After 12 years apart, the death of their lead vocalist (Paul Baloff), and feared done forever, 'Exodus' blasted back onto the thrash scene with 'Tempo of the Damned', which could be the most-talked about thrash album since Slayer's 'God Hates Us All'.
The line-up from the band is as follows:
Steve "Zetro" Souza - Vocals
Rick Hunolt - Guitar
Gary Holt - Guitar
Jack Gibson - Bass
Tom Hunting - Drums
This band has had its share of line-up changes. Kirk Hammet originally founded the band with Tom Hunting and Gary Holt, only to leave to join Metallica. There's a little bit of humor behind that one, as the moment Exodus came onto the scene, it was about the same time Metallica appeared, and out-did everyone in the metal industry pretty much, so if Kirk was going to move onto any other band, it might as well be one that was bigger than his previous one. Paul Baloff was their original vocalist, who left for personal issues in 1987, and was replaced by Steve Souza. Paul Baloff rejoined the band for a reunion tour, and they started to write new material, only to die of the stroke. So, Steve Souza came right back in, and that all brings us here, to 'Tempo of the Damned'.
If anything is to be said about this album, it's the fact that it is heavy. VERY HEAVY. This album basically takes the term 'head-bangable', rapes it, and actually wants it to tell everyone who did it as well. The opener, 'Scar Spangled Banner' (Anti-Bush anyone?), kicks in with a fast, evil-sounding riff that sounds like its rip off an old military patriot song, which is the point really, so it can get into your mind the image of a tattered and beaten flag. Most of the riffs mainly stem off of the main intro. However, at the bridge, they play a 'chug-chugga'-esque riff that could probably make a monk rise up and start punching someone. Melody? Hell no. Souza assaults your ear with high-piercing screams and snarls that will leave you deaf if you have your speakers turned up full blast. 'War is My Shepherd' is easily the most pissed-off, in-your face song on this entire album. It features a quick guitar riff (which is also the chorus), before it moves onto the main-riff, and when the drums come in, it's easily on the heaviest riffs on the album. It almost has a slowed-down Slayer feel to it if you were to actually play it yourself. Souza gets off some of his best yells and snarls on this track, and it features some of the best one-line lyrics on the album, such as 'They need God, I need napalm!' and 'My M-16, my lord and savior!'. 'Blacklist' is a slightly slower, yet heavier, than the previous two, and is the second longest on the album, coming in at 6:16. This has more of an old-school thrash feel to it, especially during the verses, which feature more 'chug-chugga'-esque riffs that seem to dominate this album at points. Souza, once again, doesn't tamper with his tried-and-true formula of screeching until your eardrums explode, and he never does, so brace yourself now. 'Shroud of Urine', while it might make you want to gag, as it did me the first time I heard it, has the element of anger to push it along. It starts off with the drums and the bass, and the bass sounds like its just 'rolling' along, until the guitars kick in and take it to another level with some chugging riffs that end with them hitting a good deal of notes, and very quickly I might add. Souza sounds sick here, and when I mean sick, I don't mean cool or awesome, but literally sick. His vocals here consist of low screeching, and during the chorus, it sounds like somebody punched him in the nuts to make him scream that high. The lyrics will probably make you want to gag, just because it's hard to image a giant shield of urine without your stomach churning.
And after four great songs, the album starts to dip sadly. 'Forward March' is the longest of the album, at 7:38. Only problem is, it's so repetitive and mediocre that you'll get halfway before you yawn and hit 'skip'. The riffs, while heavy as always, feel more basic than anything on here previously. It slows down around halfway through, and the thing this song really has got going on is the guitar-work during the solos. They truly are epic solos, they come in at about 4:00 and don't stop till 5:45, which is a pretty long time for a thrash-solo if you ask me. 'Culling the Herd' features some of the slowest riffs on the entire album, and they really do drag on'and on'and on. The opening riff showcases the exact tempo for the entire song basically. It just chugs along, with almost no variation. A very bland song here. 'Sealed with a Flat' brings some of the speed back into play, with the heaviest riffs since 'Blacklist'. If you haven't figured it out yet, Souza has almost no other vocal range other than screech, scream, and bark. No singing. And there is nothing outside the box in the vocal category on this one. If by now you have given up hope and believe there are truly only four great songs on this album, then 'Throwing Down' is a swift kick in the face back to reality. It's slightly faster than 'Blacklist', and while at first the riffs seem to follow the same 'chugging' that has poisoned some songs on this album, just give it a second. After awhile, you will see why they called this song 'Throwing Down', because literally, the riffs have a huge 'punching' feel to them. The instrumental on this track is good, but its Souza that makes the song awesome. He is pissed off beyond belief, and he seriously shows it. He sounds like a rabid dog, going from almost calm to blasting you in the face with a barrage of screams. I really wouldn't doubt it if this guy has Tourrete's Syndrome. 'Impaler', sadly, is another mediocre track. Featuring the same tempo as 'Culling the Herd', the riffs, while featuring an interesting intro that shows a good use of hammer-ons and pull-offs, it suffers from the 'drag-on' syndrome where there's little variation, and Souza really isn't on top of his game on this one. Near the middle of the song though, it kicks in with some of the fastest riffs on the album, but they aren't anything special, just some palm-muted notes played rapidly, and finishes that way. However, the title track saves some of the good for last. I don't say best because it really isn't, but it's still a great way to end the album. It starts off slow, and at first listen, it sounds like another 'chug-chugga' track. However, after a few seconds, there's an abrupt stop and the fastest riff on the entire album comes in full force. While not much different than the previous riff on 'Impaler' (palm-muted notes over and over), it finally branches off into its own world right before the verse. It slows down near the middle of the song for some soloing, then picks up right where it left off, and when the songs down, your mind will probably still be spinning from the sheer speed of it.
There are some things that I must address about this album. The riffs, while heavy and certainly enjoyable, can become bland and repetitive throughout the album, more so during the second half, after 'Shroud of Urine'. They become to feel recycled, and over-used. Steve Souza's vocals are a definite grower, as some people will be completely turned off by his limited vocal range, as I explained before, is simply three things: screeching, screaming, and barking, and while he does all of those very well, it will still put off a good deal of people. His lyrics too, are genuinely offensive. 'War is My Shepherd' features anti-god lyrics that Slayer would probably clap to, and sometimes the lyrics can become offensive in a political sense. I'll leave the last one up to you, based upon your political views. But let's just say they don't like Bush. At all. Though it's never directly implied, you cannot miss it.
I feel as if I have neglected to talk of solos, which are apparent on every track. Well, they're in the league of their own. They're great. Not one of them seems dull, or recycled like the riffs can at some point. Hunolt and Holt can play, and some of their best solos come off of 'War is My Shepherd', 'Blacklist', and 'Culling of the Herd'. While most of their solos feature the whammy-bar 'dive-bomb' attack (perfected by Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman of Slayer), they can quickly make up with that with fast playing and great placement of notes.
This album might've been hyped a little bit too much than it should've been (some were saying it might be the greatest thrash album ever), it's still an impressive return. Imagine coming off of 12 years and were expected to put out a great album, think how hard it could be. Well, Exodus did it, and they executed it very, very well.
Scar Spangled Banner
War is My Shepherd
Any grammatical errors, let me know, and I will gladly fix them, as I need to get started on a project that I put this in front of.
Also, I think there might've been a review of this album before mine. If the writer could find it, and is better written or whatever, I will take this down, just so you know, as I am not trying to steal the review from any previous writer.