Bonded By Blood


Combat Records, 1985

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Back when I was in college, while I was becoming enlightened about all sorts of music, I was able to expand my knowledge of heavy metal a little bit. I started listening to groups that I had heard of while in high school, but had never really heard or gotten into. One such band was San Francisco-based Exodus, a band who are probably better known for the guitarist they lost to another band than for their music.

Of the three big California thrash acts of the time - Metallica (who acquired former Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett), Megadeth and Exodus - only Exodus never really made it into the big time, through no apparent fault of their own. But all three bands came out with debut albums that were heavy on crunch and speed, if not on the best production values. This is probably the one limiting factor for Exodus on their 1985 debut my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Bonded By Blood. (Thanks to eBay auctioner Dallas Peters, I was able to get my hands on the band's first three albums.)

After several listens to this tape, I kept wanting to citicize the singing of lead screamer Paul Baloff - namely, that he doesn't do a lot of singing on this album. However, if compared to the other debut albums from the previously mentioned bands, they too didn't always sing, so it would be unfair to single Baloff out in this regard. Still, it sometimes feels like Baloff is just reading from the lyric sheet at times, turning tracks like "Bonded By Blood" into rote exercises. But that's not to say that Baloff is a one-dimensional frontman; his work improves as Bonded By Blood continues.

The musicianship of the rest of the band - guitarists Gary Holt and Rick Hunolt, bassist Rob McKillop and drummer Tom Hunting - is solid enough, and the songwriting is just as good as their contemporaries. Tracks like "A Lesson In Violence," "Metal Command" and "Deliver Us To Evil" all show the promise that Exodus had, and make one wonder why they didn't reach the levels of success that other groups in the same genre did.

However, the overall sound of Bonded By Blood is something that could have used more work. I don't know if the sound was fixed in any remixes, but on my tape copy, there's room for improvement. I would have brought the treble level up a bit, turned up the volume on McKillop's bass lines, and removed the echo effect from Baloff's vocals. The band's sound has enough natural bass, so one wouldn't need to mess with that.

Bonded By Blood is a decent first attempt that is undermined by a less-than-stellar production effort, but is still an album that is worth searching out and experiencing. Interestingly enough, Baloff was brought back into the band not too long ago, and the word I've heard is that they've recaptured the old magic from the early albums. With metal primed to be the next big music genre again, it could be a match made in heaven.

Rating: B-

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Combat Records, and is used for informational purposes only.