‘Exhibit B’ by Exodus, Music Review

Exodus’ release in 2010 of Exhibit B: The Human Condition was on my list to review as soon as I heard it and I have some extra time this week to finally do so.As always, heavy metal is one of the best Freethunk genres for criticizing religion as there is room to write lyrics that blast away at the current offenses. Heavy metal also covers unspeakable subjects that while possibly exploited for the sake of the song, can be explored using reason. Exhibit B covers numerous morbid topics of interest and is a follow up to the 2007 release of The Atrocity Exhibition…Exhibit A. If you’re not familiar with the Exodus sound it is thrash-style heavy with a vocalist who is not going to be ignored. I consider myself eclectic in my musical choices, but I am favorably disposed to this type of sound as I grew up on Christian Metal with the same kind of rough and raspy vocals, pounding drums and buzzsaw guitars. It’s only been in the past 5 years that I’ve discovered bands I should have been listening to instead of the White Metal noise.

Lyrics are not always important to every music lover, but they often make or break an album for me. I don’t mind love songs or nonsense lyrics…but I get tired of them pretty quickly. Repeated listenings require music that is going to cause me to think or drive me forward with inspiration.  Exodus launches into what I would have to say are blood-soaked songs about man’s depraved condition without any answers except waiting for the end of earth and enjoying the show. Inspiring? Not for humanism, but I believe we must recognize the darker aspects of  humanity and without that recognition we can’t find the cure…and no, it is not Christ, I think Exodus makes it painfully clear. A predisposition towards violence is what humans have to overcome in order to co-exist peacefully, religious violence included. If we can do so we then reach our man-made paradise. While it may not seem like it, we are making progress, slowly but surely. I wish Exodus could also see that.

The first morbid introduction into the human condition is “The Ballad of Leonard and Charles” recounting the killing spree of  Leonard Lake and Charles NG, serial killers who abducted and tortured victims in the early eighties. It is not a pleasant ballad but if you read a little history on Leonard you find that first, he was diagnosed with a mental illness (schizoid personality disorder) and that second, he seemed to be obsessed with pornography. The Christian apologist, not to mention the far left feminist apologist,  is going to jump to the conclusion that pornography leads to acts of rape and torture. The rational humanist has to pause. With a billion dollar industry such as porn, why is Lake the exception and not the rule? In other words, with all the customers of porn, how come we don’t have the majority committing these crimes instead of a few individuals? We then have to realize it may be the mental illness at play (Lake thought nuclear war was imminent and he planned to rebuild the human race with female slaves) or it may be that the man has given into fantasies he should never have entertained. I would suggest mental illness, but certainly blaming porn solves nothing.  Why? Well if porn is the correlation then we would have to ask about the other correlation. Both men had served in the Marine Corps. Does the Marine Corps create serial killers? Of course not. There was something truly wrong with these two men and we should set our sights on discovering the real reasons for defecting from society instead of placing blame on pet targets.

To the lyricist I would say simply that Leonard and Charles were abberations–not the norm. This is why I find it odd that the conclusion of bands like Exodus (reference the last song on this album) is that humanity has gone to shit and deserves to disappear. Only a small portion of humanity has gone to shit and in regards to serial killers, they are a very tiny fraction of the human race. The same goes for the next song with the same theme of an individual living outside our agreed upon morality…

“Class Dismissed (a Hate Primer) deals with the rampage shooting at schools and it sounds like Exodus is referring to the Virginia Tech school shooting by Cho Seung-Hui in 2007 ), but is probably ambiguous enough to cover any school shooting. Since we just had the Arizona shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the same vein, this song seems very relevant. Trying to get into the mind of a rampage killer is hard to do. All of us have problems and many of us end up on the receiving end of bullying or humiliation or just being ignored, but we find ways to cope. I remember being lonely and by myself in school numerous times which is probably why I began drawing and writing so much. That’s the key, providing ways to cope when you’re not the popular kid or even semi-popular and especially when you’re not going to get laid (admittedly, another reason for legal prostitution–ooh, someone may call me on that but sex is therapy). The arrogance of a loner who decides to kill others at random is an offensive, cowardly act. Again, only a few do it and most likely they have a mental illness.

Depressed yet? Well, while maybe not intending to, “March of the Sycophants” always elevates me into a good mood. Another reminder that “You’re not crazy, they are.” I’m going to post the lyrics below, but safe to say they blast the Christian Right. If anybody has reared their ugly heads more than ever recently it is the Christian Right. Lyrics obtained from DarkLyrics.com.

