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Exodus is best known for Bonded by Blood, which is easily one of the greatest thrash albums of all time. But is this another Bonded by Blood? With the exception of one and 1/2 songs: hell no! For most songs, the formula is: water down Exodus' post-Bonded albums, shit on it with some half-thrash elements and hard rhymes, but add a few mildly redeeming features here and there, and viola, you have the new Exodus.
The bad? First of all, there are elements of hard rhyming (borderline rapping) in a few songs, though Zetro's vocals aren't bad for the most part. Combined with unnecessary use of profanity, even on the top of decent lyrics, it makes some songs almost fucking unlistenable. Secondly, cruddy half-thrash influences are everywhere, though it's not really derivative of anything that I can put my finger on. They seldom create that thrashy wall of sound that I so love, with all its brutality and polyriffed chaos -- it often sounds like Pantera or Machine Head sped up a bit, often relying on distortion and groove. Of course, the half thrash is all in the musicianship -- fortunately, there's no misplaced techno/industrial elements or anything. This would be a decent half-thrash album compared to the rest, though.
The good? The guitar solos fucking slay, though they're not over the top and stunning. The lead guitar is often pretty good. The production is excellent, and the instruments are all clear and pronounced, with a loud-as-hell yet crisp sound. However, I'm not sure what influence producer Andy Snead of Machine Head and Skinlab had in the music itself, since a good deal of this album would be better if it had the production of Capricornus' Stahlgewitter but the music of Bonded Like Blood instead of half-thrash.
Oh, and the exceptional one and 1/2 songs:
Impaler REALLY fucking picks up at 1:45, though! It is sheer headbanging, back to the Bonded by Blood days true ass-kicking thrash, but only lasts little more than a minute, and then winds down for the rest of the song. GOD DAMNIT, why can't you do what you did on 1:45-3:03 for most the album!?! ARRGH! You would have equaled, if not exceeded Bonded with this album if you did!
The titular track (Tempo of the Damned) itself, though, is the true gem of the album. If the whole album sounded like this, it would easily get a 96% from me. It's in the vein of Bonded, but with viciousness, speed, and ferocity rivaling that of harsh German thrash. Everything is there: riffs from hell, aggressive drumming, vicious vocals, and a great solo tied together with the great production. It sounds exactly like what a modern Exodus should sound like! Why is it the only one like this?
Unfortunately, most of the other songs have good and bad movements in them, but are generally just mediocre. Scar Spangled Banner isn't bad, but just ok. War is my Shepard sounds really promising at first, but goes downhill. Blacklist is crap. Shroud of Urine is crap, save for the solo. Forward March kicks ass for a brief moment, then goes from mediocre to UTTERLY GAY with rap elements. Culling the Herd is lousy Pantera worship, though I agree with the lyrics. Sealing the Fist and Throwing Down are also utter crap, and also sound like lost Pantera songs, though they're actually lost Wardance songs.
I wish I could give rate this on a two-dimensional, time-based scale -- 96% for the actual thrash in the title track and a minute of Impaler, and a few parts in other songs like War is my Shepard. For most of the rest, it's about a 40% average, dipping into the single digits at times. A fair estimate for the album as a whole would be 57%, so that's what I'll give.