Exodus is an American thrash metal band formed in 1979 in Richmond, California. Spanning a career of 38 years, Exodus has gone through numerous lineup changes, two extended hiatuses, and the deaths of two former band members. Their current lineup consists of vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza, guitarists Gary Holt and Lee Altus, bass guitarist Jack Gibson and drummer Tom Hunting. Hunting is one of the original members, and departed from Exodus twice, in 1989 and 2004, but rejoined in 2007. Holt joined the band about two years after its formation, and is the only member of Exodus to appear on all their releases.
Since its formation, Exodus has released ten studio albums, two live albums and two compilations. Along with Possessed, Testament, Death Angel, Vio-Lence, Forbidden, Lääz Rockit and Metallica, whose longtime lead guitarist Kirk Hammett was an original member of Exodus, they are often credited as pioneers of the Bay Area thrash metal scene, and have sold over five million albums worldwide as of 2013. Exodus had particular success in the mid-to-late 1980s with their first three studio albums: Bonded by Blood (1985), Pleasures of the Flesh (1987) and Fabulous Disaster (1989). The critical praise given to Fabulous Disaster garnered attention from major labels, including Capitol Records, with whom Exodus had signed in 1989. Exodus released two more studio albums (Impact Is Imminent in 1990 and Force of Habit in 1992) before disbanding in 1994. After temporarily reuniting in 1997–1998, Exodus reformed once again in 2001, and since then, they have released five more studio albums, the most recent being 2014’s Blood In, Blood Out. The band is expected to release their next studio album in late 2017/early 2018.
The initial lineup of Exodus was formed in the late 1970s by guitarists Kirk Hammett and Tim Agnello, drummer/vocalist Tom Hunting, and vocalist Keith Stewart while attending high school together. The band added bass guitarist Carlton Melson in 1980, and the quintet began making a name for themselves playing backyard parties and various school functions. They played mostly cover songs in the vein of 1970s hard rock and New wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) acts but also developed some of their own original songs. Things with Stewart did not work out, and Hunting became the band’s sole vocalist for some time. Carlton Melson was replaced in 1981 by bass guitarist Geoff Andrews. Tim Agnello would leave the group soon after to pursue a life of ministry in Stockton, California, leaving Exodus to perform as a power trio until a replacement was found in Hammett’s friend and Exodus roadie Gary Holt.
Also in 1981, Hammett met El Cerrito resident Paul Baloff at a North Berkeley house party, a friendship that was started – according to Hammett – by their shared admiration for punk rock and 1970s heavy metal music. Baloff became the band’s lead vocalist and the quintet recorded a 3-song demo tape in 1982, a release which would be Hammett’s only recording with Exodus. The band’s music began to incorporate elements of hardcore punk into their NWOBHM roots, and Exodus were considered the pioneers of the Bay Area thrash metal scene. In November 1982, Exodus opened a show at San Francisco’s Old Waldorf venue for Metallica, a then-relatively unknown (and unsigned) band from Los Angeles. As the band began playing more shows in Bay Area clubs, they gained a large, fervent fan base known for their violent concert behavior.
In early 1983, Hammett left Exodus to join Metallica on the recommendation of Mark Whitaker, leaving Gary Holt to effectively take creative control of the band. Hammett was replaced short term by Mike Maung, followed by Evan McCaskey, before the band finally found a permanent replacement in guitarist Rick Hunolt. Geoff Andrews also left to start an early incarnation of pioneering death metal band Possessed, and was replaced by bass guitarist Rob McKillop.
Along with the “Big Four” (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax), Overkill, Testament and other acts, Exodus have been credited as pioneers of the thrash metal genre, which achieved mainstream popularity in the 1980s and early 1990s. They have also been credited as the first Bay Area thrash metal band to exist.
Loudwire.com placed Exodus at number five on its list of the 10 Best Thrash Bands of All Time, calling them “The original kings of the Bay Area thrash scene”, and saying that “While their uncompromising sound and uneven output in the coming decades kept world domination and platinum success ever at bay, you’d be hard passed to finger any other band, short of Slayer, perhaps, that’s flown the thrash flag as proudly and unwaveringly as Exodus.”
Exodus has mentioned AC/DC, Angel Witch, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Diamond Head, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, Mercyful Fate, Motörhead, Nazareth, Ted Nugent, Rainbow, Sweet Savage, Thin Lizzy, Tygers of Pan Tang, UFO, Van Halen and Venom as their main influences.
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