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Pick your literary cliché: history repeating itself, coming full circle, whatever works for you. Bay Area OGs Exodus, the same band that jump-started the Legacy Thrash Renaissance in 2004 with Tempo Of The Damned, are back to reclaim the pit. Their tenth full-length, Blood In Blood Out, also marks the return of former vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza to the fold, and there’s no simpler way to say that is great fucking news. Rob Dukes had some shining moments and Paul Baloff lives on in the black heart of every grayhair hesher, but Souza is Exodus’ defining point. His voice is rivaled only by Overkill’s Bobby Blitz in terms of being thrash incarnate, full of piss, vinegar and razor blades. On the title track, Souza bares the chip on his shoulder to all retro thrashers that dare approach the throne: “We've been here from the start with a one track mind/We kept the hate alive/Always had the power now is zero hour/Tonight we're gonna fight like it's 1985.”

The rest of the band stays on point as well; Gary Holt & Co. are still fond of the extended song structures they’ve been crafting since Tempo, but the tunes here are more compact and don’t lose the plot like some of the meandering songs on the Atrocity Exhibit albums. Jamming with Slayer hasn’t tempered Holt’s tendency to stretch solos just a tad too long, but luckily said solos are well-written and fit the songs they’re attached to.

The production is unnecessarily bright and compressed, but that’s to be expected from a Nuclear Blast album. On the plus side we get a clear emphasis on Jack Gibson’s solid bass playing; it’s refreshing to hear a fat bottom line on a thrash album, even in 2014. Ignoring the random and cringe-worthy electronica intro on “Black 13,” courtesy of guest Dan the Automator – possibly the most “WTF?” moment I’ve had listening to music this year – Blood In Blood Out is solid beginning to end.

In an over-saturated metal scene the vets don’t get to phone it in, which partially explains the high quality in releases from other legacy acts like Testament, Death Angel, Kreator and others. There might be a built-in audience, but they still have to be sated with something worth listening to. Exodus knows this, and delivers.

—Chris Rowella

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