Do as they say, not as they do
March to the tune of the Christian right
Hypocrites, their rules they don’t apply to you
Parading in the name of Christ
Former leader in a hotel room
Smoking crank and sucking cock
Guilty as sin yet innocence presumed
Still they talk the talk

[Pre-chorus:]
Christian soldiers
Trudging off to war
Behind the cross of Jesus
And still they…

[Chorus:]
March!
March!
It’s the march of the sycophants, they
March!
March!
March in time to the rhythm of the right, they
March!
March!
Here come the sheep, all promenade, they
March!
March!
Everybody loves a parade

Masters of hyperbole
They claim to know what’s wrong or right
The mob led to believe so easily
Like a moth to a light
Pro-life, anti-life and so sincere
Battalions of the dull of mind
Obeying all they read, see or hear
The ignorant leading the blind

[Pre-chorus]
[Chorus]

Brain dead plebeians
Rally ’round the Bible and the flag
Their prophets are a plumber
And a small minded rifle packing hag
One nation under God
And one under the thumb
Marching to the beat of a different kind of drum
It’s the march of the sycophants!

Town hall rabble
Cry liberty and justice for the few
It’s the end of they world as they know it
That’s what they’ll say to you
Conspiracy theories eaten raw like meat
Fed by the mother of lies
They suck straight from the teat
It’s the march of the sycophants!

[Solo Lee]
[Solo Gary]

The other set of lyrics that may make you feel good are from “Burn, Hollywood, Burn.” I realize the violent imagery, but sometimes all of the trash TV can get on your nerves. Dedicated to my TV hating friend, Jon.

Land of enchantment and fake reality
Where they put in vitro breeding machines
On the cover of a magazine
Trailer trash and human freaks
They grab their minute of fame
And still the puppets watch
And everybody knows the names
That’s why I say

Burn, hollywood, burn
When it’s dead and gone we’ll never miss a thing
Burn, hollywood, burn
No more rotten to the core little sweet sixteens
Burn. hollywood, burn
Time’s running out on their minute of fame
Let’s douse the fire by pissing on the flames

So young, bitch and famous
Hotel heiress, glamour queen
The only reason we know your name
Is bad night vision pornography
From the “real” housewives of botox hills
To the cunts of Bel-Aire
You can’t look away from the cathode ray
Why does anybody fucking care

Burn, hollywood, burn
When it’s dead and gone we’ll never miss a thing
Burn, hollywood, burn
No more rotten to the core little sweet sixteens
Burn. hollywood, burn
Time’s running out on their minute of fame
Let’s douse the fire by pissing on the flames

Lastly, while I can’t cover every song on Exhibit B, I think “Nanking” is an important one. Nanking refers to the Japanese invasion of China where horrors abounded. My reasoning for liking the song have to do with my opinion that Japan has never really owned up to their shame over this historical event from 1937. Germany has a worse reputation under the Nazi flag and yet I don’t even think the Nazis were this vicious–just heartlessly methodical. The one thing I love about the United States and the west in general is our artists expose all our hypocrisies and sins. I can go to Netflix right now and find a dozen movies on our abuses of African Americans including the slave era. With Japan, and feel free to post a comment, I have yet to find a Japanese movie about Nanking–the kind of penance we go through in the west doesn’t seem to make it to the DVD shelves there. Certainly, I don’t believe in collective guilt, I didn’t personally hang black people or take away their rights back in the day, but I do want to recognize it happened as part of the history of our country and as a lesson to our young people. As Exodus says in the song “Massacre removed from history books. No mention of men hung from iron hooks,” the Japanese people don’t seem to teach their young the past sins of their country. That bothers me. As an example, Japanese filmmaker Satoru Mizushima is working on a documentary called “The Truth about Nanking” where he insists it is all political propaganda. Sounds like our western Holocaust revisionists. Will there be a brave Japanese director who defies him and tells the Japanese people that it did happen? I doubt it.

Exhibit B is an angry, angry album. They conclude with the song “Good Riddance” which should make your stomach turn. I can’t only recommend it for the powerful music, lyrics inciting damning history and reflection, but it is fatalistic, pessimistic and without hope. Which is too bad. I believe if Exodus could take a step back they might weigh the good against the bad and push for hope for a better world. I’m still an optimist and Exodus would probably deem me a lunatic for being so. However, I see progress all around me and sometimes impatience overwhelms us. Listen to Exhibit B but temper it with Bad Religion and then throw Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World.”

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you.

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.

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