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Big Al’s Metal Shop

“It is a good time to be an American Metal fan.”

This is the thought that raced through my mind as I stood before the mighty Exodus last Wednesday. For not only is our genre capable of sustaining crossover bands like Hatebreed for over a decade, it has also produced an underground that is both relevant and reverent of its forefathers. Case in point: In celebration of their decade of existence and recent commercial success, Hatebreed chose to showcase classic bands like Exodus and Napalm Death in their festival package. These are bands that have laid a cornerstone in the foundation of every American band. Yet, while the number of “metal” bands has increased exponentially, our attention span and disposable income has decreased. So it takes a pioneer like Hatebreed to remind us of where this all started.

Exodus, in their thrash metal glory, may be known to lay fans only as the group that brought Kirk Hammett (of Metallica fame) into prominence. To thrash afficianados, though, Exodus has remained a vital band over the years, producing the classic album Bonded By Blood in 1985, among others. After settling on Rob Dukes to take over for the much beloved, late Paul Baloff as vocalist, the band has produced one of the most belligerent albums of the past year. Shovel Headed Kill Machine moves classic Bay Area thrash into the modern era, borrowing a tad from newer American Metal bands while retaining their classic sound.

Watching Gary Holt’s fingers moving at light speed at the concert Wednesday brought me back to my high-school days, when we would thumb-wrestle over who shredded faster. Marty Friedman? Slash? Malmsteen? Yeah, but Holt, man... any hesher worth his mullet just had to toss that name into the ring. After the turmoil the band has endured in this last decade, just being out on the road is a testament (pun intended) to Holt’s passion for Exodus, and the legacy (sorry — another bad metal pun) he will leave to the new generation. The band was in fine form too. Dukes is a great frontman, and confident enough to handle the position. The fact that they ended the show with the title track from their newest album, to a sea of horns I might add, only goes to show that this incarnation of the group can go as far as they want.

Speaking of which, this lineup includes Paul Bostaph, of Slayer fame. Having moved aside when Dave Lombardo returned to the fold, Bostaph has remained a gentleman and made the rounds back in the Bay Area scene. Soft spoken and generous, I had a chance to speak with him before the show. Bostaph says he stays in contact with the guys in Slayer. When it comes to Forbidden, another classic Bay Area thrash band he was in, though, I could see his eyes softening a bit. If possible, he said, he would love to play with them again, but logistics (families, tour schedules) remain an obstacle. Maybe, if the universe aligns in just the right way, we could see a Forbidden/Exodus show sometime...

In the meantime, we have bands like Hatebreed to carry the torch for a new generation. Few bands enjoy the same devotion as Hatebreed does from their fans. Perhaps it’s the uplifting lyrics that carry the downtrodden. The personal touch — you can find these guys (even now) at their merch booth talking to kids, eyes fixed on theirs as they listen to their struggles as if their own. To be called a band of the people is one thing; to actually live it is another (I’m thinking KISS here as the only other example). I think all of that is encapsulated in their honest approach to kids.

With frontman Jamey Jasta’s latest struggles, he could have been forgiven for sinking into a hole and recycling their well-polished sound. It would have been easy — a Hatebreed breakdown or riff is instantly recognizable by now. Instead, Jasta pushes through his emotions, his sadness, and lays it all bare for the kids on their latest (although not greatest) Supremacy. There are great moments like “Destroy Everything” and “To The Threshold” that translated well Wednesday night. It wasn’t packed like the last time they played Club Zoo, but well attended for a school night. “To The Threshold” was well received, probably due to its rotation on MTV2’s Headbanger’s Ball (also hosted by Jasta); but sadly, “Destroy Everything,” my favorite tune, fell a little flat. Ending the night with “I Will Be Heard,” a wave of hardcore, death, grind, and thrash metal fans left the club, spirits refreshed. Is there any other reason for seeing a show?

Al Cohen | Senior Staff