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San Francisco Thrash Gods

Exodus Discography               

Exodus is an influential American thrash metal band that came up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 80s. Moreover, Exodus is considered by many thrash fans as the first true thrash band, as they were formed a year before their fellow Bay Area thrash pioneers. Exodus defined the Bay Area thrash movement along with bands like Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Death Angel and Testament (originally Legacy). The Bay Area movement not only defined the thrash genre during this time, but also helped it reach a far greater audience. Exodus was an integral part of the movement, and their debut album Bonded by Blood is considered among the elite thrash albums ever released. In the 34 years since it formed, Exodus has seen numerous lineup changes, with guitarist Gary Holt the only one to perform on every release. The band's influence on thrash is undeniable, as nearly every musician to come along and embrace the genre has cited Exodus as a revered source of inspiration. In addition, Exodus is something of the Deep Purple of thrash, with Hammett going on to Metallica and both Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph spending time with Slayer. Exodus members have also played in Hirax, Heathen, Testament, Pirhana and countless other important Bay Area bands.

Exodus was formed in 1980 by drummer Tom Hunting, bassist Carlton Melson and guitarists Tim Agnello and Kirk Hammett, of eventual Metallica fame. Hammett is credited for naming the band, after a 1958 novel written by Leon Uris. Initially, Melson handled vocal duties along with playing bass, but was soon replaced by singer Keith Stewart and bassist Geoff Andrews. Agnello left a short time later, to pursue a life in the ministry oddly enough, and was replaced with Gary Holt, who had been working with the band as Hammett's guitar tech. About a year after Exodus was formed, Hammett met vocalist Paul Baloff at a party in Berkeley, California. Baloff replaced Stewart, and Exodus recorded its first demo, a recording that would be Hammett's only recording with the band before he left to join Metallica.

Exodus released its first demo in 1982. Despite solid response from the emerging thrash scene, Andrews left to form Possessed, though he would leave the band when its original singer Barry Fisk committed suicide. The bass slot was filled by Rob McKilop as the band's popularity rose and the band shared the stage with. In early 1983, Metallica fired lead guitarist Dave Mustaine, who formed Megadeth, right as the band was to record Kill 'Em All. Hammett was given the gig and replaced in Exodus by Rick Hunolt, completing the lineup that would lay down the band's defining effort. In those days the band played constantly in local clubs like Ruthie's Inn and the Old Waldorf, playing along not only Metallica and Slayer but also Anthrax, Possessed, Legacy (later Testament), Death Angel, Forbidden and many others. The mid-80s Bay Area scene was a tight-knit scene, and all the bands would show up at each others' shows when they weren't on the bill themselves.

Exodus - Hammet Era 1982

Recording on the band's freshman set was completed in July 1984, but it didn't hit stores until the following April thanks to label problems. Bonded by Blood is considered by most thrash fans as one of the top records ever released, along with classics from Metallica and Slayer. The dueling solos style of Holt and Hunolt became a staple for 5-man thrash groups; and Baloff's guttural, growling vocals set a standard that few have ever achieved. The album even influenced cover art for decades as the familiar cover depicting an evil baby conjoined with a normal infant is among the most memorable covers in the history of all metal. The album was reissued with a different cover several years later, but reissued again later with the original, classic cover.

Shortly after Bonded By Blood hit stores, the band went out to support the record with Slayer and black metal pioneers Venom. An early show on that tour at Studio 54 in New York was filmed, and a DVD entitled The Ultimate Revenge - Combat Tour Live was released, giving the band another boost in popularity. The band continued to play locally between tour dates, but began to develop an unreliable reputation because of Baloff's frequent partying, showing up late for rehearsals or gigs and not showing up at all. Most of the band was growing tired of Baloff's excessive drinking and growing reputation for violence and vandalism, so they dismissed him and brought in Steve "Zetro" Souza from the band Legacy (which hired Chuck Billy, signed with Megaforce and changed its name to Testament). Baloff went on to form the band Piranha, but would eventually return to Exodus for a short-lived reunion before his death in 2002. He also had brief stints in the Bay Area bands Hirax and Heathen, though never appeared on a record for either band.

Original Bonded By Blood Album Cover

The timing of Souza's departure was curious, as Legacy was on the verge of signing a deal with Megaforce. With Souza on board, Exodus turned its attention to the handful of record deals they'd been offered because of Bonded By Blood's success. They decided to go with Combat, and finally entered the studio to begin work on a second album. They had actually started writing the album in 1986, before dismissing Baloff, releasing a demo entitled Pleasures of the Flesh nearly a year before dropping the album of the same name. Baloff has writing credits on three of the album's tracks, but does not perform on it. The album was delayed because of a dispute with Torrid Records, the small label that released Bonded By Blood. Combat gave the label some cash, and Exodus spent about a month recording the album at Alpha and Omega Recording in San Francisco.

