Concert Review – Exodus & Testament (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015)

A magnificent lesson in Thrash Metal, directly from the dark roots of Toronto.

OPENING ACT: Shattered Sun

Testament-Exodus-2015It’s somehow ridiculous that there was ONLY ONE CONCERT scheduled from the Dark Roots of Thrash II Tour in Canada. Fortunately for me, but not as much for most of our headbanging brothers in B.C., Alberta and other distant locations, the city chosen was Toronto, Ontario, more specifically the Phoenix Concert Theatre. Well, at least for the first time in months we didn’t have any snow, rain, bitterly cold temperatures or any other of the wonders of the winter on a concert night in the city. Quite the contrary, the weather was beyond perfect for a lesson in Thrash Metal.

The attraction responsible for warming up all thrash metallers at the venue was American Metalcore band SHATTERED SUN, who by the way are managed by Chuck Billy’s own company Breaking Bands LLC. Although Metalcore is not among the most reasonable options for pumping up a crowd avid for brutal old school Bay Area Thrash Metal, they had a good performance and didn’t disappoint the crowd with their mix of heavy and melodic music, with the addition of keyboards being a fresh element to the night. I can’t tell much about their setlist, only that they’re promoting their soon-to-be-released new album entitled Hope Within Hatred, which should be available within a few days. If you’re a fan of the genre, here’s a good choice for your collection.

Band members
Marcos Leal – vocals
Daniel Trejo – guitar
Jessie Santos – guitar
Joseph Guajardo – bass
Henry Garza – keyboards, samples
Robert Garza – drums

EXODUS

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Exodus @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015

Holy. Fuckin’. Shit. EXODUS do not only kick fuckin’ ass when they’re on stage, they ALWAYS teach us motherfuckers a lesson in fuckin’ violence. It’s incredible how such an old band (in a good way, of course) still sounds so fresh and captivating until today, and that’s in my opinion mainly due to the fact they keep releasing awesome albums like their latest installment, the absurdly excellent Blood In, Blood Out. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the madness started, with two of the best songs from the new album: the insane Black 13 and the mosh pit-anthem title-track Blood In, Blood Out, which worked so well live to the point if they had left the stage after only two songs it would have been awesome anyway.

Right after that frantic start, Exodus offered us a sequence of Thrash Metal classics to drive all fans crazy into the circle pits (adding some bruises to our personal collections), with highlights to masterpieces such as A Lesson in Violence, The Last Act of Defiance and my favorite Exodus songs of all time, the impeccable Blacklist (“You’d better start runnin’ / Cause you know that I’m comin’ / Cocked and loaded and I never miss / I’m onto your game / And I’m layin’ the blame / And I’m addin’ your name to my blacklist”), The Toxic Waltz and Strike of the Beast, the latter including a smaller version of the infamous wall of death for our total delight. However, I was truly happy to see they didn’t “forget” about the Rob Dukes-era and added two of the most exciting songs of that period, Iconoclasm and Children of a Worthless God. Maybe next time they can play even other songs from that era, such as “Hammer and Life” and “Deathamphetamine”?

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Kill the Kardashians, Gary!

In regards to the band members, there were tons of highs, but one significant low. Actually, the low was not the band’s fault, as bassist Jack Gibson wasn’t allowed to enter Canada due to issues with the law. We accept Justin Bieber living here doing all the shit he does, and I don’t care he’s Canadian, but we cannot let good old Jack into the country? That’s ridiculous. Anyway, the dude that replaced him (sorry, I forgot his name, but he also helps Exodus when Gary Holt is with that “other Thrash Metal band”, and Gary even played an excerpt of “Raining Blood” just to remind the crowd about that) did a pretty good job supporting Gary Holt, Steve “Zetro” Souza & Co. during the entire concert. Talking about Zetro and Gary, I guess they can be considered the “new” dynamic duo of old school Thrash Metal so in sync they’ve been since Zetro’s return last year. While Zetro leads the fans into the mosh pits with his raspy voice (is it true it was his first time in Toronto in 10 years?), Gary simply delivers the most motherfuckin’ extraordinary riffs and solos in the world of heavy music. I’m not going to extend my speech about how great Gary is, as I believe I’ve already said enough in previous album and concert reviews, but there’s one thing that must be mentioned that enhanced his performance even more last night: who didn’t love his KILL THE KARDASHIANS T-shirt?

As Zetro said immediately after Exodus played the classic Bonded by Blood, we are all bonded not only by blood, but by our passion for Heavy Metal, and he’s 100% right. We love metal music, we love Exodus, and we cannot wait for them to get back to Toronto to teach us another lesson in Thrash Metal. Remember we are all part of Exodus’ “blacklist”, which means it shouldn’t take long for that to happen, I hope.

