By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — One of the pioneering thrash-metal outfits to emerge in the Bay Area, Exodus has been delivering its signature neck-snapping riffs for closing on four decades. The group was formed in 1979 in Richmond by guitarist Kirk Hammett and drummer Tom Hunting, several years before Los Angeles transplants Metallica poached Hammett to replace troubled guitar player Dave Mustaine in 1983.

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The band went through a number of line-up changes before the quintet — now led by guitarist and principal songwriter Gary Holt — recorded its seminal debut Bonded By Blood with original vocalist Paul Baloff in 1984. Powered by such brutal mosh-pit anthems as “And Then There Were None,”  “Strike of the Beast” and the pulverizing title track,  the recording would have been one of the first salvos of the growing Bay Area thrash-metal movement if the album’s release hadn’t been delayed by business issues until the spring of 1985.

Still, thanks to underground success of the raw recording and the band’s growing reputation for ferocious live shows, Exodus was soon being courted by major labels trying to tap into the emerging popularity of thrash. The band would part ways with Baloff after the Bonded By Blood tour, replacing him with Steve “Zetro” Souza, the singer who had made his name fronting another East Bay metal band Legacy (who would soon rename themselves Testament).

Signed to Sony/Combat Records, Exodus hit its commercial peak with 1987’s Pleasures of the Flesh and Fabulous Disaster two years later, continuing to set the bar for sonic brutality high while earning a broader audience thanks to MTV airplay of the hit “The Toxic Waltz” from the latter album.

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The group would hit a rough patch after moving to Capitol Records for 1989’s Impact is Imminent following the departure of Hunting. Holt would put Exodus on hiatus in the early ’90s after issuing the slower, more experimental Force of Habit in 1992, but the band reunited with Baloff and new bassist Jack Gibson later in the decade for a live album and periodic touring. It wasn’t until after Baloff passed away in 2002 from a stroke that Souza would return to the fold, recording 2004’s Tempo of the Damned before a sudden and acrimonious split from Exodus that same year.

The band spent much of the next decade producing new albums featuring more intricate thrash epics with new singer Rob Dukes and former Heathen guitarist Lee Altus, who performed on several acclaimed albums including a re-recording of Bonded By Blood entitled Let There Be Blood in 2008. While the busy Holt has split his time since early 2011 filling in onstage for ailing Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman (who sadly two years later), Exodus has remained his main passion.

In 2014, the band made surprise announcement that it had parted ways with Dukes after a decade and Souza would be returning to Exodus once again. Though some fans expressed skepticism over the change, their Nuclear Blast Records release Blood In, Blood Out that year was widely hailed as a punishing return to form. The band plays it’s first San Francisco show since the two-night residency it held at the Chapel last summer, headlining the Regency Ballroom Sunday night as part of Adult Swim Presents: Mr. Pickles Thrash-tacular Metal Tour.

Yet another demented animated offering from the network, the show focuses on the adventures of six-year-old Tommy Goodman and his demonic border collie, Mr. Pickles. The package tour also includes crossover punk/thrash revivalists Municipal Waste. Founded in Richmond, Virgina in 2001, the quintet pounds out hectic, metal-infused hardcore that nods to the sounds made by ’80s greats D.R.I., Agnostic Front and early Corrosion of Conformity. The band plays songs from its most recent Nuclear Blast Records effort, last year’s Slime and Punishment. Rising local old-school style thrash favorites Hellfire open the show.

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Mr. Pickles Thrash-tacular featuring Exodus
Sunday, Feb. 25, 7:30 p.m. $24.50-$30
Regency Ballroom