Exodus are one of the most prevalent American thrash metal bands who have been in existence since 1979. Over the course of their career they have had many line-up changes with no constant members. Drummer Tom Hunting is the only current original member and he has been out of the band twice. Notable musicians to have played in the band include Kirk Hammett who left Exodus to replace Dave Mustaine in Metallica. The longest standing member is guitarist Gary Holt who has been in the band since 1981 and is the only member to have played on all of their ten studio albums. Their career has been a rather chaotic one, with feuds between former and current members and they have been on two hiatuses. One time vocalist Paul Baloff, who many consider to be the greatest Exodus singer, passed away in 2002.
Many people are of the opinion that the Big Four of Thrash should be extended to a Big Five with Exodus as the fifth band. They have certainly been just as crucial to genre as all of the Big Four bands and were particularly successful during the genre’s peak in the mid to late 1980’s. Also, despite their generally rather messy existence they have been fairly consistent when not on hiatus and have generally produced some of the best music that thrash and metal in general has to offer. So without further ado let’s see what the best ten cuts are from this legendary band.
# 10 – Blood In Blood Out
Kicking off our ten best Exodus songs list we have the title track from their most recent album released in 2014. It is the first album to feature vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza since Tempo Of The Damned in 2004. The album also features a guest appearance from none other than Kirk Hammett on the track “Salt In The Wound.” The album was generally well received and is the band’s most commercially successful album, reaching number thirty-eight on the US Billboard.
# 9 – Nanking
This next track is taken from the bands’ ninth album Exhibit B: The Human Condition released in 2010. The album is a sequel to the previous album The Atrocity Exhibition…Exhibit A. It continues that album’s adventurous musical direction with all of the songs being over six minutes. It also carries on its heavy lyrical themes that tackle things such as religion, politics and general society. It got to number 114 on the Billboard 200. It is the last album to feature Rob Dukes on vocals.
# 8 – The Atrocity Exhibition
Up next we have the partial title track from the band’s eighth album released in 2007. It was the second album to feature Rob Dukes and marked the return on Tom Hunting on drums who had played on the album before the previous one titled Tempo Of The Damned. The record received positive reviews and sold well.
# 7 – Shovel Headed Kill Machine
In the next place we have the title and closing track from the band’s seventh album released in 2005. It was the debut of Rob Dukes after Steve Souza had left for the first time and also the first album not to feature long standing guitarist Rock Hulnot who was replaced by Lee Atlus. This is also the only Exodus album to feature Paul Bostaph on drums who is known for his work with Slayer and several other seminal thrash metal bands. Tom Hunting had just previously left the band for the second time.
# 6 – Tempo Of The Damned
Up next we have yet another title track taken from the band’s sixth album released in 2004. This was a comeback album for Exodus, being their first since 1992. As previously stated, three of the band members left after the release of this album. This album came out around the time that there was something of a thrash metal revival going on, with many of the old bands coming back after a period of inactivity. It was received well by critics.
# 5- Force of Habit
Up next is the title song of the band’s fifth album released in 1992 which was the last of their original stint together before they went on a long hiatus. This album was a departure from Exodus’ signature thrash style, with many of the songs being slower and generally more experimental in nature. Most likely due to this, it was met with a mixed critical reception and was not massively successful commercially, being the first album not to chart since their debut album Bonded By Blood.
# 4 – Impact is Imminent
Next up we have the opening number to album of the same name released in 1990. It was their major label debut on Capitol Records and the first to feature drummer John Tempesta. Guitarist Gary Holt has retrospectively expressed mixed feelings on this album, stating although he feels that he wrote some of his best riffs on it, if he could chose one Exodus album to record again it would be this one. Despite being a major label release, it was actually their least commercially successful record at the time, charting lower than all of the previous albums , only getting to 137 on the Billboard 200.
# 3 – The Toxic Waltz
At number three we have what perhaps the band’s most celebrated song taken from their third album Fabulous Disaster released in 1989. It is a staple of the band’s live shows, likely due to it being about the act of moshing at live shows. Because of this, it always gets the crowds going, literally doing the Toxic Waltz! Despite its popularity it was never actually released as a single, although it did have a promo video which was popular on MTV.
# 2 – Pleasures of the Flesh
Just off the top spot we have another title track this time from the band’s second album released in 1987. (You have probably noticed a bit of a theme here with this list.) This was Steve Souza’s debut with the group after the firing of vocalist Paul Baloff. In total, the process of making this album took an unbelievable two years to make. Its release was delayed several times after Baloff, who had recorded some early demos of some of the tracks, was ejected from the band. It got to number eighty-two on the Billboard.
# 1 – Bonded By Blood
At the top of this list we have the song that you guessed was probably coming, the classic title track of the classic debut album. Bonded By Blood was released in 1985 despite being completed in 1984, with its release being delayed due to legal issues with the record company Combat Records. Along with the likes of Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Slayer’s Reign In Blood it is considered to be one of the most influential thrash albums of all time. It is also the only album to feature Paul Baloff on vocals. He would later re-join the band for five years in 1997 until his death in 2002, but the only thing he recorded during his second time in the band was the live album Another Lesson In Violence. In 2008 it re-recorded as Let There Be Blood with the only members on it who played on the original version being Gary Holt and Tom Hunting.
Top 10 Exodus Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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