It was only a mere six months ago when I last saw Exodus on stage, opening for Suicidal Tendencies and Slayer. The latter can easily outshine an array of legendary bands, but not the thrash titans known as Exodus. They never cease to amaze me with their tight, unexpected sets. And they're baaaack. But this time, it's at a relatively new venue, alongside heavy metal hitters Testament and up-and-comers Shattered Sun. Prepare for The Dark Roots of Thrash II Tour, tonight at Livewire.
Both headliners Testament and Exodus are offering up special treats for the fans, young and old. Testament will perform an epic set that digs deep into the early discography that launched their almost 30-year career; they will offer up a full-album performance of their 1987 classic, The Legacy, and 1988's The New Order, in addition to bits from 1989's Practice What You Preach. It also marks the live re-introduction of Testament bassist Steve DiGiorgio — and you just gotta love seeing guitarist Alex Skolnick live, no matter what he's doing.
Next up: Bay Area thrashers Exodus. This year marks their 30th anniversary since the release of their first album that laid the groundwork for all thrash to come: Bonded By Blood. In the tradition of paying tribute to such anniversaries, their original guitarist, Metallica's Kirk Hammett, joined them in recording their 2014 release, Blood In, Blood Out. Then another milestone occurred when vocalist Steve "Zetro" Souza returned for a third stint with the band (with current members guitarist Gary Holt, guitarist Lee Altus, bassist Jack Gibson, and drummer Tom Hunting).
During this tour, the band is all about reflecting on their career as one of the biggest Bay Area thrash bands, surviving through several lineup changes and personal challenges. And even though all the members are in their fifties, they are stronger and more solid than ever. Funny how that happens. With that in mind, Exodus is dedicated to surprising fans with their live set every night.
Up On The Sun talked with vocalist Zetro about the evolution of thrash over the past three decades, his rank of Exodus' albums, and how his third time as the vocalist for Exodus is different from all the others.
Happy kick-off tour day in the U.S.!
Steve Souza: Yes it is!
Exodus is pretty good at creating an awesome set list, and with an hour at your Phoenix show, what can you give fans any hints about something unexpected that might happen during your set? It's on Friday — you guys must've talked about it!
Yeah, I already know what it is. Actually, Exodus usually makes set like an hour before. It's almost like we do it on the fly and we know our catalog pretty good. I know it today! And uh—but I can't tell you... but I can tell you that it's a good, uh, bevy of what Exodus has done over 30 years. And I'll say this: It's really heavy, and really brutal.
Most die-hard fans know that you were the original singer for Testament when they were Legacy, and you wrote most of the music on the first record. That will probably offer up lots of collaborative opportunities for you and Chuck [Billy] during your hour-long set.
Yeah, I guess that might be possibly an option, too! So you think we can predict the whole show now, can ya? Laughter. Good job, young lady. Doing your homework. I can tell. Well, Billy might shimmy up there for a song or two maybe. It depends on how good the crowd is. I'm not gonna give that one away!
So being that this is your third time around as the vocalist in this band, how do you think the present situation differs from the others?
You know, rather than just telling you that we get along because we understand each other more, I do honestly think we get along better now especially because there's no chemical abuse anymore on anybody's part — not even one of us is still doing the drugs and alcohol. You know, not even playing around. We're very concerned with how we eat and work out, that old bit, because it all affects how you play live. I think we all always realized that, but we knew we could go out and crash since we were 25 years old. And as long as there were girls and a keg after the gig, we were all happy you know? Booze, whatever it was... it was a party and we would have a good time.
Nowadays, that never happens at all. If you see someone with a beer that's about as hard as it gets. It's more about coffee, and chocolate milk, and pancakes after the gig instead of doing things like drugs and booze. The attitude is to crush — that's what we want to do. Is to crush. You know what I mean? That's what's different now.
Well, with all of you guys in your 50s now, it seems on a personal note everyone has really learned and grown to respect each other and get over issues from the past.
Well yeah — almost all of us guys are in our fifties now, think about it! I mean, Scotty [Ian, from Anthrax] is in his 50s. We just toured with Overkill, and Bobby [Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth] and D.D. [D.D. Verni] are both in their 50s you know. Lee and Gary are in their '50s, and I just turned 51. Tom will turn 50 this year. So you know, to think as a 50 year old rocker, most would think you're too old to do that. But I'll give any 25-year-old a run for his money! You little motherfucker, I'll destroy you right now! You kidding me? I'm way more experienced and if you think you can keep it up, go for it. I'll blast you, no problem.
So how do you think thrash metal has evolved since the release of Bonded By Blood 30 years ago?
Well I think the tones have gotten better. The riffs have gotten more complex. The songs are longer. The lyrics are more deep. It was all about Satan in 1985. "What's the most horrible thing you could do or say? Cool! Let's say it! Raping your mother and wife, kicking in your face" — you know what I mean? Instead of no love songs, there are love songs. It's more refined and our targets are more in place. We focus more on being socially and politically aware. Once you're heavy, it's just the way I look at it. Just stay heavy, and everything else will fall in place. That's just the way I look at it.
That's a good motto.
I've been lucky to live by that motto for 30 years or more!
Well, like you were saying, you guys don't party anymore and decided to be healthy in order to stick around that long. But there's gotta be something that's your guilty pleasure.
Okay. You know. Fine. Some of us smoke pot; two of us do. But I don't think anyone really has guilty pleasures, besides chocolate ice cream, butter-loaded banana nut pancakes. Know what I mean? Fuck I go to the gym every day to keep it so I can keep in line. I can't run around up and down like a fucking kid at 51.
In what order would you rank Exodus' albums, starting with your favorite?
Blood in, Blood Out is my favorite. ... No wait. It would be Blood in Blood Out, Fabulous Disaster (1989), Temples of the Damned (2004), Pleasures of the Flesh, Impact Is Imminent, Force of Habit. Those are the records I'd rank as my favorites.
Nice! You had that right off the top of your head.
I actually think about that sometimes, a lot. Because you just look at the career timeline and the lows and the highs. You have to take from that. So those are the ones I like musically the best.
So you guys brought Kirk Hammett back on Blood In, Blood Out? How was that?
Well I mean he's a mean guitar player. Him and Tom Hunting started Exodus. So ... I think that's awesome. And he never got to play on an Exodus record, then after 30 years he got to come back and throw meat on sound. So I'll let you know, we do have that song on the setlist.
But don't expect to see Kirk Hammett.
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Laughter. What's the one song you wish you wrote?
Hmmm... I wish I wrote "Stairway to Heaven."
Good one. Is there anything else you want to add?
I'll see all you animals on Friday night! Looking for you to be raucous and very heavy in the pit. You gotta think about this: Shattered Son, Exodus and Testament are very heavy, and then they are coming to Phoenix. Phoenix, which has its own history with metal and we all know that! We're gonna be looking for those people to bring it.