If Metallica stole a march on their metal brethren by releasing a first studio album in eight years towards the end of 2016, then it was another of the thrash movement’s early adopters who caught the eye of the HRH Mag team this year. Bay Area pioneers Exodus laid waste to the UK on a critically acclaimed club run and took Hammerfest by storm with a blistering set of bone crunching classics and modern takes on a four-decades old formula. Here’s what HRH Mag’s Richard Holmes had to say about the band’s relentless live show:
Exodus, like their brethren in Testament and Death Angel, are a band who refuse to live on past glories and are still creating blistering thrash records in their fourth decade. Indeed, 2014’s Blood In, Blood Out showed that the Bay Area legends are still vital to the scene, and their recent UK tour confirmed that there’s plenty of life left in Tom Hunting and co.
So this headline slot, unsurprisingly, was hotly anticipated and thankfully the quintet lived up to expectations… even without the presence of Gary Holt (busy with Slayer, apparently).
And while Hammerfest is housed in the smaller of Hard Rock Hell United’s two main venues, the more intimate, basement vibe it creates is perfect for a bit of thrash action (as Hirax’s set a year ago proved). This time around, the walls once again strained to contain the energy unleashed by both band and fans, as adrenaline surged with every razor-sharp riff, and every turn on a sixpence tempo change. Piranha, Bonded by Blood, And Then There Were None – all were thrown to a ravenous crowd to feed off.
Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza – now back with the Exodus for his third stint – may now be in his 50s, but his love of the band’s heritage and the pure power of thrash hasn’t waned. The guy sung on 80s classics such as The Toxic Waltz (aired here in all its glory) and delivers Paul Baloff era-material like it was his own, yet he is very much part of the band’s 21st century identity too. 2004’s Blacklist, for instance, was delivered with oodles of spite, while relative newcomer Body Harvest saw the vocalist hold a severed arm aloft… not his, thankfully, and (hopefully) not real. Someone chanted former singer Rob Dukes’ name, but it didn’t catch on, and to see Souza gleefully introduce Metal Command was to witness a man who clearly belonged with his bandmates.
To focus solely on Souza, though, would be doing the likes of Lee Altus and stand-in six stringer Kragen Lum a disservice; both guitarists were in incendiary form, and Hunting – resplendent in an English Dogs t-shirt – seemed to be loving every minute behind the kit.
Put simply, this was another victory for thrash at Hammerfest, another lesson in violence from Exodus, and a performance that made many in the audience feel 20 (or even 30) years younger. A return to the UK can’t come soon enough.