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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, originally released in 1987

Exodus, Pleasures of the Flesh, originally released in 1987

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 their debut album 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.

Prior to beginning work on their sophomore release, Pleasures of the Flesh, Exodus made an additional, controversial decision -- replacing their maniacal, fan-favorite front man Paul Baloff in favor of former Legacy (later Testament) vocalist Steve "Zetro" Sousa.

While Pleasures didn't quite match the frenzied, homicidal intent of Bonded, it showcased a tighter, more professional sounding band than the debut.

The Songs

Some drunken babbling about salads and baked potatoes eventually leads into opening track "Deranged," a solid gut punch that lets listeners know that Exodus is still capable of kicking your ass. Steve Souza's throaty, reptilian snarl resembles a thrashed-out version of AC/DC's Bon Scott; he spits 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.

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 irresistible 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 cartoonish "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 (in the '80s, every thrash metal album had to have at least one song about toxic waste, nuclear annihilation, or both), before 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 their musical mayhem on stage, and a spirited rip through the AC/DC chestnut "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" is a nice ode to one of their major influences.

In short: Pleasures of the Flesh still rocks like a ton of bricks, and it deserves a spot in every metal head's thrash collection!

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, it was too late to do them any good, as thrash metal's popularity was on the wane.

Exodus took a few years off before they briefly reunited with Paul Baloff for a tour captured on the 1997 live release, Another Lesson In Violence. Baloff's sudden death from a stroke 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. 2014's Blood In, Blood Out brought Steve Souza back into the fold.

Exodus was inactive for much of the 2010's due to Gary Holt joining Slayer, taking the place of their late guitarist Jeff Hanneman.

Exodus' first new studio album in seven years, Persona Non Grata, was released in 2021.

© 2020 Keith Abt