Most people less knowledgeable about the development of the thrash scene in San Francisco in the early 80s, and in general, are content with the idea of the Big 4; Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. For those who were a part of the scene, especially the bands themselves, the truth is, at the center of the budding scene, and perhaps the catalyst was Exodus. In 1980, when the world was still dealing with its disco hang-over, new wave was blooming, punk was the anti-commercialist sound that non-conformists clung to, and across the pond from America, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was burgeoning. But back in the former home of the flower power psychedelic movement, a new sound, faster, heavier, and angrier was blooming. Leading the way was a group of teenagers, guitarists Gary Holt, Kirk Hammett and drummer Tom Hunting. The band, Exodus. The name alone is perhaps most fitting as they were at the forefront, leading a massive band of disenchanted and disenfranchised rockers into a new era of metal music. Thirty years ago these guys began churning out breakneck riffage, and caustic battering ram heaviness. Their dueling solo trade-offs would become a trademark sound of the thrash movement. Exodus began to formulate what many thrash purists consider one of, if not the, seminal thrash album, Bonded In Blood.
The following year founding guitarist, Kirk Hammett would leave the band to replace Dave Mustaine in Metallica. Hammett’s spot would be filled by Rick Hunolt, and along with bassist Rob McKillop, this is the line-up which recorded Bonded.
So one might ask, why, if Bonded in Blood and Exodus in general were so influential, were they not a bigger part of the thrash scene? This is where bad luck and unfortunate timing come into play. While the band recorded their debut album in 1984, battles with their record label lasted into 1985. By the time Bonded in Blood was released that year, Metallica had unleashed Kill ‘em All and Ride The Lightening, Anthrax were releasing their second album, and Slayer and Megadeth were out there too. So despite beginning before the Big 4, their momentum was, in part, stolen by unfortunate circumstances.
Still Bonded in Blood is a classic piece of thrash history as were the follow up albums, Pleasures of the Flesh (1987) and Fabulous Disaster (1989). These later two would feature new vocalist, Steve “Zetro” Souza, who came over from The Legacy (Testament) and was replaced there by Chuck Billy.
The band’s current tour with Testament and Megadeth find the band playing songs off these early albums.
This week I had a chance to sit down with founder, Gary Holt, to discuss their place in thrash’s history, the new tour, the upcoming new album, The Atrocity Exhibition… Exhibit B: The Human Condition, and the future of the music industry in general.