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Fairly underrated and quite ambitious - 70%

ViciousFriendlyFish, January 27th, 2014

Exodus altered their sound in the early 90s with Force of Habit, focusing on slower songs with downtuned guitars and a number of experimental elements. However, following the album's release, Exodus were unwilling to compromise their sound anymore for the changing music trends - and broke up. And since then, Gary Holt has expressed a hint of regret in having done this album, which is quite a shame, because it's definitely not a bad album. Different, but not bad. It's actually quite ambitious at times - there is much to be discovered within this 68-minute, 13-track album.

Many of the song titles are existing figures of speech, although it's not clear whether it is coincidental or if the band intended to use them for most of the titles. The lyrical themes of the album vary, such as a love of thieving on the title track, and an anti-suicide message in the slow, almost-grungy "Good Day to Die". The album also contains two unlikely covers in "Bitch" originally by the Rolling Stones, and "Pump it Up", originally by Elvis Costello, and they actually work pretty well, all things considered.

Also, the album differs to previous Exodus releases in the way that the instruments are played and how they stand out. The bass guitar, in particular, has much more of a chance to stand out on its own on several occasions than on previous Exodus albums, though this may just be because they replaced their old bassist Rob McKillop with Michael Butler before work on the album began, and their playing styles just differ. There is also a heavier use of acoustic guitars, such as on the end of the otherwise heavy "Count Your Blessings", "Good Day to Die" and also the 11-minute slow moving and haunting epic "Architect of Pain", which is amongst the album's standout tracks. The drumming style throughout the album feels consistently thrash-oriented despite the multiple shifts in musical style that are included.

I do feel that the album's production could have been somewhat better. The songs all sound fairly muddy and flat in the mix to me, which may have been okay for a more traditional Exodus album, but not so good for an album that tries to shift away from thrash and incorporate a variety of elements. It is worth noting that Force of Habit was released on a major label, and the band were probably feeling pressured into changing their sound whilst they attempted to retain elements of their old sound, even if it meant making sure to achieve that through the production and mixing. Perhaps if the band properly embraced a change in style, it would have resulted in more suitable production and a more-confident sounding album.

All in all, Force of Habit is a transitional album that is full of songs that vary in their moods and styles. Some tracks are winners whilst others fall flat, but that's to be expected in an album of its length. It is, however, quite a shame that they didn't make more albums similar to this one and decided to break up instead, but if Exodus didn't want to change in the first place, there's nothing more that can be said and done about how they may have sounded if they stayed together. When the band reformed, returned to their roots and finally did a new album in 2004, fans welcomed Exodus back with open arms, which is understandable as the modern Exodus material has remained consistently strong and impressive, but most importantly - it's thrash. But this promising album serves as a reminder of what briefly was, and what could have been.