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There has been a significant number of changes taking place in the line-up of the California-based Thrash Metal legends Exodus over the last thirty four years but none has come close to being more debilitating for the band’s future than that the departure of singer Steve “Zetro” Souza following the release of the outstanding “Tempo Of The Damned” back in 2004.

While Rob Dukes (Generation Kill) did a pretty decent job fronting Exodus for nine whole years, there was always a sense of a basic ingredient missing from the band’s music, so the announcement of Zetro’s return to the fold a few months back was greeted with sheer excitement by a significant part of the band’s loyal fan base.

I am happy to confirm that “Blood In, Blood Out”, the band’s the latest offering, is what one could describe as the natural successor to the much-loved “Tempo Of The Damned”. Actually, the main strength of Exodus’ tenth studio album is its ability to present classic material in a fresh and exciting way – something that perhaps would have not been achieved to the same extent had Exodus not gone through their Dukes ‘phase’.

There isn’t a single riff on offer here that will not remind you of the glorious days of “Fabulous Disaster” with the added bonus of outstanding sound quality, courtesy of renowned producer Andy Sneap and Souza’s vocal performances which at times sound, dare I say it, angrier than back in the mid to late 80s!

Now, add to that the small but fairly colourful contributions of two legends of the scene, Kirk Hammett (Metallica) and Chuck Billy (Testament) and what you’re left with is one heck of an album!

The first thing that I noticed about opening track “Black 13” was the clarity of Jack Gibson’s guitar tone but it was not long before my focus switched to Gary Holt’s crushing guitar riff – also perfectly complemented by Souza’s sharp vocals.

More urgent than its predecessor, “Blood In, Blood Out” is a classically-structured vocally-led piece that builds on the opening track’s energy, while “Collateral Damage” is the first highlight on offer, featuring killer riffs, flamboyant solos and catchy band vocal melodies in its refrain.

Slower but heavy, “Salt The Wound” is melody-driven and features an enjoyable solo from Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, while the six and a half minute “Blood Harvest” finds Gary Hold throwing one killer guitar solo after another.

If you find yourself taken aback by the brutal nature of “BTK” that is because Testament’s Chuck Billy has added a few of his unholy growls to the recording, while “Wrapped In The Arms Of Rage” features Exodus at their aggressive finest.

If there is one song that proves the band’s unique song-writing skills, that is “My last Nerve” as only a handful of bands out there are in a position to turn seemingly simple ideas into such an impressive end product.

“Numb” is another old-school Thrash anthem presented through a fresh perspective while the duet “Honor Killings” / “Food For The Worms” bring the album into a glorious and energy-filled finale.

If anyone over the last few years has come to believe that Exodus was a spent force in extreme Metal, then “Blood In, Blood Out” will set the record straight.

With Steve Souza again steering the ship, the band that gave birth to classics like “Bonded By Blood”,  “Fabulous Disaster” and “Tempo Of The Damned” are finally in the position to add another collection of songs to this already impressive list.

Does “Blood In, Blood Out” fit the bill? I, for one, certainly think so!

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