still got the voice of a wild man, albeit one who works within the confines of the chord and riff structures — and the ever-important background group chants (“Body Harvest” absolutely slays).

Gary Holt and Lee Altus have steadily become one of thrash metal’s most valuable guitar teams. Their pool of riffs seems never ending, their songwriting continues to be top-tier and they play as one throughout the disc.

On the subject of songwriting, this disc is among the band’s heaviest. Of the eleven tracks, a few absolutely kill (“Collateral Damage,” “Body Harvest” and the title track). None are weak.

Guests stars don’t mean much hear. Dan the Automater, Chuck Billy and Kirk Hammett all show up as featured contributors. In the first case, the battle cry “”Black 13,” it’s some clever studio knob tweaking in a song that is strong enough not to need it. In the second instance, it’s the Testament front man (and the band’s new manager) adding to the growled chorus. Cool but unnecessary. As for Hammett, he was original member of the group and it’s pretty cool of him to trade solos with Holt on “Salt the Wound.” Weird that what is bound to be the disc’s most listened to tracks isn’t among its best.

There’s a bonus cut of Angel Witch’s “Angel of Death.” A complete nod to the old days, it’s a delicious change of pace from the rest of the disc yet totally appropriate.

Exodus has become one of the trash metal’s most reliable veterans. Who would have ever thought?

Label: Nuclear Blast