Forget Testament, Exodus were next in line behind the Big Four as far as quality, originality and good old fashioned head-banging, fist pumping, slam dancing thrash metal went. ‘Fabulous Disaster’ hit the shelves just as the first premature obituaries to thrash were being written. It helped prop up a sagging scene, for a short time anyway.
While many Exodus fans rave about the band’s incendiary debut 'Bonded by Blood' as being their finest hour, 'Fabulous Disaster' is far from the product of a spent force. Many wrote the band off after the patchy ‘Pleasures of the Flesh’, and it took a lot of resolve to blast back to the top of the thrash pile. By the time ‘Fabulous Disaster’ was recorded, Exodus had perfected their own distinctive sound. Rivalling Hanneman and King, Gary Holt and Rick Hunolt were the near-perfect thrash guitar duo. Their guitar tone here borders on death metal at times, using dual rhythm and dual leads to amazing effect. At times, it is so heavy as to be percussive. Check the title track, ‘The Toxic Waltz’ and the cover of AC/DC's ‘Overdose’ for evidence.
That's not to say all the band could do was heavy. Far from it. There is a cover of War’s ‘Low Rider’, the cow bells sounding a little out of place, but far superior to the mangling Korn gave the song. ‘Cajun Hell’ is a real surprise. It starts with a zydeco flavoured introduction, and mixes a little Southern boogie with crushing metal, in a style Down would be proud of. However, swamp rock isn't what you listen to Exodus for primarily. No, heads down, heavy duty thrash is the main reason for listening to Exodus. It is here by the truckload. Basically, any track here will have you banging your head and shouting along with Steve Souza. You get hardcore style massed backing vocals, lyrics ranging from political satire (‘Corruption’) to social comment (‘Open Season’), to silly metal fun (‘The Toxic Waltz’).
‘The Toxic Waltz’ was the best ode to fans of the era, back in the days when a mosh pit was a swirling maelstrom of bodies colliding chaotically in a ballet of controlled aggression. (OK, so "ballet" may not be the most appropriate word, but it beats the "Simon says jump up and down on the spot" deal which passes for moshing now.) If you can imagine the pit, it is the perfect visual representation of Exodus' music. ‘The Last Act of Defiance’ and ‘Like Father, Like Son’ are both incredibly dark, violent songs, one about a prison riot, the other about child abuse. Imagining the carnage described on the first track and Souza screaming "Please Daddy, no more!" on the second can chill to the bone. Powerful.
No other album sounds quite like ‘Fabulous Disaster’, except Exodus’ next album ‘Impact Is Imminent’, basically a ‘Fabulous Disaster #2’. For sheer bowel churning weight, ‘Fabulous Disaster’ was the heaviest thing to ever come out of the Bay Area in the 1980s.