Every time Chris “Woody High” MacDermott sends in one of these Spine of Overkill columns, I just want to spend the whole day listening to classic thrash. So it goes with this month’s, in which — after hearing Ben Smith of The Brought Low talk a bit of smack — he rallies to the defense of Exodus‘ 1985 ripper, Bonded by Blood. Could a Brought Low/Mighty High feud be in the works? Only time will tell.
Recently Ben from The Brought Low said on the internets that Exodus is whack and that he’s OK going on record with it. Chances are he’s thinking of the stupid videos for “Toxic Waltz” and “Low Rider” that he watched on channel U68 in Queens as a kid. Somehow I doubt in 1984 he was trying to track down a copy of their Whipping Queen demo or live tapes through the pages of low budget fanzines. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions but I’m here to set the record straight. Bonded by Blood is absolutely their greatest album and it fuckin’ kicks major ass!!
Formed in 1980 as a traditional Judas Priest/Iron Maiden-style metal band, the core Exodus members were drummer Tom Hunting along with the guitar tag team of Kirk Hammett and Gary Holt. It wasn’t until they discovered belligerent heavy metal maniac Paul Baloff and made him their singer that the Exodus attack was under way. A demo in 1982 unleashed the songs “Whipping Queen,” “Death & Domination” and “Warlords.” A live demo the following year contained a killer song called “Die by His Hand.” An important part of this song would later wind up in Metallica‘s “Creeping Death” and cause a lot of arguments in parking lots, basements and woods for years to come. It wasn’t until Kirk quit that the Exodus sound would really take shape. Under the direction of Gary, the band starting cranking out the ultra-violence jams that we all know and love as Bonded by Blood.
Opening with a bomber sound effect, the song “Bonded by Blood” explodes out of the speakers and causes immediate psychotic reaction. The first time you hear Baloff screaming lyrics like “Metal and blood come together as one/Onlookers they gasp in dismay,” there’s no going back to “Hot Rockin’” by Judas Priest. “Onlookers they gasp in dismay” is a key line for the time period. If you put this tape on at a party and started raging you might actually get to hear the entire song due the stunned nature of the non-metal brethren, especially when you scream “INTENSE METAL IS ALL THAT YOU NEED!” in the face of a cheerleader. And as you’re getting muscled out the door at least you get deliver the gospel of “Metal takes its price – BONDED BY BLOOD!!”
Now that you’ve been kicked out of the party, it’s time to rage to the rest of it in the safety of an empty field or, if you’re really lucky, in a moving car. Start to finish, this album is the definition of drunken, anti-social pugnaciousness. Their theme song “Exodus” has a pummeling riff that will give you that extra bit of adrenaline you need to pull stop signs out of the ground. “And Then There Were None” is a little slower but is just the right tempo for when you’re rocking a parked car back and forth trying to flip it over. “A Lesson in Violence” is great thing to threaten the old man at the liquor store with who wants to see your ID. All of this means you’re under the “Metal Command” of Exodus, “A wall of sonic sound with amps turned up to 10!” And that’s just side one!
Flip it over and Tom Hunting‘s drums set you up for an attack of “Piranha.” One of their fastest songs, it’s also a great warning not to try and do battle with this “deadly school.” Almost a full minute of solo acoustic guitar starts off “No Love.” That would be totally unacceptable if it wasn’t such a heavy song about human sacrifice. “Deliver Us to Evil” is what Mercyful Fate might have sounded like with John Brannon of Negative Approach singing instead of the caterwauling of Queen Rhinestone. The bloody mess of side two wraps up with the absolutely vicious “Strike of the Beast,” one of Gary‘s best riffs.
Recorded in 1984, Bonded by Blood was actively being passed around by tape traders long before its official release in the spring of ‘85. Exodus were huge in their native San Francisco but had not yet done a lot of touring. By that time Metallica was touring their second album Ride the Lightning and Slayer had put out their debut album and two EPs. But when Exodus finally did go on tour, it was with Slayer as they took turns blowing Venom off the stage. It’s well documented on the incredible VHS tape called The Ultimate Revenge, filmed at Studio 54 in New York City (later to become the “new” Ritz). You get to witness Baloff‘s giant afro, hilarious stage banter and the band’s methed up metal attack. Slayer‘s portion is unbelievably heavy. Poor Venom never stood a chance. Touring on the weak Possessed album and without original guitarist Mantas, they refused to let the live footage shot be used in the video. Instead there’s an interview with Cronos and Abaddon while promo videos take the place of their performance. It is to my eternal regret that I was not at this show.
Paul Baloff got the boot from Exodus not long after and things were never the same. Exodus went on to have some successful albums but they always seemed to be competing with Anthrax as to who could be silliest with the shorts and moshing business. They’ve been cranking out some brutally heavy albums for the past 10 years but a big portion of their set remains the Bonded by Blood album. This album was also a good bridge to the Master of Puppets fans who initially found stuff like Hell Awaits, War & Pain, Heavy Metal Maniac and Morbid Tales way too raw. As Baloff would say “metal rules & if you don’t like it, die!” Rage in peace, Paul. YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!