Exodus Tempo of the Damned

Their first studio album in 12 years, Bay Area thrash pioneers Exodus return with a better album in a waning field of comeback acts. Overtaken by the MTV mentality regarding metal, Exodus packed it in after their mediocre 1992 effort, Force Of Habit. Aside from a shoddy 1997 live album, the band had little impetus and funding to record new material until 2001 when they played the now-legendary Thrash of the Titans benefit. Founding vocalist Paul Baloff died suddenly in 2002, so Steve "Zetro” Souza (who fronted the band during their leaner years) took up the mic and finished recording. Sonically, Tempo of the Damned is better than neighbours Death Angel’s recent comeback entry and Testament’s last few albums, though their monochromatic thrash gets slightly long in the tooth. In small doses, the album lays down the absolute law: openers "Scar Spangled Banner,” "War Is My Shepherd” and "Blacklist” completely annihilate, but "Shroud Of Urine,” "Forward March” and "Culling The Herd” all run together in an unmemorable mass of riffs from Gary Holt and Rick Hunolt. The axes do wail, however, on the resurrected "Impaler” (co-written by Kirk Hammett before departing for Metallica) and the blazing title track, yet "Sealed With A Fist” and "Throwing Down” — both written for Holt’s side project Wardance — sound like Iron Rainbow and Spirit Caravan, respectively. Ultimately a mixed bag, Tempo of the Damned delivers just like thrash albums of yore: a few fist-pumpers destined to be classics among fret board filler and fireworks. (Nuclear Blast)