Exodus - Pleasures Of The Flesh review


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Band: Exodus
Album: Pleasures Of The Flesh
Release date: 1987

01. Deranged
02. 'Til Death Do Us Part
03. Parasite
04. Brain Dead
05. Faster Than You'll Ever Live To be
06. Pleasures Of The Flesh
07. 30 Seconds
08. Seeds Of Hate
09. Chemi-Kill
10. Choose Your Weapon
11. Chemi-Kill [live] [Limited Silver Edition bonus]
12. 'Til Death Do Us Part [live] [Limited Silver Edition bonus]
13. Brain Dead [live] [Limited Silver Edition bonus]
14. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap [live] [Limited Silver Edition bonus]

The awkward middle child of the family, sitting between two of the band's better-known works, known only for being the transitional record that bridges the ones that came before and after it. Does Pleasures Of The Flesh get a raw deal? Simply put: yes and no.

Coming off of one of the best albums in your chosen genre, which also happens to be your debut record, must be a daunting task for anyone; Exodus arrived to the occasion with Pleasures Of The Flesh, a strong record but one that doesn't follow Bonded By Blood well. For all it does to try and improve upon its predecessor, it loses that much of what had made the debut so great. Changing their approach (and lead singer to boot), the band slow the pace for the most part, adopt a more cohesive but heavier sound, and mature as songwriters as opposed to dwelling in roughness and raw edge. It is an admirable and understandable decision, but one that doesn't live up to expectations.

So what is the main problem with this album then? It isn't as catchy or memorable as the albums that preceded it or succeeded it. For as well written and full of riffs as many of the tracks are, they just aren't as memorable as others released by the, band and as a result the record is often left on the shelf by fans. In their decision to shake up their formula and change their approach, the band overlook the appeal of the song; sure, none of the songs are bad, but they don't have that same impact or memorability as a "A Lesson In Violence" or "Last Act Of Defiance" and as a result it feels like the weakest offering of the three records.

As it is, this need to differentiate the record from Bonded By Blood does lead to the band including some parts that don't add to the record apart from being a new twist that seems arbitrary and unnecessary. I refer to the spoken word intro to "Deranged", the jungle sounds of "Pleasures Of The Flesh" and "30 Seconds". I can understand why these sections were included, but at the same time, given the band sound like they bolt them on and the parts don't naturally transition into the track proper, these parts seem included just to help differentiate the record rather than improve it.

Does this mean the songs are bad? No, but for the most part they are a noticeable step down from what had come before; they're strong and if most other bands had released this record it would get a much better reception, but unfortunately for Exodus they had given themselves an extremely difficult task, which Pleasures Of The Flesh doesn't match up to. Songs like "Brain Dead", "Til Death Do Us Part" and "Faster Than You'll Ever Live To Be" are good songs, but they aren't an improvement on what has been done before and they aren't that memorable to boot.

The title track is too long for its own good, dragging itself out and keeping on going while not adding anything to the song, feeling like the band are stretching it out so as to give this record its own "Deliver Us To Evil" moment, and in doing so leaving the content noticeably threadbare and damaging what quality it did have, rather than keeping it shorter and punchier like it sounds like it should have been.

Would this record be improved had Baloff stayed? I would say it is unlikely as it wouldn't address the real problems facing this record. Given Baloff's contributions were lyrics and vocals (from what Holt has said in interviews) then it would serve only to improve the good elements of this record but not address the elephant in the room. Whether you would have preferred Baloff to front the band at this point is up to individual taste, but I doubt it would lead to a material improvement as I've seen some suggest.

With all that said and considered, Pleasures Of The Flesh isn't a bad record and does have a level of quality to it. While the aforementioned "Brain Dead" and "Til Death Do Us Part" aren't as memorable or as strong as any track off of Bonded By Blood, they are still enjoyable if you can overlook the fact the band had done better. Where the band do shine however is when they focus on doing what they do best at this point in their careers, just making thrash metal without consideration for evolving their sound and going for the throat. The best tracks are the final three: "Seeds Of Hate", "Chemi-Kill" and "Choose Your Weapon". While the band are good at slower tracks like "Brain Dead", they are brilliant at fast and uncompromising tracks like "Choose Your Weapon"; what they lack in evolution they make up for in enjoyment.

The band are on fine form and it isn't for a lack of application or talent that the record doesn't rise to the occasion so much. Holt and Hunolt create some strong riffs and pepper each song with quality solos; each track gets a good dose of guitar work that makes it worth listening to. The problem lies in either overdoing it to the point that none of the riffs get a chance to grow on you before moving onto the next one, or that the riff isn't as strong as those that were on Bonded By Blood. Their playing however is still extremely strong and serves as one of the many highlights on the record.

Hunting scatters the songs with fills and patterns that serve to make the drums far more than just a time keeping mechanism, and it's his little frills and elements here and there that serve to give the songs that special something. Take "Til Death Do Us Part" as an example; his quick pattern changes and switching of focus from the drums to the cymbals give the song an extra dynamic that doesn't hit you immediately but will burn away at your ears until you sit up and take notice at his understated performance and you appreciate his tinkering at the edges.

Pleasures Of The Flesh is a well-produced record, trading in the rawness for a solid and chunkier sound that is well worth the trade off, giving the tracks a sense of power and clarity that imbues them with a punch and weight that will knock back any scepticism you may have initially had. The guitars are crisp, while the reverb is dialled down a lot from the debut so you can hear Souza loud and clear. The only element of the production that I dislike is that McKillop is buried between all these different elements and is often very hard to find or hear, though once you pinpoint him, it is easy to follow his parts.

A strong record but not the one the band needed at this point in their careers, Pleasures Of The Flesh is more a victim of circumstance than of lack of quality. While this record does have its weaknesses and flaws, it does have more going for it than it does going against it. Well worth dusting off every now and then rather than skipping over it when you want to listen to a bit of Exodus, it's still some good friendly violent fun.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 7
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written by omne metallum | 22.07.2020


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