Setlist
1. Black 13
2. Blood In, Blood Out
3. Iconoclasm
4. Children of a Worthless God
5. A Lesson in Violence
6. Salt the Wound
7. The Last Act of Defiance
8. Blacklist
9. Bonded by Blood
10. War Is My Shepherd
11. The Toxic Waltz
12. Strike of the Beast

Band members
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – lead and rhythm guitars
Lee Altus – lead and rhythm guitars
Jack Gibson – bass*
Tom Hunting – drums, percussion

*Missed the concert for not being allowed to enter Canada due to issues with the law.

TESTAMENT

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Testament @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015

There was an essential short break between concerts for recovering our energies and enjoying a cold beer, and I’m being serious when I say “essential” because what TESTAMENT did during their flawless concert was inhuman. Playing only songs from their first three albums, The Legacy (1987), The New Order (1988) and Practice What You Preach (1989), Chuck Billy and his crew showed no mercy on our bodies and souls with an avalanche of old school Thrash Metal classics. How not to go wild with songs like Over the Wall, Do or Die or The New Order? Although their latest albums (The Formation of Damnation and Dark Roots of Earth) are Heavy Metal masterpieces, being able to witness a tour only composed by old classics is always interesting.

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Testament @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015

From all songs in their setlist, I would say my favorites were Eerie Inhabitants, C.O.T.L.O.D., Practice What You Preach, and especially the devastating tunes Disciples of the Watch and Into the Pit. The song already has “pit” in its name, but it was when Chuck demanded we all slammed into the fuckin’ pit that things got pretty serious. In summary, it was an amazing setlist, which ignited some nonstop headbanging and lots of smiles among the fans who answered Chuck’s call and were having a great time into the circle pit.

Moreover, there’s one thing that amazes me in Testament, and that’s the musicians involved. All five are superb with their instruments, delivering top-notch Heavy Metal, which always makes me wonder why there are metalheads in the world that still don’t know who Testament are. Chuck’s voice is unique (as thunderous as it can be), Gene Hoglan redefines the meaning of the word “stone crusher”, and I have no words to describe Alex Skolnick. Honestly, I didn’t know if I slammed into the pit or if I stayed there just watching him play his guitar so jaw-dropping his technique is (not even when he suffered from technical difficulties he looked less incredible). Watching Gary Holt AND Alex Skolnick delivering the most awesome Thrash Metal riffs and solos you can imagine on the same night was a true blessing. Those guys definitely practice what they preach.

Setlist
1. Over the Wall
2. The Haunting
3. Burnt Offerings
4. Raging Waters
5. The Preacher
6. Do or Die
7. First Strike Is Deadly
8. A Day of Reckoning
9. Apocalyptic City
10. Eerie Inhabitants
11. The New Order
12. Trial by Fire
13. Into the Pit
14. Alone in the Dark
15. C.O.T.L.O.D.

Encore:
16. Practice What You Preach
17. Disciples of the Watch

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums

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Album Review – Exodus / Blood In, Blood Out (2014)

Welcome back to the family, Zetro!

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ExodusBloodInBloodOutDid any sane and healthy living creature on this planet actually expect American Thrash Metal masters Exodus would not deliver us another great lesson in Thrash Metal with their brand new album, the motherfuckin’ awesome Blood In, Blood Out? Think about it, the band has the one and only vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza returning since their 2004’s masterpiece Tempo of the Damned, they’ve been providing us the cream of Thrash Metal for years in a row with boisterous albums such as Shovel Headed Kill Machine and Exhibit B: The Human Condition, and they have the guitar genius Gary Holt more inspired than ever with absolutely no mercy of our necks and souls. Even the sick album art is pure old school, not to say totally badass. As the band itself states in this album, “this is a fucking dynasty of thrash notoriety”.

Although Blood In, Blood Out features some very special guest musicians, it’s the “Pink Floyd of Thrash Metal” themselves (as many of their songs go way beyond the 4 or 5-minute barrier most Thrash Metal bands are used to) who truly conduct the whole album almost flawlessly, with highlights to the wicked return of Zetro, of course. I mean, Rob Dukes is a great guy, an excellent frontman and his hardcore voice was perfect for the type of music Exodus generated in the past few years (I’m not even going to say how much I love all of the Exodus albums with Rob on vocals), but Zetro kind of brings back that 80’s thrashier attitude all fans learned to love, and that became the band’s trademark.

