Review Summary: Stellar guitars and drums, terrible vocals... Still a classic release.
The 1985 debut from Exodus was not ground-breaking. Metallica had already beaten them to the punch a couple years earlier. But given the chance, this album would have started the thrash movement all by itself. The year was 1984, and a young Exodus had just been signed to their first label. The record that followed was in many ways, a heavy metal classic.
Listening to the album for the first time, i thought the opening riff of the title track was incredible. I was instantly banging my head and enjoying it. Then came the singer, Paul Baloff. I stopped banging my head. The guy can't sing. Period. Instead, he elects to simply yell in a very annoying manner. And i have noticed this issue with a lot of thrash vocalists. You either dig it, or you don't. It all comes down to preference. the vocals really bring down the album in my opinion. I personally like my vocalists to contain at least SOME singing skill. With that said though, Baloff did have a good attitude for the band, and it somehow managed to fit with the music. (May he rest in peace)
The duo of Gary Holt and Rick Hunolt on guitars is probably one of the best in thrash history. The guitars are perhaps, the most exciting part of this album. I honestly can't think of one track where the guitars don't sound excellent. The Riffs sound great, and the trading solos from both guitarists are just perfect. From the opening riff in the title track, to the last solo in "Strike of the Beast", the guitars never let up, and this makes for one heavy album.
The Bass guitarist, Rob McKillop, largely just plays along with the rhythm of the guitars. The Bass is buried underneath the much heavier guitars. And i'm not gonna count that against him or the band. Thats what most thrash bands were doing around that time. Besides, I don't really listen to thrash metal for the bass anyway.
The Drums on the other hand, really stand out. To many, Tom Hunting is a drum legend. To be fair, you wouldn't know it from this particular release, but he would prove his finesse in the years to come. For this album however, drum production sounds great, and Tom keeps up with the guitars perfectly. The drums are fast and loud, which is what thrash is all about.
This album certainly deserves to be heard by any self-respecting metal-head. The band showed a lot of energy, attitude and heaviness in their debut, and their future certainly looked promising. The only thing that dragged the album down a peg are the vocals, but that all comes down to preference. If you can look past the vocals you will certainly see why many people consider this album, a true classic.
Paul Baloff - vocals
Gary Holt - guitars
Rick Hunolt - guitars
Rob McKillop - bass
Tom Hunting - drums
Produced by Mark Whitaker
Recorded: July of 1984
Released: April 25, 1985