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EXODUS want you to bang your head like its 1988. Few metal comeback albums have been as greatly anticipated as this one, and the buzz leading up to and immediately following the release of "Tempo Of The Damned" has been considerable. I’ll admit, I had some serious doubts that the band would be able to produce an album up to the standard of some of their classic earlier works. "Bonded By Blood" and "Fabulous Disaster" were giant names in the metal world in the mid and late 80’s, with the former continuing to be regarded as one of the best thrash albums ever produced.
Does the new one live up to the buzz and expectation? Surprisingly, yes. EXODUS has produced a strong new album that sounds like, well, a lot of their other albums. EXODUS have not reinvented themselves, gone nu metal, added sampling, or changed their songwriting, style or sound. What they have done is produce an album packed full of the formula that made them such a success in the 80’s. The fat, chunky guitar riffs and alternating single and double bass drum gives "Tempo Of The Damned" a wonderfully retro sounding Bay Area thrash sound. With only a few exceptions such as SHADOWS FALL, that sound has been lacking recently. Andy Sneap’s production gives the album a crisp and polished sound that maximizes the band’s strengths.
The band hits a home run right out of the gate with the opening track, "Scar Spangled Banner", a scathing indictment of America’s culture of violence, war and indifference. It is a perfect opener and gets the head banging quite nicely, thank you. Other stand out tracks include "War Is My Shepherd", "Forward March", the title track, and most interestingly, a version of the Kirk Hammett era track, "Impaler". The latter, a live favorite, fits in nicely with the other material, and serves as further evidence of the band’s consistency.
The band’s strengths remain the same, and unfortunately, so do their weaknesses. The lyrics are often cheesy or just plain silly (see the ridiculously titled "Shroud Of Urine"). There are a lot of fans that are still loyal to the original singer, Paul Baloff, who had reunited the band and would have been on this album if not for his recent death. There is a feeling that Baloff was a superior singer over Steve Souza, the man that has been with EXODUS for most of their existence. Let’s be honest, neither one is an especially good singer. Souza’s sound is a nasally high pitch growl reminiscent of a mix between the two AC/DC singers, Bon Scott and Brian Johnson. It appears this is a debt that the band accepts as they have covered AC/DC’s "Overdose" and "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" on their albums. Souza sometimes uses a lower pitched yell and on the track "War Is My Shepherd", his yell of “War!” is reminiscent of another old school metal singer (Araya’s "War Ensemble" anyone?).
It is a little early to tell whether EXODUS will win over a new metal audience with this effort, but for those of you who loved "The Toxic Waltz" the first time around, "Tempo Of The Damned will be right up your alley. Old school, 1988 all over again. The mullet may even make a comeback.