Live Gig Report by Eamon O’Neill
© Paulo Nuno Gonçalves
Photos by Paulo Nuno Gonçalves
Inside Dublin’s Button Factory, it’s all kicking off. As the energy levels peak and the swell of the mosh pit goes bananas to the strains of breakneck thrash metal, one particular crowd surfer stands out. Dressed in faded denims, white high-top boots, and an accentuating bullet belt, for a fleeting moment it feels like we’ve all entered a time warp, and it’s 1989 all over again. With Exodus providing the soundtrack, for fans of a certain vintage, it’s as good as it gets.
Among the greasiest and most unwavering originators of the original Bay Area metal scene, San Francisco five-piece Exodus have during the last decade or so, been regular visitors to these shores. Tonight however, is the first time since those heady early days that a line-up fronted by arguably the band’s most celebrated frontman; the lamented Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza has played in Ireland. As such, it’s a cause for celebration, and it’s immediately clear that the Irish crowd have missed the singer. Greeted gregariously, it’s a fine welcome back to Europe for the front man, and indeed the band, as Exodus begin a lengthy jaunt in support of 2014’s excellent ‘Blood In, Blood Out’.
Kicking off with a brace of newies in ‘Black 13’ and the pulverizing title track, it’s bedlam in the entire standing area from the off. When Zetro exclaims “I wanna f****n’ hear you!”, he’s not disappointed. “F**k yeah”, he exclaims. “Are you guys ready to fuck things up?”, he asks to deafening response in the affirmative, as the band launch into ‘And Then There Were None’; the first of an incredible six classics to be aired from 1985 debut ‘Bonded By Blood’ tonight.
Zetro is an engaging frontman, and with just the right amount or danger in the air he warns; “don’t give these guys [the bouncers front of house] any shit and we’ll have some good friendly violent fun”. It’s sound advice, and as people go down in the ongoing melee, they’re immediately assisted back to their feet by the other members of the good-natured crowd.
Exodus are on such good form tonight that it’s hard to believe that band leader Gary Holt isn’t on stage with them. Sitting out this run of dates due to pulling double duty with Slayer, the band acknowledge his absence by playing a few bars of ‘Raining Blood’. “Gary’s out with those guys”, admits Zetro, adding; “raise your horns for Gary and Slayer”, as the band get back to business with a punishing ‘Child Of A Worthless God’.
Holt may be missing, but the two guitarists up on stage; the long-standing Lee Altus and Holt’s understudy Kragen Lum, are a marvel to watch. Providing technically faultless soloing throughout, they are an impressive duo, and must surely rank among the best pairing on the thrash scene. Meanwhile at the back, powerhouse drummer Tom Hunting anchors the band, with precision and sheer on-point force. His performance though faultless throughout, is particularly noticeable during a driving ‘Salt The Wound’.
As the show wears on, it’s a night of dedications. “I got a chance to walk up the street and get a photo with the statue”, says Zetro, in a nod towards Dublin’s favourite son; Phil Lynnot. Going on to talk about his and the band’s love of Thin Lizzy, Zetro dedicates the gig to the wild one. Elsewhere, fallen Motörhead bandleader Ian Kilmsiter is remembered with a pummelling ‘A Lesson In Violence’, prompting a mass chant of “LEMMY! LEMMY!” from the approving crowd.
As the night nears an end, the band race towards the finish line with a trio of their best known numbers. As ‘Bonded By Blood’ flows into a nuclear ‘The Toxic Waltz’, a final explosion of energy in ‘Strike Of The Beast’ calls time on Exodus’ set. As Zetro announces; “we’ll see you again soon”, the band take their bows and the cold light of 2016 shines once more.
Mortality may have taken some of metal’s heroes, but right now, Exodus are alive and well, and in rude health. Catch them while you can.