Pleasures of the Flesh dropped in October, 1987 to a good response, becoming the first Exodus record to reach the Billboard 200 albums chart, peaking at No. 82. The band hit the road for about a year with Anthrax, Celtic Frost, and M.O.D., took just a handful of days off to recover and were in a recording studio writing their third release in April 1988. About five months later they returned to Alpha & Omega, spending about a month laying down what would become their biggest commercial success. Fabulous Disaster equaled its predecessor's success on the charts, reaching position 82 on Billboard, but reached a much wider audience thanks to heavy promotion and the album's classic thrash sound. The band got heavy rotation on MTVs' "Headbanger's Ball" with a video for "Toxic Waltz", which also received heavy radio airplay along with a cover of War's "Low Rider".

Despite all the extra promotion, Exodus didn't slack on the supporting tours for Fabulous Disaster. They immediately headed over to Europe for a headlining tour with Nuclear Assault and Acid Reign, then landed the opening slot on the Headbanger's Ball Tour with Anthrax and Helloween, broadening the band's audience even further. Anthrax had already begun to crack into the mainstream metal crowd with Among the Living, and Helloween was immensely popular among that crowd, who nonetheless loved Exodus at the shows. A live album was recorded during the tour, but wasn't released until 1991. The success of the album drew the attention of Capitol Records, who picked the band up in early 1990, releasing a fourth album just a few months later.

Recorded in December 1989 and January 1990, Impact is Imminent arrived in stores in late June, 1990. While the album did draw enough sales to chart, it only reached position 137 on the Billboard 200, making it the least successful Exodus album so far. The album also received a cold reception from critics, and guitarist Gary Holt would reveal years later that Impact was his least favorite effort in the Exodus discography. Tom Hunting left the band just prior to recording, and was replaced by John Tempesta (later of White Zombie, Testament). Rob McKilop then left after the album was released, being replaced by Michael Butler. The band hit the road to support the new record even as Capitol was preparing to drop their first live album, touring the US with Suicidal Tendencies and Pantera before headlining a European tour with support by Violence and Forbidden.

The reception for Good Friendly Violent Fun was positive among fans, though critical response was reserved. The album's sales surpassed those of Impact is Imminent, however, and the album became popular among the band's home town crowd, as the recording was taped at a show at the Fillmore in San Francisco in 1989. The band toured for about a year before setting their sights on the next project, even as Combat was releasing a compilation of their early work called Lessons In Violence. The record included a live cover of AC/DC's classic "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," also included on Good Friendly Violent Fun. Force of Habit hit stores in mid-August, 1992, and included covers of the Rolling Stones' "Bitch" and Elvis Costello's "Pump It Up."

Back Insert - Good Friendly Violent Fun

Force of Habit marked a significant change for Exodus, in the form of a departure from the classic thrash style that defined their earlier releases. It was the band's first album not to chart since their debut, as fans were slow to accept the change, but became more and more popular over time, becoming the band's second biggest seller behind Fabulous Disaster. The band hit the road for about a year before the decision was made to go on hiatus in response to the changing musical landscape. The grunge movement was all-but-killing interest in heavy metal and thrash bands at the time, so Exodus decided to take an extended break. A brief reunion with original frontman Paul Baloff took place in 1997, including a tour during which a live album, Another Lesson in Violence, was released. The group parted ways again shortly after the release, however.

In 2001, Exodus reunited once again in order to take part in the Thrash of the Titans benefit for Testament frontman Chuck Billy, who had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The band continued to tour after the benefit, and began planning a new studio album. Tragedy struck the following year, however, when Baloff had a stroke. Baloff spent several days in a coma before doctors decided to pull the plug, and the legendary singer passed away at the age of 41. The band reached out to Steve Souza, who rejoined the band. With Souza back in the fold, Exodus wrapped up their concert commitments over the next few months. Industry observers assumed that Baloff's death would be the end of Exodus, but Gary Holt was determined to release another record in tribute to the troubled singer.

Classic Exodus Lineup - L to R: Hunolt, McKilop, Hunting, Baloff, Holt

Tempo of the Damned was released in February 2004. The album was largely rejected by fans, selling fewer than 15,000 copies in its first year of release. It would prove to be the last Exodus release with Steve Souza on vocals, as he left the band in the midst of a subsequent tour. Tempo of the Damned is the only studio release from Exodus to feature material written by Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, who wrote the track "Impaler". The song had previously been released on the band's 1982 Demo and the live album Another Lesson in Violence, but Tempo was the first studio record to include the track. The supporting tours for the Tempo set were marred with internal strife and lineup changes as Rick Hunolt was fired over a drug problem and Tom Hunting left the band again before Souza took his leave. Souza was initially replaced by former Skinlab frontman Steev Esquivel, then he was replaced permanently by Rob Dukes.

With Dukes on vocals, Exodus hit the studio to lay down a seventh album. The result was Shovel Headed Kill Machine, which dropped in October 2005. The band toured extensively to support the release, canvassing not only the US and Europe, but also Japan. The band even played a few shows in Australia, their first ever appearances there. At the end of the tour, Tom Hunting rejoined the band and they entered the studio to begin work on album number 8. The Atrocity Exhibition... Exhibit A hit stores in October 2007 to a solid reception from critics. The following summer the band headlined the 2008 Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany before co-headlining a US tour with black metal legends Kreator. About the same time, a re-recorded version of Bonded By Blood was released as a tribute to Paul Baloff.

Thrash Legend Paul Baloff

Paul on the Bonded by Blood Tour

Exodus 1st Baloff era

Life on the Tour Bus

Bonded By Blood /
Let There Be Blood covers

Baloff w/ Metallica bassist Cliff Burton

Titled Let There Be Blood, the reissue of Bonded was met with a very mixed reception. The sound and production was hailed, but many questioned the reasoning behind the redo of such a classic album. Of course, Gary Holt had explained that they were not trying to improve on the original, but rather expose the material to modern recording techniques. Holt said that he and Baloff had discussed re-recording Bonded for years, but the timing just never seemed right. After several more months of touring, the band headed into the studio in Northern California to work on a ninth studio album. The band recruited British producer Andy Sneap for the record based on his work with Megadeth, Kreator and Arch Enemy.

Exhibit B; The Human Condition arrived in stores in May 2010, continuing the trend started by its predecessor. The album sold better than The Atrocity Exhibition..., climbing as high as position 114 on the Billboard 200 and reaching No. 32 on the German chart. The album was also the band's only release besides Fabulous Disaster to feature the same lineup as the album before. Since then, Exodus has continued to tour, playing all the major festivals and shared the bill with Testament, Slayer, Death Angel and others. A tribute concert was held in February, 2012, which marked the 10th anniversary of his death. Dozens of thrash industry heavyweights showed up for the event, including past and former Exodus members Kirk Hammett, Gary Holt, Rick Hunolt, Tom Hunting and Geoff Andrews.

Exodus 2014: Lee Altus, Rob Dukes and Gary Holt

In late 2011, Holt was asked to fill in for longtime Slayer guitar legend Jeff Hanneman on a series of tour dates after Hanneman contracted necrotizing fasciitis following a spider bite. The gig proved longer term than initially thought, however, as Hanneman's condition worsened. Unable to even play guitar, Hanneman sank into alcoholism, passing away on May 2nd, 2013 when his liver failed. Alcohol-related cirrhosis was ruled as the official cause of death a week later. Holt has filled in with Slayer ever since, prompting some to wonder if Exodus is done. Holt has not only been the principal songwriter for Exodus for over two decades, he's also the lone constant as the only member of the band involved in every release. His role in Slayer is much less significant, as he's set to perform on their next album but won't receive a single writing credit despite being with the band since before writing began. Writing for a tenth Exodus record, meanwhile, began in late 2012; and the band hit the studio in April to start laying it down. No word on a release date just yet. Both Holt and Dukes have described the album as "very fast," with more of a punk vibe than their last two efforts. In the meantime, Holt has been working overtime as Slayer and Exodus toured the US with Suicidal Tendencies. The tour wrapped up May 17th at the Rock on the Range festival in Columbus, Ohio. Holt is leaving for Europe with Slayer, who has a whole slew of dates on the schedule, while Exodus is only slated to play Denmark's Bang Your Head Festival and Belgium's Antwerp Metal Festival in July.

Exodus Discography

Bonded By Blood, 1985

Pleasures of the Flesh, 1987

Fabulous Disaster, 1989

The Exodus discography spans three decades and includes nine studio albums, three live albums, two compilation albums, three video albums, six demo albums, eight singles and six music videos. Click Here for detailed information about each of the band's official releases.

Exodus discography

FullinBloom interview with Steve Souza