Like many fans of the Bay Area thrash sound, I was overjoyed when Exodus reformed ten years ago, after a hiatus that lasted close to eight years. Joy quickly turned into delirious elation when the band released 'Tempo of the Damned,' arguably their finest album ever. It even gives their legendary debut 'Bonded by Blood' a serious run for its money. Imagine, then, my abject disappointment when that lineup barely lasted a year and vocalist Steve "Zetro" Souza left the band. His replacement, Rob Dukes, is certainly a very competent frontman, but no matter how good he is, Souza was an integral component to Exodus' sound, and his absence is definitely missed. Based on interviews with Exodus mainman Gary Holt, I unfortunately would not recommend holding your breath waiting for Souza to return to the fold. However, I can wholeheartedly advise you to check out his new band, Hatriot.
Less than a minute into the opening track "Suicide Run," it's readily apparent that Souza's heart is still firmly rooted in the Bay Area thrash he helped define back in the mid-1980s. This brutal four-minute blast of thrash metal sounds like Slayer's 'Show No Mercy,' Testament's 'The Legacy' and Exodus' 'Fabulous Disaster' were thrown in a blender along with some modern day blast beat drumming. Even though the musicians backing up Souza are barely adults – in fact, the rhythm section is composed of Souza's sons Cody (bass) and Nick (drums), the band is true old school thrash. The guitar riffings of newcomers Miguel Esparza and Kosta Varvatakis are a lethal complement to the Souza clan, and thanks to the fantastic production, 'Heroes of Origin' sounds better than any album featuring Zetro before, with the possible exception of 'Tempo of the Damned.'
There are quite a few nods to Exodus, from the full-tilt speed lunacy of Esparza's and Varvatakis' soloing to the clever song titles ("Weapons of Class Destruction"), as well as a few metal horns pointed to other first-generation thrash bands ("Blood Stained Wings" bears more than a passing resemblance to Slayer's "Angel of Death" and "Murder American Style"'s ending is reminiscent of the coda of Megadeth's "Hangar 18"). Still, Hatriot has created plenty of classic thrash on 'Heroes of Origin': "The Mechanics Of Annihilation" is a pedal to the metal skull battering featuring some apocalyptic drumming from Nick Souza, and "The Violent Times of My Dark Passenger" (inspired by Showtime's "Dexter," perhaps?) is one of the finest thrash compositions of the 21st century.
Not to keep bringing up 'Tempo of the Damned,' but that album featured Souza's best vocal performance to date, despite the fact that he was 40 and had more or less retired from music. Now, almost nine years later, Souza has never sounded better. Listen to his scream at the beginning of the aforementioned "Murder American Style." The man's voice gets even better with age, a true rarity in metal. However, vocals alone do not a classic metal album make, but fortunately, the next generation of Souzas make up a rock solid and lightning fast rhythm section. It's blatantly obvious that the apples didn't fall far from the tree and the Souza sons have metal in their blood, just like their old man. Combined with the stellar guitar mastery of Esparza and Varvatakis, 'Heroes of Origin' just gave all thrash bands, young and old, some serious competition. Just don't mind the really bad artwork on the cover, but hey, you don't listen to the cover.