Latest release: Blood In, Blood Out (Nuclear Blast)
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“I was 3000 per cent ready to come back,” Exodus vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza enthuses of returning to the legendary Bay Area thrashers. “Listen to the record; wait ‘til you see the live show. I was definitely ready to come back.”

Many metal fans rejoiced in June when Exodus announced they had parted ways with singer of nine years, imposing grunter Rob Dukes, and that Souza, who previously fronted the band from 1986-1993 and 2002-2004, had been recalled. Dukes joined Exodus in January 2005 after Souza was fired in September 2004. The latter appeared on classic releases such as 1989’s Fabulous Disaster and 2004’s monstrous comeback Tempo of the Damned, and began his third stint by laying down vocals on crushing new disc Blood In, Blood Out.

Guitarist, linchpin and songwriter Gary Holt must be the forgiving type. The new record also features a guest solo from original axeman Kirk Hammett, his one-time partner-in-crime who allegedly profited from a few “borrowed” song-writing ideas after jumping ship to Metallica in 1983. A rejuvenated Souza says there were relationships which needed mending. “It was pretty easy to come back, but there were things to discuss obviously. Anybody who’s aware of our relationship, Zetro and Exodus in the past ten years, knows there was definitely mud-slinging that went on. But it wasn’t that much of a period where we really dwelled on that. I think the focus was more on, ‘let’s move forward; let’s not talk about the past. Let’s just move forward and do this’.

“I’ve been in Exodus two other times before man; I know how to do it. I know what Gary Holt wants. I go in there, I hear it to my ears and I just start doing it. Just let ‘em have it, I let ‘em go. I felt all the music really well and I really liked the songs, so I didn’t have a problem going in and singing them.”

The sheer aggression and purpose apparent throughout Tempo… is again palpable throughout Blood In, Blood Out. Its visceral delivery doesn’t seem indicative of an act more than 30 years in. “I think we try to keep up. I think as fans of the genre we stay hungry, and I think that’s what creates good songs. Other bands have done that as well. I think all the initial thrash bands, the legendary ones anyway, from Death Angel to Overkill to Testament, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. They’ve all put out great records; Overkill put out an awesome record earlier this year. I don’t think any of the bands, especially from our genre are putting out garbage music. They’re definitely in tune to what they’re doing, especially Gary Holt and the rest of Exodus.”

He largely attributes Exodus and their peers’ career second wind to simply having acquired significant experience. “You’re older, you’re a better musician; you’re a better songwriter. Listen to me vocally on Tempo… or Blood In, Blood Out and then go back and listen to Pleasures of the Flesh and Fabulous Disaster. It’s fucking night and day. I’m so much better now; I’m using my voice so much better now, I think.”

Blood In, Blood Out also marks somewhat of a throwback to the arrangements of early Exodus, eschewing some progressive elements of recent albums while remaining heavier than a sack of anvils. “I don’t think that it was done purposely that way, because actually the music was all written when Rob was still in the band,” Souza explains. “So I just think, yeah, maybe the song structures were a little bit like the old school way, but I hear a lot of what they wrote in the past ten years on this record, musically. I just think when you hear my voice against the music, you identify with the original sound as well, and I think that adds a bit of an element to it as well.”

Easing the transition was Holt’s seemingly endless supply of pulverising riffs. “He’s like a riff machine. I believe that’s why (Jeff) Hanneman picked him for Slayer. Gary Holt is the real deal when it comes to this type of music. He really knows what he’s doing.”

On that topic, taking up the late Slayer guitarist’s mantle may spawn some scheduling conflicts given Kerry King and company will be unleashing a new LP in 2015 and subsequently tour extensively. Exodus recently completed a US run with Slayer and Suicidal Tendencies, which featured Holt pulling double-duty. However, they may not always be afforded such a relative luxury.

“If we have to, we’ll use another guitar player, if it happens to cross where we can’t do it. Exodus has a new album out right now and we know that we need to tour, so we’re not going to just go look… We’re definitely going to move forward with it, for sure. We’re just talking about those things right now; trying to map out 2015 and see what’s going to happen with Slayer and Exodus, and what the schedule’s going to be like. (The Slayer album will) probably drop March or April. So we know that, and in the past when Slayer was busy and Exodus at the same time, they (Exodus) used a guitar player, Kragen Lum from Heathen, and that might be the option again.”

While on the road, Souza acknowledges multiple generations embracing heavy music, and views their upcoming appearance at Soundwave as an opportunity to reach the younger breed of metal-heads. “It’s (metal) as strong as it’s ever been, and always will be. Our fans never go away, they’re always there. You never hear from heavy metal fans that, ‘oh, I listened to Slayer last summer, and now I’m on to something else’. So we have that, we’re very fortunate. We don’t get the media outlet that other forms of music do, but that doesn’t bug any one of us. We know that the loyal fans will always be there. Look at how successful the Soundwave Festival is; there’s not a lot of commercial acts on that thing.

“We were in South America, and honestly, the kids were; they were kids. I didn’t see anybody really over 30. I was like, ‘where’s all the old-schoolers in the crowd tonight?’ and like ten hands go up. In the States it was a little bit different; we got the Midwest with a little bit of an older crowd, and the coast a little bit of a younger crowd. But for the most part, the new genre of kids for this type of music, (they) are definitely coming forward and they’re definitely excited about it.”

Therefore, the vocalist believes it’s vital to keep tabs on various facets of the metal scene, name-checking Municipal Waste, Havok, Warbringer, The Faceless and The Black Dahlia Murder as modern favourites. Aside from Exodus, he is also the front-man of Hatriot alongside sons Cody and Nick. It seems fitting that the man renowned for that evil Bon Scott snarl would be a hard task-master, even regarding his offspring.

“I have another thrash band with two records out, and everybody in that band, there’s nobody older than 25. To get where you are in this business you have to practice, so I made them audition. They didn’t just come to the band and be like, ‘okay yeah, you guys are in’. It wasn’t like that at all. They had to audition, and they’re good enough, so that’s why they play in the band.

“So I definitely have my ear to the grindstone; what’s going on in the young world of heavy metal. It’s a learning thing for those guys, which is great, they learn as we go along. But it’s awesome, and a really cool band that we have a lot of fun with. And that’s the bottom line in rock ‘n’ roll, you’ve gotta have fun.”

Exodus will be appearing at Soundwave:
21/2: RAS Melbourne Showgrounds, Melbourne VIC (Day 2 line up)
22/2: Bonython Park, Adelaide SA (Day 2 line up)
28/2: RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD (Day 2 line up)
1/3: Sydney Olympic Park, Sydney NSW (Day 2 line up)