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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Exodus

Tempo of the Damned

Review by Mike Korn

Ancient forces of evil are stirring in the deep places of the Earth. The long slumber of the elder giants is over and now they rise once again, preparing to crush all in their path. An excerpt from a Lovecraft story? Hardly, rather, it seems to describe the current metal scene, as many 80's bands long dormant wake up from hibernation to terrorize the ears of the faithful once again. Some bands are just cashing in on nostalgia. Others are picking up right where they left off. Exodus is in the latter category. Though they have not released a new studio album in 14 years, the Bay Area madmen have returned to the fray. "Tempo of the Damned" sees them more misanthropic, more vicious than ever. Surviving even the death of former frontman Paul Baloff, it seems that the future may be brighter than the past for these thrash metal legends.

Exodus were always the unlucky stepchildren of the Bay Area thrash metal movement that spawned Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth. They could have been as big as any of the former but somehow it didn't work out. Is now their time? Hard to argue that it isn't, after listening to the musical Molotov cocktail "Tempo of the Damned". This brutal album is thrash at its best, mixing the classic bloodthirst of the band's debut "Bonded By  Blood" with the more pounding grooves of later material like "Force of Habit". The nasal grunting of singer Steve Souza is more snarly than ever before and the guitar prowess of Rick Hunolt and Gary Holt is untouched by time. Only original bassist Rob McKillop couldn't make this reunion, but he is ably replaced by Jack Gibson.

A new age of insanity is upon us. Time to march to "The Tempo of the Damned"!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Scar-Spangled Banner
This screaming thrash epic is as full of hatred and bile as anything being churned out by hardcore bands half the age of Exodus. It's the album's best track and the most faithful to the classic Exodus formula. A twisting riff starts things off, picks up speed and from there, the listener is simply pummeled. Zetro sounds like a rabid Schnauzer as he snarls lyrics like "Oh say can you f***ing see/The missiles fall like rain/Bloody Mountain's majesty/Dead bodies on the Plain". After hearing this monster, there's no doubt EXODUS IS BACK!
War is My Shepherd
If there could be any doubt after the opening track, this follow-up hammers home the fact that these guys are thrashing out better than ever. A great fast-paced scorcher, I love the "bouncy" riff underneath the chorus and the way Zetro roars "WARRRRRR!". It includes brilliant lead soloing from Holt and Hunolt...a pleasure to hear!
Blacklist
After the two high velocity openers, the pace drops for this one, but not the heaviness. A very thick and heavy sounding cruncher, this chugs along with great authority and boasts a catchy chorus. It probably lasts just a wee bit too long.
Shroud of Urine
The anti-religious feeling in this song would put many black metal bands to shame. Driven by Jack Gibson's pounding bass, it has a choppy, chugging feel. The mid-section with its dueling solos
is great. "I never heard a bigger pack of lies/ It's ludicrous/that any one of us/would want to be led by the blind".
Forward March
This is a pretty lengthy but speedy cut where Rick and Gary really get to show their stuff. The main verse riff is thrashing but pretty close to stuff on their "Fabulous Disaster" album. The song again takes time to demonstrate some excellent soloing in the middle.
Culling The Herd
This is more of a pounding, groovy number, with a killer guitar hook that lodges itself deep in the brain. There's a bit of a bluesy feel to some of the mid-section and the tune is reminiscent of the better material from the maligned "Force of Habit" album. This is a great live song, and it would be hard to find lyrics more bitter than these.
Sealed With A Fist
This is a nasty little number dealing with spousal abuse and its bloody aftermath. It's probably the most average tune on the disc yet it's still not bad at all.
Throwing Down
This is definitely more in the vein of Pantera-style groove metal than thrash, but when the groove is this thick and meaty, who cares? The riff is just killer and I can imagine hordes of tough guys violently moshing to it. I like the vocal bridge where Zetro's vocals become hoarse and rough while he growls about "crushing mindless fools like you."
Impaler
Want to know how old this song is? It has a Kirk Hammett writing credit on it. That means Kirk wrote on this song before he left for Metallica. That would put it around 1980/1981. An oldie but goody! You can really detect some of that "No Remorse/Seek and Destroy" style to the slower riffs that start this one. Then, in true Exodus fashion, it explodes into old school thrash and builds to a mighty climax. This kind of song is truly timeless.
Tempo of the Damned
The closing title track puts the pedal to the metal again and lays down what may be the highest velocity thrash of the record. Simple but satisfying, with maximum guitar crunch in the mid-section, this is a fitting capper to a great comeback album.
 
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