xodus would prove to become one of the innovators of the so-called "Bay Area" thrash scene in the style of Metallica and the like, even featuring members who would later go on to more known bands years later (guitarist Kirk Hammet is one such example from their very early days before they recorded, not to mention John Tempesta also). Although they are credited with the title "innovators" by many, the title is less deserved due to their insistence on producing what most critics believed to be second rate thrash.
The initial lineup of Exodus formed in the late 1970s featuring guitarists Kirk Hammett and Tim Agnello, drummer/vocalist Tom Hunting, and vocalist Keith Stewart while attending high school together. Bass guitarist Carlton Melson later joined in 1980. Initially the act performed at backyard parties and various school functions playing mostly cover songs in the style of 1970s hard rock and New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Stewart did not work out, and Hunting became the band's sole vocalist for some time. In 1981, Carlton Melson was replaced by bass guitarist Geoff Andrews. Tim Agnello would leave the group soon after, thus leaving Exodus to perform as a power trio until a replacement was found in Hammett's friend and Exodus roadie Gary Holt. Also in 1981, Hammett met El Cerrito resident Paul Baloff at a North Berkeley house party, a friedship resulted and Baloff eventually became the band's lead vocalist. In 1982 a three track demo emerged comprising of the songs Whipping Queen, Death and Domination and Warlord, a release which would be Hammett's only recording with Exodus; the band's music began to incorporate elements of hardcore punk into their NWOBHM roots. In early 1983, Hammett would leave Exodus to join Metallica on the recommendation of band friend and audio engineering college student Mark Whitaker (who would soon after become the producer of their first album), leaving Gary Holt to take creative control of the band. Hammett was replaced by Mike Maung, then by Evan McCaskey, before finally finding a permanent replacement Rick Hunolt (guitar). Geoff Andrews also left to start an early incarnation of death metal band Possessed, to be replaced by Rob McKillop (bass).
They would debut in 1985 with Bonded By Blood. The album showed them to be fast enough and certainly metallic enough, but failed in the shadow of the majors in the make, like Metallica and their Kill 'Em All album. Originally titled A Lesson in Violence, the album was not released until April 1985 amidst creative and business setbacks. Whilst Bonded By Blood is considered a highly influential thrash metal album today, critics have regarded the delay in its release as having hindered the impact the album could have had.
Paul Baloff was then fired from the band allegedly due to his behavior related to alcohol and other substance abuse, to be replaced by Steve "Zetro" Souza (ex-Legacy/ex-Testament); Baloff went on to form the band Piranha in 1987.
'Sony/Combat Records' would come along to publish Pleasures of the Flesh (1987), an album featuring an environmental song, Chemikill but fell down again with cheesy lyrics in tracks like Brain Dead and Deranged. Fabulous Disaster would follow in 1989, and continued to fail in giving them the coverage they wanted, but another membership shift saw John Tempesta (later of White Zombie and Testament) take over the drums for Impact Is Imminent (1990). Despite their commercial album failures, they had established a name for themselves and 'Capitol' took over where 'Combat' left-off with this album. This line-up would hold for their first live effort Good Friendly Violent Fun (1991) and Lessons In Violence (1992) "best of..." compilation. But Mike Butler took over from McKillop for Force of Habit (1992). After several years with no new recordings and success always passing them by with only inches to spare, the act split.
Another live effort in Another Lesson In Violence (1997) emerged when the act reformed with the revised line-up of Paul Baloff taking over from Souza, Jack Gibson taking over from Butler and Tom Hunting taking over from Tempesta. It was a one-off temporary live outing and they subsequently split up again until Baloff and mates came back together in 2001 to play live shows only, until Baloff died on January 31, 2002 from a stroke; Steve Souza was brought back into the band to finish the rest of their concert commitments.
In 2005, Rick Hunolt left to focus on his family. He was replaced by Heathen guitarist Lee Altus. Tom Hunting also took leave of the band following a re-occurrence of the nervous problems that led to his temporary departure in 1989. Hunting was replaced with Paul Bostaph (now ex-Slayer and Testament);.the revamped line up released Shovel Headed Kill Machine (2005).
Tom Hunting returned to the band in March 2007 in time to record and release their 8th studio album The Atrocity Exhibition... Exhibit A. They then performed at the Wacken Open Air Festival in the summer of 2008.
Exodus provided the voices of the customers at the Duncan Hills Coffee Shop and five of the sick people in Cartoon Network's Metalocalypse television show.
Exodus released a re-recording of their 1985 debut album, Bonded by Blood entitled Let There Be Blood (2008). Exhibit B: The Human Condition followed in 2010.
2014 saw vocalist Rob Dukes leave and replaced by Souza, returning for the second time.
On September 29, 2017, Exodus were confirmed to appear at the following year's Rockharz Open Air in Germany as one of the early bands noted for the main stage.