This album is supposed to be a great what-if of metal: what if Exodus’ debut album had been released right after it was recorded, just a little bit after Ride the Lightning. Would everyone remember this band differently? As a pioneer, as one of the Big 4 thrash metal bands, rather than a follower?
I’m not sure this idea holds up to much scrutiny: Ride the Lightning – released the same month that Exodus recorded this album – is much more ambitious than this record. I think the idea that delays releasing this album changed the trajectory of metal illuminates our inability to really think clearly about the past. If this record had been recorded in 1983 and then not released for a year? That would be an interesting story. But by summer 1984, when this was actually recorded, the band Exodus lost their lead guitarist too had already gotten a lot more ambitious.
This is very solid thrash metal. It satisfies me in terms of what I want out of mid ’80s thrash metal record: it is loud, it is pummeling, the solos are great. Oh and it sounds pretty great compared to a lot of metal records from around this time. (There are plenty of metal records from the era where you can quibble with the production. There is a tiny bit of flange on one track but, otherwise, this sounds great.)
And it’s early enough in the genre’s history that it doesn’t feel like these guys have jumped on the bandwagon. After all, they didn’t jump on any bandwagon. They were pioneers, as they formed in 1979 and apparently were playing music something like this as early as 1982.
But the idea that history would be rewritten if only these guys could have released this album, their debut, a month after they recorded it instead of 9 months, seems to me to be revisionist history. It’s a pretty good example of Bay Area thrash from the mid ’80s. That’s what it is.