EXODUS – Gary Holt Returns!

March 13, 2018, 5 months ago

Mark Gromen

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Or as some ill-informed poster on the Exodus social media site offered, "Cool, Gary from Slayer is playing with Exodus now!" Long time getting back to your roots, Mr. Holt. Day after a March snowstorm canceled the NYC date, the San Fran thrashers were on South Street, visiting the TLA (Theater Of The Living Arts), the veritable old theater quickly becoming the haven for underground metal tours. Unlike so many of their contemporaries, Exodus choose the correct mix of old material (many) and newer releases (fewer), opening with the iconic "Bonded By Blood". In fact the first three flew by, Holt taking the solos. Sort of have to feel for Lee Altus (Heathen). While Holt was away, Altus was the main guitarist, even just a month ago, on the 70,000 Tons cruise. Now, not so much, relegated to stage right, so Holt can shine, alone, on the side opposite.

Sort of surprised nothing off Pleasures Of The Flesh (especially since "Deranged" was in both sets on the boat and "Brain Dead", "Chemi-kill" and the title track have been aired the last couple of tours), but there would be a pair off Fabulous Disaster (including the title cut), the MTV album that made them in America. "Blood In, Blood Out" was followed by "Iconoclasm", the lone Rob Dukes-era track. After Steve "Zetro" Souza formally introduced Gary Holt, they ripped into "And Then There Were None", the crowd singing along. The disappointment of no show the night before still evident in his voice, Zetro said, "Know the crazy (mfers) in Philly wouldn't cancel!" Cue "Fabulous Disaster", with Zetro slapping hands across the barricade divide. Bit of a lull for "Body Harvest", but the eruption that is "Metal Command" saw Holt begin on the right side of the stage, before relocating to his customary position on the left, as the crowd sang the "whoa whoa" chorus. 

Throughout, the show was bathed almost exclusively in blue, purple or white lights. Zetro teased, "The rest of the set is old school. I mean Bonded By Blood..." Bit of a lie, as neither "Blacklist" nor "War Is My Shepard" are vintage and some early thrashers even balk at the big video single, Toxic Waltz". As much as Paul Baloff was the face of Exodus (at least for us old fucks), Souza has made the band his own (especially most recently, in Holt's absence) the second time around: no longer living under Baloff's shadow. "A Lesson In Violence", skulls & graves on the video screen behind the band, is followed by "Blacklist" showcasing (to these ears) the differences between the originals and newer thrash. When they were kids, trying to write heaviest songs, there was a structure, not just riffs that don't progress, as a song. Riffing and heaviness, as a lone goal, is never successful.

Feet flying near his head, as surfers pierced the barricade, Souza is undeterred from slapping a few more hands and wins local points by congratulating the Eagles on their Super Bowl win and the mention of attending the Flyers game, the night before (show canceled in NYC, the guys high tailed it to Philly and caught a hockey game, Altus a major Flyers fan, often wearing their insignia onstage, including tonight). Even before his stint with Slayer, Holt was like a second frontman. "War Is My Shepard" sees Holt and Altus center stage, face-to-face. "The Toxic Waltz" was a sing-along, especially for the namesake moshers, out on the floor. Vicious "Strike Of The Beast" closes things out. Welcome home, Gary!

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