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Five Things We Learned From Exodus' London Shows

Exodus played two consecutive nights in Camden and we witnessed the chaos of both

US crunch captains Exodus descended on London’s rock capital Camden Town this week, becoming only the third thrash band to play more than one consecutive night at The Underworld since 2003 – the other two being Sepultura and Carcass. Here’s what we gleaned amid all the hyper-riffing madness…

Gary Holt Is Not In The Building. Or Indeed The Country “There’s some fucker missing up here!” barks frontman Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza a few songs in, glancing around the stage. “Where’s that motherfucker at?” In reply, his bandmates play the opening bars of Slayer’s Raining Blood. Yes, Gary Holt, the band’s main creative force, is once again moonlighting with one of the Big Four, just as he was the last time Exodus played The Underworld. Heathen’s Kragen Lum makes a great stand-in, but you can’t help feeling disappointed. It’s like a fight club being run without Tyler Durden’s presence. Having said all that, this is still a blinding show and we do now have an additional old-school member back in the ranks…

Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza Is Back And Bad (In A Good Way) He’s been in and out of this band like bad kebabs, first joining 30 years ago after original singer Paul Baloff left, then leaving a few times. But we’ve been delighted to see Zetro return for new album Blood In, Blood Out. While his predecessor Rob Dukes was a good extreme metal singer and suitably intimidating onstage, Zetro has a unique and larger-than-life personality. This brilliantly compelling frontman grins like The Joker and really works the crowd. “While I was away,” he tells Hammer backstage, “I missed the fans, the camaraderie of playing live and the songs themselves. I was 21 years old when I joined this band. I know how to do Exodus!”

**Exodus Still Inspire Stage-Divers By The Ambulance-Load **The crowd are momentarily paralysed by the opening assault of Black 13, which is faster than the recorded version, but from the wonderful second track Blood In, Blood Out they fly towards that stage like lemmings. Crucially during a mad sweat-box gig like this, Zetro excels at crowd control. “Take care of everybody, all right?” he stresses. “I want everyone to go home tonight.” The Underworld’s security veterans David Walsh and the brilliantly-named Big-E O.G. Poppa also know exactly how to deal safely and amiably with stage invaders, although Mr Poppa later confesses to Hammer this was one of the most difficult gigs he’s handled in 18 years. Exodus, by the way, still draw fans of all ages: we met one white-haired gentleman in his 70s, who was witnessing them for the first time! A walking stick is no barrier between a man and his thrash metal enjoyment!

The Exodus/English Dogs Connection Goes Way Back Last time Exodus played London, English Dogs leader Gizz Butt performed A Lesson In Violence with them. Tonight, not only does the ex-Prodigy guitarist repeat the trick, but his reformed ‘80s metal-punks English Dogs support, along with ex-Breed 77 mob The Heretic Order. Turns out Gizz’s friendship with Exodus dates to 1986, when Heathen supported at a San Francisco date on English Dogs’ US tour. Gizz befriended guitarist Lee Altus, who would later join Exodus and remains there today, then later met Gary Holt. English Dogs are impressively metallic tonight, with hoarse-throated singer Adie Bailey doing a nice line in ‘Shandy-drinking southerners’ humour, while The Heretic Order intriguingly combine Hammer Horror theatrics (including vampiric dancing girls) with trad metal bludgeon.

Exodus Play The Same Set Both Nights This is partly because of the limited number of songs stand-in guitarist Kragen can be expected to master. It’s a shame for super-fans seeing both shows, but this is a really strong set, covering almost every era. You’ve got classics from first three albums Bonded By Blood (notably minus eternal chug-classic And Then There Were None, which we’d frankly prefer over Dukes-era tracks like Iconoclasm), Pleasures Of The Flesh (the title-track, rather unexpectedly!) and Fabulous Disaster (The Toxic Waltz!) Then there are two stand-out tracks from Tempo Of The Damned in the shape of Blacklist and War Is My Shepherd, plus the new album’s finest tracks: that aforementioned title-tune, Body Harvest and Salt The Wound, the latter being one of Exodus’ finest ever offerings. The fact we could moan about exclusions like Fabulous Disaster or Brain Dead is only testament to the wealth of Exodus’ back catalogue. Tonight’s friendly violent fun really was good for all.

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