A Lesson in Violence: An interview with Exodus
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It’s a question that has been rattling in the minds of elitist fans for decades: which is better, thrash or death metal? The two sub-styles of extreme music may, musically, be on two sides of the same coin, but their histories couldn’t be further apart. Thrash was spawned in San Francisco’s Bay Area in the early 1980s, pioneered by the likes of Metallica, Megadeth, Forbidden and Death Angel. Meanwhile, death metal was invented in the UK and Sweden before being refined in Florida, roaring across the world with acts like Morbid Angel, Death, Massacre and Deicide at the helm. The two genres finally came head-to-head in October, when California’s Exodus and Tampa’s Obituary clashed in a co-headlining tour that spread across the UK for five dates. Dubbed the ‘Battle of the Bays’, it culminated in grand fashion with a show at Southampton’s Engine Rooms; a show which saw the seaside city rock to its very core thanks to a bombardment of punishing metal. However, three hours before thrash’s flag-bearers, Exodus, hit the stage, things could not be more tranquil; lead singer Steve “Zetro” Souza sits at the back of his tour bus, relaxing in anticipation of the momentous concert ahead, bowl of cannabis in-hand. “I think in our genre, we just had more bands that were more proud, I guess you could say,” he says. “From the Bay Area alone, I can sit here and name at least eight bands that did really well, starting with Metallica and on the way down. If you were to give death metal a look, Florida’s the home of and everybody knows that. All the great death metal bands – Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Vital Remains… – they’re all from Florida.” Souza says that both Exodus and Obituary are products of moments in metal history, made significant by the fact that their respective eras can never be replicated. “I think that everything has its time and everything has its evolution. So if you look at, say, the ‘60s bands of the Bay Area and you’re talking Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane and all those types of bands, you get your time. And your time, after a while, it’s no more. It was an era, that’s how you can consider something an era; if it were to continue, I think it’d get stale. “We revel in this type of music because certain bands have captured the sound and they have not let go of that. Some bands come in, some bands come out and try to grab the sound – Municipal Waste, Iron Reagan, Havok, Hatriot – but I think when you initiate a sound, when you’re an innovator of that sound, you’re always followed. Bring up the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, who do you think of? Saxon, Maiden, Priest, Motörhead, Def Leppard: you think of those bands and those bands will always be solidified in that realm.” The heavy artists of both San Francisco and Tampa have now hit the level of being metal veterans and as a result, Exodus is particularly keen in bringing the next generation of thrash bands with them on-tour whenever they can. For example, when they were last in the UK eight months ago, the old-school five-piece brought the young Finnish quartet Lost Society in tow, while the ‘Battle of the Bays’ saw Prong and King Parrot acting as dual supports. “You’ve got to remember for this to have its longevity it has to evolve,” Zetro states.
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