Album Review – Exodus / Tempo of the Damned (2004)

Thirteen years ago Exodus returned with another incredible lesson in Thrash Metal.

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Tempo of the DamnedSometimes 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?

Exodus2004The 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

Track listing
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

Band members
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – lead and rhythm guitars
Rick Hunolt – lead and rhythm guitars
Jack Gibson – bass
Tom Hunting – drums

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Album Review – Exodus / Blood In, Blood Out (2014)

Welcome back to the family, Zetro!

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ExodusBloodInBloodOutDid any sane and healthy living creature on this planet actually expect American Thrash Metal masters Exodus would not deliver us another great lesson in Thrash Metal with their brand new album, the motherfuckin’ awesome Blood In, Blood Out? Think about it, the band has the one and only vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza returning since their 2004’s masterpiece Tempo of the Damned, they’ve been providing us the cream of Thrash Metal for years in a row with boisterous albums such as Shovel Headed Kill Machine and Exhibit B: The Human Condition, and they have the guitar genius Gary Holt more inspired than ever with absolutely no mercy of our necks and souls. Even the sick album art is pure old school, not to say totally badass. As the band itself states in this album, “this is a fucking dynasty of thrash notoriety”.

Although Blood In, Blood Out features some very special guest musicians, it’s the “Pink Floyd of Thrash Metal” themselves (as many of their songs go way beyond the 4 or 5-minute barrier most Thrash Metal bands are used to) who truly conduct the whole album almost flawlessly, with highlights to the wicked return of Zetro, of course. I mean, Rob Dukes is a great guy, an excellent frontman and his hardcore voice was perfect for the type of music Exodus generated in the past few years (I’m not even going to say how much I love all of the Exodus albums with Rob on vocals), but Zetro kind of brings back that 80’s thrashier attitude all fans learned to love, and that became the band’s trademark.

Gary, Zetro, Lee, Jack and Tom might have thought “why not kicking things off with the past and present of Exodus in the same song?” That’s exactly what you’ll hear in the excellent Black 13,  where their first guest musician, American hip hop producer Dan the Automator, is responsible for an industrial sounding intro before all hell breaks loose with those insane Thrash Metal riffs only Exodus can generate. It follows a similar pattern as their latest albums, mixing the thrashier musicality of Tempo of the Damned with the melody and violence of Exhibit B: The Human Condition. Pay attention to Zetro’s voice and to the outstanding bass lines by Jack Gibson, those are truly amazing elements in this badass track, followed by another powerful tune, the title-track Blood In, Blood Out: I heard people complaining about its “silly” lyrics, that they’re too basic comapred to precious gems such as “Scar Spangled Banner” and “Blacklist”, but it’s lines such as “If you have the pedigree, welcome to the family” and “Tonight we’re gonna rage and make Paul Baloff proud” what make it so delightful. Can you imagine the humongous circle pits this song will generate when played live? Besides, the whole band is kicking ass here, in special Gary Holt and Lee Altus with their amazing guitar solos.

Collateral Damage once again focus on an old school sonority, and will probably cause some awesome collateral or brain damage to the fans so fuckin’ heavy it is. I simply love the backing vocals and how Tom Hunting accelerates the whole damn thing with his pounding drums. The next track, Salt The Wound, sounds a lot like some tracks from Tempo of the Damned, especially its riffs and acid lyrics (“Full of puss / You’re a Judas and a troll / Lance the boil rooted deep within”). In addition, this song has their second guest musician, albeit it’s just a guitar solo by Metallica’s own Kirk Hammett. At least he didn’t have enough time to screw up everything with his horrible technique.

The massacre goes on with the fast Body Harvest,  with Zetro’s desperate screams during its chorus adding even more violence to it, plus some great guitar solos after four minutes; and BTK, with their last guest, Mr. Chuck Billy (Testament) on vocals doing only some screams and deep growls (and nothing else). This song is based on the story of Dennis Rader, better known as the BTK killer, whose infamous signature means “Bind, Torture, Kill”. Well, I still prefer their song about serial killers Leonard Lake and Charles Ng, entitled “The Ballad of Leonard and Charles”, from Exhibit B: The Human Condition.

exodusWrapped In The Arms Of Rage is direct old school Thrash Metal, perfect for live performances, while My Last Nerve is an excellent example of how even when they slow down and get more melodic, their music is still so violent and awesome it’s impossible to stand still. This is how slow riffs and harsh vocals should be blended together to make an amazing headbanging tune, turning it into one of the top moments of the album. Exodus get back to old school destruction in Numb, a true lesson to all new bands on how Thrash Metal should be played, with a flawless and complex instrumental and with highlights to the job done by Tom Hunting, who seems pretty inspired during the entire album.

The last part of Blood In, Blood Out begins with Honor Killings, another awesome combination of harsh vocals, great backing vocals, insane riffs, and violent lyrics. The deep heavy sound of the bass lines in this song is really outstanding, thanks to a brilliant work by Jack Gibson. Then we have Food For The Worms, with another great vocal performance by Zetro augmented by the song’s dark lyrics, and it’s always impressive how these guys keep on thrashing nonstop like metal machines. And last but not least, Exodus offer us an interesting cover version for British Heavy Metal band Angel Witch’s Angel Of Death, from their 1980 debut album Angel Witch.

I guess I don’t need to mention once again that Gary Holt is an underrated beast, a billion times more awesome than most worshiped metal guitarists I know. The guy is playing with Exodus AND Slayer at the same time, crafting great music like everything in Blood In, Blood Out, and he NEVER has a bad or uninspired day on the guitar. That says it all. Anyway, you can purchase the album in several different webshops and physical stores, and if you live in a blessed city in the US you can check Exodus live touring with Slayer and Suicidal Tendencies, which is beyond spectacular for any Thrash Metal fan in the world. And if you haven’t welcomed the “Hatriot” back to the Exodus family yet (I had the pleasure to see him back live during their concert at Heavy Montréal 2014) and/or would also like to thank him for contributing to such an amazing album like Blood In, Blood Out, this tour will be a very good opportunity to do so.

Best moments of the album: Black 13, Blood In, Blood Out, My Last Nerve and Honor Killings.

Worst moments of the album: BTK.

Released in 2014 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Black 13 (feat. Dan the Automator) 6:21
2. Blood In, Blood Out 3:42
3. Collateral Damage 5:28
4. Salt The Wound (feat. Kirk Hammett) 4:25
5. Body Harvest 6:29
6. BTK (feat. Chuck Billy) 6:56
7. Wrapped In The Arms Of Rage 4:30
8. My Last Nerve 6:11
9. Numb 6:14
10. Honor Killings 5:43
11. Food For The Worms 6:23

Limited Edition bonus track
12. Angel Of Death (Angel Witch cover) 4:39

Band members
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – lead and rhythm guitars
Lee Altus – lead and rhythm guitars
Jack Gibson – bass
Tom Hunting – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Dan the Automator – industrial intro on “Black 13″
Kirk Hammett – guitar solo on “Salt the Wound”
Chuck Billy – additional vocals on “BTK”