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Classic Thrash Metal: Exodus, "Pleasures of the Flesh"


I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.


Exodus, "Pleasures of the Flesh"

Original Release: Combat Records, 1987

Reissue: Century Media Records, 1999 and 2008

Exodus missed becoming one of the "Big Four" thrash bands by thiiiis much.

If guitarist Kirk Hammett hadn't jumped ship for Metallica in 1983, and their 1985 debut Bonded By Blood had been released a year earlier as originally intended, Exodus might have beaten Megadeth's Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good! to the marketplace, and thrash metal history might be quite different today.

Unfortunately for the Bay Area bashers, their album release was delayed due to financial difficulties at their then-label, Torrid Records. By the time Bonded finally hit record stores in April '85, the thrash metal craze was already in full swing. The album garnered rave reviews and amassed a frenzied underground cult following, but the thrash scene had already chosen its winning acts, and the best Exodus could do was settle for being part of the second wave.

For their sophomore release, Pleasures of the Flesh, Exodus made the controversial decision to jettison their fan-favorite front man Paul Baloff in favor of former Legacy (later Testament) vocalist Steve "Zetro" Sousa. While it didn't quite match the frenzied, homicidal intent of Bonded, Pleasures... showcased a tighter, more professional sounding band than the debut.

"Brain Dead"

The Songs

Some drunken babbling about salads and baked potatoes eventually leads into opening track "Deranged," a gut punch that lets listeners know that Exodus is still just as capable of kicking your ass as they were on Bonded. Steve Souza's throaty, reptilian snarl resembles a thrashed-out version of AC/DC's Bon Scott, spitting lyrics like bullets from a machine gun, yet you're still able to understand what he's screeching about. "Til Death Do Us Part" and "Parasite" continue the pummeling and the sinister "Brain Death" contains the meanest riff on the album, bar none. In the wake of Hammett's exit from the band, guitarist Gary Holt became the main songwriter in Exodus, and his lightning-fast, razor-sharp playing on Pleasures indicated that he possessed a near-endless supply of riffs.

The boastful "Faster Than You'll Ever Live To Be" is a high-speed heart attack which leads into the title track, an ode to cannibalism that starts with some funky island-style drumming before slamming into the irresistitble main riff that launched a thousand mosh pits.

Fun fact: the album's original cover art was supposed to portray the Exodus members having lunch with a tribe of flesh-eating savages. At the last minute the artwork was deemed too tasteless/gross for mass market retailers and it was swapped for a generic photo of the band sitting at a bar. The "banned" artwork was eventually used on a limited picture-disc LP of Pleasures, as well as on t-shirts.

Some seriously slammin' double bass drum abuse kicks off "Seeds of Hate," and the caustic "Chemi-Kill" calls out the toxic-waste polluters and the government stooges who take their payoffs and look the other way. (it was the '80s, every thrash metal album had at least one song about toxic waste or nuclear annihilation), and the album comes to a suitably bruising close with "Choose Your Weapon."

My copy of the CD (a 2008 reissue from Century Media Records) closes out with a handful of live bonus tracks - "Chemi-Kill," "Brain Death," and "Til Death Do Us Part" prove that Exodus could easily re-create thei mayhem heard on their albums on stage, and a spirited rip through the AC/DC chestnut "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" is a nice ode to one of the band's major influences.

In short: Pleasures of the Flesh still rocks like a ton of bricks more than three decades after its initial release, and it deserves a spot in every metal head's thrash collection!

"Pleasures of the Flesh"

Whatever Happened To Exodus?

After scoring a minor hit with the mosh-pit ode "The Toxic Waltz" on 1989's Fabulous Disaster, Exodus signed a major label deal with Capitol Records, who released 1990s' Impact Is Imminent and 1992's Force of Habit. However, thrash metal's popularity was already on the wane. The band took a few years off before briefly reuniting with original vocalist Paul Baloff for a tour that resulted in the 1997 live release, Another Lesson In Violence. Baloff's sudden death in 2002 re-opened the door for the return of Steve Souza on 2004's comeback album Tempo Of The Damned.

Gary Holt assembled an all new lineup for 2005's Shovel Headed Kill Machine, and over the next several studio albums he was backed by rotating cast of band mates that included vocalist Rob Dukes, ex-Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph, and Heathen guitairst Lee Altus.

Exodus was inactive for much of the 2010's while Holt recorded and toured with Slayer, taking the place of their late guitarist Jeff Hanneman. Their most recent studio album was 2014's Blood In, Blood Out, which brought Steve Souza back into the fold once again.

Exodus are currently hard at work on a new studio album which is due to be released sometime in 2021.

© 2020 Keith Abt