Exodus – To Soundwave

Before Metallica, before Megadeth, and before even Slayer there was a band called Exodus.

A band who are widely regarded as having been the forefathers of the thrash metal scene and the ones who gave birth to a whole genre of music.

Metallica’s guitarist, Kirk Hammett, was originally a member of Exodus before joining Metallica.

The band has had it’s share of turmoil over the years, with numerous line up changes, two long hiatuses from the scene and the deaths of two former band members.

They have almost literally been to Hell and back, but they have lived to tell the tale, and know more about thrash metal and what it means to play in a thrash band than most of us know of basic English.

They are an enigma, an inspiration, but most importantly a surviving legacy of a musical genre that has been copied, ridiculed and overthrown, but has never died. It is a genre which defies belief, but also one which inspires millions every day.

Without Exodus it is fair to say there would be no thrash metal, and current and long time on and off vocalist Steve Souza says that after 35 years of banging heads and breaking skulls that Exodus still has a lot to offer.

“I’m getting ready to get my ass over Downunder!,” he enthused.

“This is my third stint with the band and it’s always good to come back home to it. It’s Gary Holt (guitarist and the only person to feature on every Exodus album) that has kept this shit floating all these years and we also have to hand it to Tom (Hunting, drummer) and Jack (Gibson, bass). Jack’s been in the band since ’98 and they’ve kept it solid ever since. This is what we do plus we’re all really big fans still.”

After two previous stints with the band, from 1986 – 1993 and then 2002 – 2004, Zousa rejoined the band again last year and feels that despite a stuttering history that this time he is there to stay.

“This time has definitely been the best time,” he said. “The last time wasn’t necessarily by choice, it was more by popular demand. Back then I had other things on my mind. I had things back at home – things I just don’t wanna get into – that were just distractions but I don’t have them any more. I’m totally ready and a full member again. We have a great new record out and we’re back touring the world again so it’s all positive.”

That new record Zousa mentioned is ‘Blood In, Blood Out’, an album which maintains their already established sound and is further proof of their deserved place in metal history and even the return of Zousa to the band after most of the album had been written was still not enough to stifle the creative spark the band is renowned for.

“The album was pretty much finished when I came back,” Zousa explained.

“The only song I penned was Body Harvest. Gary had pretty much written all of the lyrics and the rest of the riffs. He wrote the music to Body Harvest and I did the lyrics but that was it which wasn’t a problem because he is the leader he loves and is thrash metal. He is the real deal when it comes to all things thrash.”

“I love every song on the album. For me, it’s the best Exodus album ever done. I think it is quality songwriting and quality performance by each member and I think that’s what you get when you genuinely believe in what you are doing. It’s brutal, it’s lethal!”

Since it’s inception thrash metal has weathered many storms and many controversies, but Zousa says it was a little phase of another genre of music that almost provided the death knell for thrash and it’s followers.

“Yeah man, in the ’90’s it was a bit scary. I mean, come on, that’s when we were out as a band. We basically lost our record contract because Grunge, that Seattle fucken sound music came in and just completely wiped metal out. Bands like Testament, they went black metal for a little while and Pantera they survived and I think Black Sabbath survived but other than that bands that were used to playing to five, six, seven thousand people were down to five, six, seven hundred! I remember back in ’97 or ’98 I went to a Slayer show that was at this really small club in San Francisco. Now you can forget about that because they are back selling out everywhere.”

When asked if there was a defining point in the resurgence of metal, Zousa couldn’t quite pinpoint the exact moment but more the reasons behind the gradual shift back to where it once was.

“I think everybody missed the lead guitar,” he offered.

“Everybody missed the riffage. Everybody missed intricate changes and the dynamics. They missed the ferocity, missed the…. I guess SASSINESS of it. They missed the outlaw side of metal and the bad boy thing that came with it. I think all of that was missed and I don’t know, but it seems like it’s all back again and people realise that that period of time was like that and they don’t want that again so they’re working hard to keep what they’ve got. There will always be people that believe in metal. We love it and we’ll constantly keep putting metal out. It’s not like we are ever gonna change. We’re gonna keep delivering what we do.”

When asked about Exodus’ legacy and their role in the birth of an entire genre of music, Zousa is unashamedly proud of what he and the other members of Exodus have been a part of. He seems genuinely humbled by his role and says that despite its origins, thrash metal will always be a part of the metal world at large.

“It’s all about what you have to be proud of,” he mused.

“And I hang my hat on the fact I helped shape this music. I was an innovator : a pioneer of a sound and it just carried on and opened so many doors, different doors, on so many different levels. Not just in thrash metal but all other types of metal. You hear thrash and there’s so many offshoots and genres that weren’t around in the old days. There was no death metal or real black metal or metal like Meshuggah; progressive hard thrash and stuff like that. Now listen to it. It all has so much depth that can be traced back to the early days of thrash metal.”

After 35 years in one of the most physically demanding forms of music you could be involved in, Zousa says that Exodus have no signs of slowing down or fading into retirement. They are all still committed to their music and cause and are all still passionate enough about their music to know the finish line is not even yet in sight. In fact, they are still enjoying themselves now as much as ever.

“We definitely still loving performing,” he said.

“Probably more so now! I feel like I really appreciate it more and I’m having more fun with it because of that. When that stops it’s time to get out but as long as there’s fans that are there to see us and as long as we’re still selling records we aren’t going anywhere. We’ve been accepted so well by everybody and while that’s still happening we’re gonna keep going. I’m gonna keep going until I’m 80, hahaha.”

Kris Peters

Exodus play at Soundwave this weekend in Brisbane and Sydney. Tickets are still available at www.soundwavefestival.com

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