Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Label: Nuclear Blast

Date: May 31st, 2024

It’s a weird thing to realize that Exodus opted to publish a live recording from thirty five years ago, instead of some recent performance. And anyway, where did this recording get stuck? Likely at some depot where it was stored and forgotten for a few decades. Putting all that aside, serving a 1989 live show in front of an even slightly thrash infected audience must induce a surge of adrenaline, endorphin, epinephrin, morphine… Madness, as I live and breathe. And write. Holy hell! Thrash metal in 1989…

A pinnacle, there’s no better way of calling it. Most of the “inventors” of the genre reached their third albums. The heights of their creation, the best thrash metal had to offer, the albums that became household items, classics of heavy metal in general. Most of those hit the stores in 1988, but the tours that followed them, spanning the year 1989… One example to prove them all, Metallica’s legendary Seattle performance.

I’ll take just a few more lines, in order to complete the circle of this introduction to a review and explain the word “pinnacle”. Think about where thrash metal went from here onward. Though entering the nineties didn’t bring along immediate demise, it certainly went south from there. Some fine examples were still published, like “Rust in Peace”, “Seasons in the Abyss”, “Souls of Black”, “Persistence of Time”, “Impact is Imminent”… Not to mention the album that transcended even heavy metal and became a milestone in music as a whole, Metallica’s self-titled masterpiece. Still, if compared with the classics of 1983-1988, those are lesser thrashers, however successful.

Up until the revival in the new century, there was no better time to thrash than 1989. And in early March of the same year, London’s Astoria witnessed the “Exodus attack”. The band promoted their third masterpiece, “Fabolous Disaster”, hence the number of tracks off that one. However, there’s no shortage of classics from “Bonded by Blood” and “Pleasures of the Flesh” among the fifteen tracks present on this album. All in all, no honest thrasher can complain of the setlist. As far as Exodus is concerned, this is the best of album of their early years. Considering they are one of the pillars of thrash metal, this is an immensely strong grouping of tracks even if put into the perspective of the genre in general. With all that in mind, do you really need a presentation of songs such as “The Toxic Waltz”, “A Lesson in Violence”, “Piranha”, “Brain Dead” or “Strike of the Beast”? I didn’t think so. The mere mention of these names should start a mosh.

But how does a live recording from thirty five years ago sound? Thinking of technology available, it could be a massive issue. Remember the endless flow of bootlegs from the time period in question? They span from almost studio mastered quality, to downright unlistenable noise. Sure enough, Exodus was a big enough musical entity at the time, and Astoria is nowhere near a local bar with hardly a stage to climb onto. Also, I can hardly expect Nuclear Blast to publish a glorified bootleg as an official release. Yet, who knows…

Let me put your mind at ease. This sounds almost too good to be true. Perhaps a bit too condensed for my taste, but still extremely audible. Every instrument gets a piece of its own in the whole of the sound space on “British Disaster”, which is a hard enough task nowadays, let alone in 1989. The audience is a bit on the quiet side, which I’m absolutely sure was not the case on the spot. Though, I’m pretty certain it falls under the same category as the mentioned “condensation” of sound. What I mean is that the “controlled chaos” of a live setting is a bit too controlled. Comparing this with Metallica’s Seattle recording, you will get a perfect example of what I have in mind. Metallica, along with their famed “fifth member”, sounds like a barbarian horde, while Exodus is more reminiscent of a Roman army. Just as deadly, but much better organized. I hope you understand what I’m writing here.

However, this is not to be considered a fault of “British Disaster”. Not by a long shot. This is an extremely good live recording and I, for one, am glad the boys managed to dig it up from the buried vaults. The one regret I’m guessing even Exodus are experiencing is that they haven’t organized a film crew so that we can enjoy the video of this show. That would surely round things up and give us a full image of what happened on that wild night. How wild? “We were going to have a few beers after the show, but I guess we’re wearing them now”, Mr. Souza explains.


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