The 1990s had a very mixed effect on Thrash Metal bands. Some, like Megadeth and Metallica toned down their sound and became superstars (or bigger stars than they already were). Some, like Sodom and at one point Testament, decided to incorporate some influences from the Death Metal scene and get even harder. Some, like Heathen, Hirax and Death Angel broke up.
One of Thrash’s most important bands, San Fransisco’s Exodus had some line-up trouble, bereavement and a whole lot of confusion. Right before it all went upside down, they released their fifth album, Force Of Habit, in 1992 (the year after Nirvana’s Nevermind album).
Like Anthrax’s Sound Of White Noise, Testament’s Low, Forbidden’s Distortion and so many other Thrash band’s albums between 1992-1999, the album is not the all out speed and violence fans had come to expect. There were new ideas, slower tempos and alternative lyrical themes than just the usual things like blood, war, slaughter and the glory of metal. There was a fatter production sound, and more of a Rock feel than their previous all-Metal all the time material.
If you just want face-melters like ‘Piranha,’ ‘Thrash Under Pressure’ and ‘Faster Than You’ll Ever Live To Be’ from previous records then there is some material here that may come as a bit of a shock. The single ‘A Good Day To Die’ has a southern groove like Pepper Keenan-era C.O.C. The 11-minute ‘Architect Of Pain’ is a dynamic, slow, sludgy number with an almost Alice In Chains feel. The Rolling Stones cover song ‘Bitch’ has a horn section and ‘Pump It Up’ has sing-along choruses and a punky tom based drumbeat.
There are a few bones thrown to Thrash fans though. Other single ‘Thorn In My Side’ has a crunchy riff and great energy. ‘Feeding Time At The Zoo’ & ‘Count Your Blessings’ pick up the speed. ‘Me, Myself & I’ has razor sharp riffing, gang vocals and a chorus which could fit on any of the previous three albums.
After this album, the band would disband, then later reunite with original singer Paul Baloff and release a live album, before disappearing again, and going through numerous line-up shifts over the years, but releasing some of their best albums to date along the way (Tempo Of The Damned for example is definitely worth looking into).
History has sort of forgotten about (or intentionally overlooked) this album. How do I feel about it, you ask? It’s a bit of a strange record, but interesting. If I was ranking all of Exodus’ albums, this would be dead last. It however, is not bad. Uneven maybe, but still worth your time. It is refreshing to hear them thinking outside the box, but its also good it didn’t last for too long and they got back to doing what they do best later.