Once the kings of the Bay Area metal scene (widely accepted as the birthplace of thrash), Exodus were unceremoniously demoted from their post with the arrival of Los Angeles' Metallica in 1982. Sadly, with a little more luck, the group may have occupied the role of, say, Slayer as the purest purveyors of ultra-thrash, but while they continued to be perceived as a major influence by younger bands and proceeded to carve out a career of their own over the next decade, Exodus were ultimately fated to be the ultimate also-rans of the genre they helped spawn.
Formed in 1981 by singer Paul Baloff, guitarists Gary Holt and Kirk Hammett, bassist Geoff Andrews, and drummer Tom Hunting, Exodus were heavily influenced by Mot????rhead and New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands like Iron Maiden and Raven, whose lessons they combined with the raw, do-it-yourself aesthetic of the prolific Bay Area punk scene to create thrash metal. Their 1982 demo, Whipping Queen and Death and Domination, became wildly popular on the all-important underground tape-trading circuit and solidified their standing as the Bay Area's first thrash champions. They lost their numero uno standing a year later, however, when core member Kirk Hammett defected to Metallica, who then raced ahead of all competitors in their mission to bring thrash to the world. Undaunted, Exodus drafted guitarist Rick Hunolt and replaced bassist Andrews with Rob McKillop before signing with Torrid Records, for whom they recorded their Bonded by Blood debut in 1984. A would-be landmark of the genre, the album languished unreleased for over a year due to business problems, and by the time it was finally released by Combat Records in 1985, its impact had been severely dulled by the quick evolution of their peers.
These hardships also led to the ousting of vocalist Baloff, who was replaced by ex-Testament singer Steve Souza in time for 1987's disappointing Pleasures of the Flesh
?? an inconsistent album that did nothing to advance Exodus' cause. Incessant touring served to strengthen the band's new lineup though, and 1989's meticulously conceived Fabulous Disaster was a critical triumph, bringing the group to its commercial peak. The successful world tour that followed brought another dramatic setback, however, when drummer Hunting was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat that first sidelined then forced him to quit the band at tour's end. Still, Exodus were on a roll, and their momentum led to a new contract with Capitol Records. They rushed back into the studio with former Anthrax drum tech John Tempesta to lay down tracks for 1990's Impact Is Imminent. But the absence of a competent producer and a rushed, carelessly assembled collection of songs resulted in the album's utter failure, squandering the group's recent accomplishments and pretty much finishing off its chances of greater success. Longtime bassist McKillop left soon after (replaced by Mike Butler) and despite the renewed quality of 1992's Force of Habit (their most diverse album), the members of Exodus would go their separate ways soon thereafter.
Then, ten years after his departure from the band, Paul Baloff rejoined most of the classic Bonded by Blood lineup for a series of gigs in 1997. A live album entitled Another Lesson in Violence was issued by Century Media to memorialize their homecoming show in San Francisco, and the band continued to perform sporadically over the next few years until tragedy struck. Baloff suddenly passed away on February 2, 2002, after suffering a massive stroke and slipping into a coma three days earlier. The reunion die was cast however, and after mourning their fallen friend, Exodus's "semiclassic" formation of Holt, Hunolt, Hunting, McKillop, and a returning Steve Souza began working on what would become the band's sixth studio album: 2004's Nuclear Blast-released Tempo of the Damned.