Thirteen years ago Exodus returned with another incredible lesson in Thrash Metal.
Sometimes excellent bands go on a huge musical hiatus due to unforeseen reasons, making their fans at the same time really sad and anxious for a possible return someday. However, some of those bands return with very low-quality material and the damage to their careers is almost incurable, as for example what happened with the disappointing comebacks of Running Wild, with the weak album Shadowmaker, and Guns N’Roses, with the controversial Chinese Democracy.
Fortunately, that’s not what happened to Thrash Metal masters Exodus. Quite the contrary, when they got back to life with their first new album since the interesting Force of Habit, from 1992, they kicked some serious fuckin’ass. Tempo of the Damned might not be the best Thrash Metal album in the history of music, but it’s probably the best of the past two decades in terms of creativity, riffs, and of course, violence. With the return of Steve “Zetro” Souza on vocals, Tom Hunting smashing his drums, and especially an inspired Gary Holt absolutely on fire, Tempo of the Damned is the epitome of what’s best in modern Thrash Metal.
Are you ready for a sonic massacre? Well, the first track, Scar Spangled Banner, is even more than that. For over 6 minutes, we have a perfect representation of the “new” Exodus: extremely politicized and intelligent lyrics (“We the people, for no people / Secure the blessings of tragedy / Do ordain we have established / The scar spangled banner”), awesome riffs and solos, creative variations, and a lot of speed. The second track of this brilliant album, War Is My Shepherd, is another fuckin’ carnage, perfect for an intense mosh pit with Zetro doing a pretty good job on vocals.
Then we have the incomparable hit Blacklist, my favorite track of the album and certainly on my top 5 songs in the history of Exodus, with the best vengeful lyrics in Heavy Metal (“You’d better start runnin’ / Cause you know that I’m comin’ / Cocked and loaded and I never miss / I’m onto your game / And I’m layin’ the blame / And I’m addin’ your name to my blacklist”) and a riff that is beyond perfect for banging our fuckin’ heads until we drop. Shroud of Urine keeps the album at a high note, followed by another pure Thrash Metal song called Forward March, where Gary Holt and Rick Hunolt deliver us some truly amazing solos.
Culling the Herd is slower than the previous tracks (maybe for us to take some air), but it is also a great Thrash Metal song. The shortest song of the album, Sealed with a Fist, focus on all the “beauty” of marriage and it’s highly recommended for a friend’s wedding if you like to play pranks on people. The next track, Throwing Down, shows us why Gary Holt is one of the most underrated riff masters in the world, with outstanding riffs and solos. Seriously, when are people going to recognize Gary’s unparalleled contribution to the world of music?
The album ends with the good song Impaler (written by Metallica’s own Kirk Hammett, and it should have been feature in Bonded By Blood if Kirk Hammett hadn’t taken its main riff with him to be used on “Trapped Under Ice”), and the title-track Tempo of the Damned, which can be called a “musical beast” due to its boisterous rhythm, crazy riffs, fast percussion, and of course its very controversial lyrics paying a “tribute” to all types of religions and churches. And if your neck is still attached to your body when this brutal song is over and you have the special digipack version of the album, you can relax and enjoy a very nice cover for AC/DC’s classic Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, where Zetro simply nailed it with his visceral voice.
Finally, did you notice the length of the songs in Tempo of the Damned? Most of them surpass the 5-minute barrier, something unimaginable for almost all Thrash Metal bands in the world, with some songs having even over 7 minutes. That’s why after this album was released many people started calling Exodus as the “Pink Floyd of Thrash Metal”, and also fans started demanding that Exodus were included in the “Big 4”, making it more like a Big 5 (or even a Big 6 with Testament included too), due to the undeniable quality of their music. I honestly don’t care if they make it a Big 5 or Big 6; what really matters to me is that Exodus keep on delivering us many more “lessons in violence” such as Tempo of the Damned in their career.
Best moments of the album: Scar Spangled Banner, Blacklist and Tempo of the Damned.
Worst moments of the album: It’s hard to choose a bad song in the album, because there are none. I would select Impaler as the “least amazing” tune, though.
Released in 2004 Nuclear Blast
1. Scar Spangled Banner 6:41
2. War Is My Shepherd 4:27
3. Blacklist 6:17
4. Shroud of Urine 4:52
5. Forward March 7:32
6. Culling the Herd 6:07
7. Sealed with a Fist 3:36
8. Throwing Down 5:01
9. Impaler 5:25
10. Tempo of the Damned 4:22
Digipack bonus track
11. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (AC/DC cover) 3:52
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – lead and rhythm guitars
Rick Hunolt – lead and rhythm guitars
Jack Gibson – bass
Tom Hunting – drums