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(Note: this is a review of a burnt copy of the pre-release, but since it originated with Steve Souza, everything's definitely in order.)
After over a decade of way more shit than any band should have to go through, Exodus has finally pulled themselves together and put out an album. With their legacy of brutal, riff-heavy thrash, their disappointing last couple albums, and all the hype surrounding "the return of the Slay Team!" Exodus has a lot to live up to with Tempo of the Damned. Do they deliver?
Simply put - oh yeah. Tempo is a true beast of an album, a combination of ripping thrash and weighty groove reminiscient of Overkill's WFO, as well as of their own Fabulous Disaster. The guitars shred, the bass is powerful and very audible, the drums are fast and solid, and Steve Souza has never sounded this good in his life. As a matter of fact, the highlight of the album overall is probably Zetro's vocal ownage, in which he adds some Mille Petrozza near-growls ("War Is My Shepherd") and throat-ripping shrieks ("Tempo of the Damned") to his usual arsenal of snarls and squeals.
As for the songs, the major highlights are to be found at the beginning of the album; one of the best 1-2-3 punches I've heard in a long time in "Scar Spangled Banner," the afore-mentioned "Shepherd," and "Blacklist." The opening track "Banner" is that rarest of creatures in modern years, an anti-war metal song done right. Remember "Disposable Heroes" and "Two Minutes To Midnight"? Exodus does, and they produced a fast-paced song with an excellently intricate main riff, great drumming, and an enraged, yet catchy chorus. "Blacklist" is a chugging track that reminds of "And Then There Were None"; while not as technical, "Blacklist" is damn catchy, and has a great intro riff that pops up again at the 3-minute mark and once more at about 5:30.
In between those, there's "War Is My Shepherd," easily the album's finest hout, and probably the best Exodus song since "Piranha." The riffs are speedy and fearsome, and the "PRAY! For all of those in pain!" rhythm of the pre-chorus is pure headbanging beauty. Then comes the chorus, with the aforementioned Germanic roars of "WAR! WAR!" Catchy, brutal, and violent–Exodus at their best. You'll be screaming "Praise the lord and pass the ammunition!" by your second listen.
Now, the bad. Unfortunately, Gary Holt saw fit to re-record a track ("Throwing Down") from his largely unsuccessful Wardance project; with no offense meant to Mr. Holt, I can see why Wardance didn't get anywhere. The opening riff isn't bad, but it gives way a boring, Machine Head-ish chug followed by a downright embarassing latter-day Pantera chorus. The vocal melody sucks too...an injustice to the rejuvenated Zetro.
Despite that moment of disappointment, the Bay Area boys redeem themselves with the closing title track. The first two minutes of "Tempo" are faster than anything else on the album, and simply fucking KILL the listener. After a good midpaced solo, the speed kicks back in leading up to Souza's final vicious screams - great stuff.
Another notable track is the album epic, "Forward March," which boasts a nice set of riffs as well as some questionable vocals that, while not really rap, honestly sound pretty crappy. The extended guitar solos in the middle rock, though, so the song turns out good. "Shroud of Urine" is a good, straightforward up-tempo triplet tune with cool lead work that sounds approximately eight hundred and sixty-four times better live. And then there's "Impaler," which was left off Bonded for some reason, possibly Kirk Hammet riff burglary or simply space considerations. (Has anyone considered that KIRK might have written the riff? Just a thought...) In any case, yes, that is "Trapped Under Ice" in the middle, yes, it is an awesome riff no matter who came up with it, and yes, this song fucking murders .
While not quite a mind-boggling effort, Tempo of the Damned proves that thrash metal is alive and well on the Left Coast, and is a great listen for anybody yearning for the days when men were men, women wore Death Angel babydolls, and only poseurs cut their hair. Vicious, solid and reassurring.