Exodus returns

Thrash metal pioneers Exodus at Oddbody’s

Photo: Steve Zetro Souza of Exodus

By Gary Spencer

Thrash metal is one of those styles of music that you know it when you hear it – breakneck tempos, shredding guitars, furious bass, and clubbing drums are all trademarks of the genre. While the style has waxed and waned in terms of popularity since its heyday in the late 1980s, most of the genre’s originators are still waving the flag for thrash metal including “The Big 4” of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax. But one band that many metalheads think should be mentioned in the same breath as those icons is Exodus, thrash metal legends who have been around even longer than those groups and have influenced countless thrash bands including their peers and the new generation of headbangers carrying on the thrash tradition today.

Exodus’s origins date all the way back to 1979 in Richmond, California. The Bay Area would soon become a hotbed for the first wave of American thrash, with Exodus and Metallica both hailing from the region. According to Exodus singer Steve “Zetro” Souza, the thrash sound developed out of a love of related styles of music that turned out to be a match made in metal heaven.

“We were always fans of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and hard rock bands from the 70s,” Zetro explains. “If you take a thrash metal guy they’ll be like ‘we like UFO, Saxon, Motorhead, Tygers of Pan Tang, etc’. I also think guys like us who invented thrash metal also liked punk music. We grew up in San Francisco so every weekend there was a punk show with the likes of Dead Kennedys and Black Flag. So I think we fused the rawness of punk with the intracacies of hard rock. In punk, there’s no hard riffage like Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page, and Tony Iommi. We all love that stuff.”

With a loose blueprint for this fusion which would later be termed “thrash” by Kerrang! Magazine in place, Exodus began making a name for itself in California and caught the metal world by storm with its debut album, Bonded By Blood, an album that is now considered to be one of the most essential thrash albums ever made and a bonafide classic. In spite of this and its subsequent body of work to follow, Exodus never achieved the mainstream commercial success of the aforementioned “Big 4”. However, not being considered part of this elite group isn’t something the band is losing sleep over.

“I’ve never thought ‘I wish I was Big 4’ – I’ve heard that term many times and it doesn’t really matter to me,” Zetro says. “It’s not the truth. There’s them, and Overkill, Testament and Exodus. You could also talk about Kreator, Sodom, and Destruction if you want to get down to it. It doesn’t bother me – I’m content where I’m at.”

Being content with its place in thrash metal history, Exodus has soldiered on, releasing nine more albums including 2014’s Blood In, Blood Out, considered by many fans its best release of the decade and highest charting album ever on Billboard, peaking at number 38. The group also continues to pack houses and festivals all over the world, making its nearly four decade run highly successful in spite of not being a “Big 4” household name, and that success can be attributed to dedication, not to resting on past glories.

“Everytime we tour we create a new highlight playing big festivals of 25-85,000 people,” Zetro says. “We’re still making records and people still buy them. We don’t put out sh*** records. We give the fans what they want – we kick their ass and it’s in our hearts. The highlights are still coming.”

While Exodus’s records still pack plenty of punch, the venue where the group really kicks ass is, of course, in a live setting where the band and its legions of followers – both old school and newbies – throw down for a headbangin’ good time.

“If you’re coming to see us play, shit’s gonna go off,” Zetro says. “Pure ferocity and violence is going down – friendly violence but still violent! But we also get a lof of father/son combos – we’re talking as young as four or five years old. They’re up on their dad’s shoulders throwing up the horns with their earphones, battle jackets and patches on. At the end of the show we tell the security guards to bring them over the rails and bring them up on stage. That’s the future brother!”

And after nearly four decades of throwing down the thrash and making circle pits go round, Exodus is more than grateful for still being able to bring the noise to their throngs of fans across the globe and have no plans to retire anytime soon.

“This was my dream as a kid to be able to do this for a living,” Zetro says. “We’re not going through the motions – we truly love it and we deliver. It’s an homage to the heavy metal fan. I can do this another 25 years standing on my head – 85 is the new 45, right?”

 

Exodus will perform on Wednesday, September 13 at Oddbody’s Music Room, 5418 Burkhardt Road in Dayton. Trials by Faith, Forces of Nature and 80 Proof are also on the bill. Tickets are $29 in advance. Show is 18 and over. Doors open at 5:30pm. For more information visit www.OddBodys.com.

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Gary Spencer
Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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