Gary, Zetro, Lee, Jack and Tom might have thought “why not kicking things off with the past and present of Exodus in the same song?” That’s exactly what you’ll hear in the excellent Black 13,  where their first guest musician, American hip hop producer Dan the Automator, is responsible for an industrial sounding intro before all hell breaks loose with those insane Thrash Metal riffs only Exodus can generate. It follows a similar pattern as their latest albums, mixing the thrashier musicality of Tempo of the Damned with the melody and violence of Exhibit B: The Human Condition. Pay attention to Zetro’s voice and to the outstanding bass lines by Jack Gibson, those are truly amazing elements in this badass track, followed by another powerful tune, the title-track Blood In, Blood Out: I heard people complaining about its “silly” lyrics, that they’re too basic comapred to precious gems such as “Scar Spangled Banner” and “Blacklist”, but it’s lines such as “If you have the pedigree, welcome to the family” and “Tonight we’re gonna rage and make Paul Baloff proud” what make it so delightful. Can you imagine the humongous circle pits this song will generate when played live? Besides, the whole band is kicking ass here, in special Gary Holt and Lee Altus with their amazing guitar solos.

Collateral Damage once again focus on an old school sonority, and will probably cause some awesome collateral or brain damage to the fans so fuckin’ heavy it is. I simply love the backing vocals and how Tom Hunting accelerates the whole damn thing with his pounding drums. The next track, Salt The Wound, sounds a lot like some tracks from Tempo of the Damned, especially its riffs and acid lyrics (“Full of puss / You’re a Judas and a troll / Lance the boil rooted deep within”). In addition, this song has their second guest musician, albeit it’s just a guitar solo by Metallica’s own Kirk Hammett. At least he didn’t have enough time to screw up everything with his horrible technique.

The massacre goes on with the fast Body Harvest,  with Zetro’s desperate screams during its chorus adding even more violence to it, plus some great guitar solos after four minutes; and BTK, with their last guest, Mr. Chuck Billy (Testament) on vocals doing only some screams and deep growls (and nothing else). This song is based on the story of Dennis Rader, better known as the BTK killer, whose infamous signature means “Bind, Torture, Kill”. Well, I still prefer their song about serial killers Leonard Lake and Charles Ng, entitled “The Ballad of Leonard and Charles”, from Exhibit B: The Human Condition.

exodusWrapped In The Arms Of Rage is direct old school Thrash Metal, perfect for live performances, while My Last Nerve is an excellent example of how even when they slow down and get more melodic, their music is still so violent and awesome it’s impossible to stand still. This is how slow riffs and harsh vocals should be blended together to make an amazing headbanging tune, turning it into one of the top moments of the album. Exodus get back to old school destruction in Numb, a true lesson to all new bands on how Thrash Metal should be played, with a flawless and complex instrumental and with highlights to the job done by Tom Hunting, who seems pretty inspired during the entire album.

The last part of Blood In, Blood Out begins with Honor Killings, another awesome combination of harsh vocals, great backing vocals, insane riffs, and violent lyrics. The deep heavy sound of the bass lines in this song is really outstanding, thanks to a brilliant work by Jack Gibson. Then we have Food For The Worms, with another great vocal performance by Zetro augmented by the song’s dark lyrics, and it’s always impressive how these guys keep on thrashing nonstop like metal machines. And last but not least, Exodus offer us an interesting cover version for British Heavy Metal band Angel Witch’s Angel Of Death, from their 1980 debut album Angel Witch.

I guess I don’t need to mention once again that Gary Holt is an underrated beast, a billion times more awesome than most worshiped metal guitarists I know. The guy is playing with Exodus AND Slayer at the same time, crafting great music like everything in Blood In, Blood Out, and he NEVER has a bad or uninspired day on the guitar. That says it all. Anyway, you can purchase the album in several different webshops and physical stores, and if you live in a blessed city in the US you can check Exodus live touring with Slayer and Suicidal Tendencies, which is beyond spectacular for any Thrash Metal fan in the world. And if you haven’t welcomed the “Hatriot” back to the Exodus family yet (I had the pleasure to see him back live during their concert at Heavy Montréal 2014) and/or would also like to thank him for contributing to such an amazing album like Blood In, Blood Out, this tour will be a very good opportunity to do so.

Best moments of the album: Black 13, Blood In, Blood Out, My Last Nerve and Honor Killings.

Worst moments of the album: BTK.

Released in 2014 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Black 13 (feat. Dan the Automator) 6:21
2. Blood In, Blood Out 3:42
3. Collateral Damage 5:28
4. Salt The Wound (feat. Kirk Hammett) 4:25
5. Body Harvest 6:29
6. BTK (feat. Chuck Billy) 6:56
7. Wrapped In The Arms Of Rage 4:30
8. My Last Nerve 6:11
9. Numb 6:14
10. Honor Killings 5:43
11. Food For The Worms 6:23

Limited Edition bonus track
12. Angel Of Death (Angel Witch cover) 4:39

Band members
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – lead and rhythm guitars
Lee Altus – lead and rhythm guitars
Jack Gibson – bass
Tom Hunting – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Dan the Automator – industrial intro on “Black 13″
Kirk Hammett – guitar solo on “Salt the Wound”
Chuck Billy – additional vocals on “BTK”