In the 80s, San Francisco became the place for metalheads looking to push the envelope. While England gave the world the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), it was the Bay Area in Northern, California that became the springboard for speed, thrash, and death metal. At the forefront of much of this movement was Exodus. Before there was Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and the hordes that came after, Exodus was among the earliest to create this new Americanized genre of extreme metal.
Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza, the vocalist for Legacy, was one of the scene’s prominent players, and when Exodus chose to replace vocalist Paul Baloff after the band’s debut album, Bonded In Blood, Zetro was the man that received the call. Before leaving his role as vocalist for Legacy (who later became Testament) Zetro hand-picked his replacement in the form of his friend, Chuck Billy.
Zetro went on to record the heart of the Exodus catalog, including Fabulous Disaster, Impact Is Imminent, Force of Habit, Tempo of the Damned, and Pleasures of the Flesh. His own legacy is stamped all over the Bay Area thrash movement, so when news came that he was putting together a new band, ears perked.
This weekend I chatted with the outspoken vocalist about Hatriot, the music, the members, and the band’s anticipated debut album. He also shared some Exodus stories, and talked about what keeps him angry and hungry.
The project started when Souza went to a show with his son and heard guitarist Kosta Varvatakis in one of the bands. The two opened up a dialogue, and Souza soon found that despite the guitarist’s young age, he was well schooled in the art and history of metal.
Having spent three decades in the business, Zetro new exactly what he was looking for when he put his new project together. “These new kids seem to understand what we did in the 80s, but still bring a little bit of a new essence to it,” says Souza “We put that together with what I write vocally and it’s turned out to be really, really killer. It’s good stuff.”
You can hear the excitement in Zetro’s voice when he talks about the music. “It’s in the vein of typical Bay Area thrash, but like I said these guys are a lot younger, so there’s gonna be some blast-beats in there. There’s gonna be some kind of death [metal] approach to it, a little bit. Cause these guys are new. They’re raw, and they’re fast, young, heavy, hard and aggressive, and I’m trying to convey that along as well.”
One of the youthful talents in Hatriot is Zetro’s 21-year-old son, Cody. When he was barely a teen he hounded his father for a bass, so Zetro bought one off of current Exodus bassist Jack Gibson, and told his son to pick it up and learn how to play. Still, getting a spot in his father’s band was not as simple as asking. “I told him,” grins Zetro, “You have to try out. There’s no nepotism here, boy. If you can hang, you’re on. So he actually tried out, and he got the gig.”
Zetro says finding the right players, guys who get the music and who can play at this level took a while, but he thinks he has the ultimate line-up. He raves about second guitarist Miguel Esparza, and feels he’s uncovered the next world-class drummer in Alex Bent. “That kid is a monster,” enthuses the singer, “probably the best drummer I’ve seen, ever. He’s like a machine. He plays drums constantly, like eight hours a day. He’s an animal in the studio, he’s an animal live. I don’t know if Hatriot would be the same with another guy.” High praise from a guy who’s played with John Tempesta, Troy Lucketta and Tom Hunting, and has also toured with Dave Lombardo, and Gene Hoglund.
Zetro says the band is currently talking to a couple of record labels, and plans to have the full-length Hatriot debut album out before the end of the year. His other project with Testament‘s Chuck Billy, Dublin Death Patrol, should also have a second album out in 2012 as well.
You can listen to the full interview below: