EXODUS – “It Starts Out Evil, Ends Up Even More Evil”

December 1, 2014, 9 years ago

Aaron Small

feature heavy metal exodus

EXODUS – “It Starts Out Evil, Ends Up Even More Evil”

The new Exodus album Blood In, Blood Out debuted at #38 on the US Billboard Top 200 Charts in its first week of release. “It broke the Top 40, isn’t that amazing? We knew the album was really, really strong,” exclaims returning vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza. “Especially when I first heard it; re-entering the way I did. As soon as I heard it I thought, wow, that is completely amazing!”

Blood In, Blood Out marks a couple of significant milestones: it’s the tenth studio album of original material for Exodus, and Zetro’s first with the band in ten years. Previously, Zetro fronted Exodus from 1986 to 1993, and again from 2002 to 2004. “I think the third time is a charm; listen to the album. It’s a different mindset now. People change, a lot of things happen in people’s lives. I think that things happened to me for the best, as far as attitude and mentality. Nuclear Blast has always been behind the band forever. Then having Breaking Bands Management – which consists of Jon and Marsha Zazula, Maria Ferrero, and Chuck Billy (of Testament) – I felt really comfortable with the coaching staff; everybody had their shit together this time; especially the band. This was the first time I walked in where everybody was completely clean and ready to go; myself as well. It seemed like the right thing to do; honestly I don’t see anybody else ever having to hold the mic again. I’m really excited this time around! The things that were my distractions in the past are all gone, every one of them; it’s really good to be able to focus on going out on tour and playing great shows. Now that we’re all older – Gary (Holt, guitarist) and myself are 50 – we understand each other’s space, each other’s individuality. But when we do this thing, it’s really great because the magic it spawns is just amazing.”

“For me, there was no rehearsals with this music. I was called, and the decision was made. I had to come in and learn music that was already written and ready to go. No problem, piece of cake; I can adapt and still make it sound like it’s mine. It’s just studying and listening to it; and I’m a fan, so this is how I would want to hear it. I have no fear of the studio whatsoever. I know my limitations, I’m very confident at what I do. (Producer) Andy Sneap (Arch Enemy, Megadeth, Nevermore) has a name for all my little voices. ‘Do that little Bon Scott – death metal – Billy Gibbons thing.’ I know where I fit, and I’ve always been successful that way; you don’t get bored with what I’m doing vocally. I’ll change it right in the middle of the line; that creates character and charisma, and that’s what you’re looking for. Especially from a heavy metal vocalist; when everybody’s doing the cookie monster effect. It’s all how you approach it and how you look at it as a craft; the sound and the tone.”

Returning to the very early days, guitarist Kirk Hammett (Metallica) was a member of Exodus, but never actually played on a studio recording. Now he can be heard on “Salt The Wound” from Blood In, Blood Out. “It’s great! Gary’s been playing with Slayer for almost four and a half years now. They’ve done a lot of the Big 4 gigs and in that - they’ve kind of got closer. They hang out; they’ve reconnected I guess you could say. It was a dinner conversation last Christmas (when Gary said), ‘I’m writing the new Exodus,’ (and Kirk replied) ‘It’s a no-brainer, I’m playing on it.’ So from the inception, we knew he was going to play on it. The lead style really fits ‘Salt The Wound’, and they complement each other on it. On this record, everybody really fucking delivered; the performances are just amazing!”

Another famous face that goes way back, Testament vocalist Chuck Billy, who is part of the management team for Exodus, as well as Souza’s bandmate in Dublin Death Patrol, guests on “BTK”. “When I came in to do my vocals for the record, Chuck was there the whole time I tracked; and I can trust him! I can say, how did that sound? And he’ll say, ‘leave it like that’, or ‘try it like this.’ Cause that’s how we do Dublin Death Patrol, there’s literally a mic that swings back and forth when we’re in there recording. He was always singing on ‘BTK’; even before it was decided that I was going to come back and sing with the band again. Just having his voice on that last part is so heavy. The dynamics were well put, they weren’t over-saturated. It’s so natural. It’s what you want from a metal album. If you love what Exodus has done –and that counts Paul (Baloff)’s albums and Rob (Dukes)’s as well – you are going to love this record.”

