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Bonded by Blood - The Aftermath (Earache Records)

By: David E. Gehlke

[7/10] Initially, Bonded by Blood did themselves zero favors by naming themselves after Exodus's seminal debut. At least it took all of the guess-work out of what kind of band they are. When they were mucking it up with their fellow retro thrash pals roughly four or five years ago, it wasn't much of a problem - it was cute, a little forced, and definitely too obvious-sounding. Now that retro thrash's time has come and gone (thank you sweet Jebus), here comes the real test, for they're now operating without a safety net, and even worse, without singer Jose Barreles, who was far and away the only distinctive element of the band.

The Aftermath is the band's third album of old dude/young man thrash, and the first to feature new vocalist Mauro Gonzales. Gonzales doesn't hold a candle to his predecessor (who was by all accounts, practically comedic in his delivery, which is why it was so awesome), but at least he doesn't sound like he picked up a microphone a few weeks before recording the album. At times, it feels like Bonded by Blood pushes him out in the front of the crowd when he doesn't have to be, like on opener "I Can't Hear You," which is some sort of quasi thrash call to arms for 2012. You're a little late with that, gentlemen.

The combination of Gonzales' forced delivery and the band's standard fare thrash template makes The Aftermath struggle. "Shepherds of Rot" (now that's a total Exodus song title) has some persuasion to it, and "Among the Vultures" serves as the album's fast-break moment, but there's no real depth or intrigue to what's going on here. And it's not like Bonded by Blood is going through the motions; they're simply doing their best to keep their heads above water when in earnest, it was probably best to call it a day after Barreles left and the air was sucked out of 2010's Exiled to Earth.

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