When you think 'classic 80's thrash', or even 'vintage Bay Area thrash', a few bands usually come to mind...Metallica, Megadeth, Testament, and Exodus. The latter has been pretty active in the last decade after a questionable time during the 1990's. Their latest platter of ripping thash metal The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A might very well be one of their strongest releases yet, and coincides with Megadeth's recent return to greatness with United Abominations. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo recently caught up with Exodus lead guitarist and mainman Gary Holt to talk about the new album, new members, new tour, and all things...Exodus!
With Tempo of the Damned, Shovel Headed Kill Machine and now The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A, Exodus have now released three smoldering thrash albums this decade, some 20+ years after the band first formed. I asked Gary how it felt to still be going strong these days when so many other veteran thrash acts have either split up of failed to match their output of old. "To tell the truth, it feels pretty fucking alright!" he stated. "I chalk it all up to the fact that we truly love playing the music that we play, and we feel, after all these years, we are really starting to get pretty good at this!"
Pretty good is a mild way to put it, as Exodus have a slew of classic thrash releases under their belt, including 80's staples like Bonded By Blood, Pleasures of the Flesh, and of course Fabulous Disaster, all considered classics of the genre. The band always had great sounding records, a characteristic that has continued to this day. For the last few releases, the band has enlisted the help of famed producer/engineer Andy Sneap, who has given them an even bigger, more monstrous sound. I asked Gary how was it working with Andy again on The Atrocity Exhibition; "Same as always, awesome", the guitarist replied. "He's as much my friend as he is our producer and he knows how to get the best out of us. But the most important thing is it never feels like work. We just laugh the whole way through, and
that's the way it should always be".
Despite being a major force on the metal scene since the early/mid-80's, the band has seen its share of line-up changes. Over the last 15 years, members Paul Bailoff, Steve "Zetro" Souza, Rob McKillop, Paul Bostaph, Rick Hunolt, and Tom Hunting, all came and went, some a few times (Hunting is recently back in the fold), and the band recruited some new blood in the form of former Heathen guitar slinger Lee Altus, vocalist Rob Dukes, and bassist Jack Gibson. "I never think of them as being the 'new' guys, they are
just my fellow bandmates, and amazing ones at that" says Holt of the more recent additions to the band, "It's like they have been here since the dawn of the band."
Altus especially is a real household name on the thrash scene, clocking in quite a bit of time with Exodus contemporaries Heathen. You would think that both Exodus and Lee would be pretty psyched to have finally hooked up together after all these years? "It feels fucking incredible!" says Gary. "I am so lucky to have him in this band. We've been friends since the Kirk Hammett days, so we obviously go way back and he understands what Exodus is all about and where we are going." After hearing the work the two guitar masters have done together recently, it seems like a marriage made in six-string heaven.
Speaking of the recent material, I mentioned to Gary that "Children of a Worthless God" is my pick for best song on the new CD, and asked what tunes he favors on the new album? "It changes all the time and depends on what I feel like playing" he responds. "But at this moment, it's the same as your pick, "Children of a Worthless God."
No new Exodus release would be complete without a tour to back up it up, and the band have a major trek across the US to support The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A. "It's us with Goatwhore, Arsis, and Warbringer," Gary explains. "I'm totally stoked, all killer bands. I'm especially excited about getting to see Goatwhore play everyday. It will
prove to be a blast!" As for the cities that the band will be hitting this time around? "The usual suspects as far as major cities go, NYC, Hollywood, Chicago, San Francisco, and all points between."
Being an active band for so long with a pretty extensive discography, it must be fun trying to assemble a set list for each tour that will keep the fans happy and coming back for more. I asked Holt what songs Exodus junkies can expect from the band when the show hits their town. "A lot of songs, that's for sure! It gets harder and harder every time to come up with a set list, so it seems we just keep playing longer and longer sets. But
there will be a good blend of older stuff along with a good dose of the new album."
With classic thrash bands starting to show up on the US festival circuit (Gigantour, Ozzfest, etc) I asked Gary if the band has been approached to take part in any of them as of yet. "There's always discussion by people who have no involvement in the band! But if the situation was right, we'd love to do one of these tours, absolutely."
Without wanting to get too personal, I quickly asked Gary if he has spoken to or seen any of the previous members recently. "I saw Zetro recently, we hung out for a bit and I
crushed him with some new stuff, before the album was out," he stated, "but I haven't seen nor spoken to any of the other guys though."
Media as well as fan reaction to the new CD has been very positive. When asked about the sales of The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A, and the longevity of Exodus as far as the foreseeable future goes, Gary ends our conversation with what can only be looked as a very positive and confident statement. "Everything's been killer, better than the last two albums, and we haven't even hit the road yet, so yeah, of course, we are back for good!"
(Click here to read our review of The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A)