Going back to “BTK”, the song title is an abbreviation for Bind, Torture, Kill. Why not name the song as such? “Gary wrote the lyrics for that, and Exodus writes very metaphorically and tongue-in-cheek,” explains Zetro. “Our fans know exactly what it is; you’re going to get a serial killer song out of this band. The content is always very socially controversial, and always will be. The lyrics are definitely eye-openers.”

Leaning into the political spectrum, there’s “Collateral Damage”. “That’s just the mess we are in right now –socially and financially. Our country was built on a system where you have the right to vote and majority rules, but when you get so many people involved, you lose sight of that completely. ‘Collateral Damage’ has a lot to say; that and ‘Numb’, are my favourite songs on the album. Lyrically I love them, they’re brilliant; and I didn’t write either one of them.”

“I figured when it fizzled out in the ‘90s, that was the ride,” continues Zetro.” It’s been very exciting and we’re very grateful. We just did a show in Mexico City with a bunch of great bands, and the guitar player from Cattle Decapitation said, ‘In 1989 you were my first concert ever.’ That’s really cool, but wow, I’m fucking old as hell. That’s fucked up. I’ve spawned a whole generation, and now they’re playing with me. But I keep myself in shape. I go to the gym every fucking day, I eat right. It’s all about the performances. I think they were important back in the day – as long as there were chicks, booze, and drugs – the performances were important. Now it’s completely opposite. Can I get a Caesar salad, some fruit juice and a cup of coffee? It’s a completely different mentality, which is great for the fans; people who are paying. Cause now there’s a lot of money involved in going to see a band live, just to buy a ticket and get in. They better be good and give you your money’s worth. I feel that, and when you come see Exodus you definitely get that.”

Zetro wrote one song on Blood In, Blood Out; that being “Body Harvest”. “Coming from the point of view of a guy who wakes up in a room – and this happens! Not necessarily in a hostel, but he’s been drugged and there’s a note on the phone saying, we just took your kidney. We just took your spleen, and you better get help! So the guy gets to the hospital and he gets patched up; then he realizes this is kind of a good racket, and does it to somebody else. The hunted turns into the hunter; that’s basically the story on ‘Body Harvest’, in kind of a sick, Exodus twisted way. It starts out evil, ends up even more evil.”

The cover art adorning Blood In, Blood Out - created by artist Par Olofsson, who did Let There Be Blood (in 2008) - is certainly striking. Given the current popularity of The Walking Dead, and zombies in general, this graphic fits so well. “When I came in, there was another image,” reveals Zetro. “To this day, I still haven’t seen it. About a week later that came out, and I thought it was cool. The album’s called Blood In, Blood Out; and there’s fetuses while they’re eating their hands. That made sense. The blood is coming in and the blood is going out. And this is heavy metal. What do you want for a t-shirt? That’s what I’m looking for! I’m a horror fan, I love horror. To me, it’s the best cover ever! Remember in the ‘80s, we used to shove our faces on the cover every time. Jesus Christ – these guys are so full of themselves. But that went back to the mentality of, bands in the ‘70s – that’s what they did. Lynyrd Skynyrd was always on the cover of their records; Ted Nugent was always on the cover of his records. And we just liked that. Now, it’s like, which guy am I going to get tattooed? It gives me a whole spectrum of cool shit; plus I like the swag. Sick sells!”

Exodus recorded an Angel Witch cover as a digital only bonus track, specifically “Angel Of Death” – not the classic Slayer tune. “If you notice, I didn’t even sing on it. Tom (Hunting, drummer) did the lead vocal on it; I’m in the background and on the chorus, but Tom did the lead vocal. He had left Exodus – he’s on his third stint as well. He actually joined Angel Witch and played with Kevin Heybourne for a while, so it’s kind of ironic. Tom has a great high register and a good singing voice. I love it, I think it’s awesome.”

Exodus is currently on tour across The US until mid-December, what happens in 2015? “We’re going to do Soundwave Festival in Australia. I know we’re going to come back and do The States… there’s some talks with a couple of other famous Bay Area bands but I can’t say who yet. It’s going to be a cool tour if it does go down. Also in the summer we’ll be doing all the festivals; hopefully we’ll be back to Heavy Montreal – that’s an amazing festival, one of the best ones I’ve ever played. My return, tenth album, hot record – you’re going to be seeing us for sure. There’s a lot of ground to cover.”  


Photo credit by Bruce Getty







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