Having been a fan of the thrash metal movement for at least ten years I was excited to see Exodus. I had admittedly started out following bands such as Megadeth and Metallica. It was only recently that I had delved into Testament and Exodus’s back catalogues to see what they were all about. I feel both bands have been fairly consistent with their album releases, with a strong set of new material, more than I can say for the big four. But does that consistency cross over to their live show?
I’m a fan of exodus for Tom Hunting’s drumming style and Gary Holt’s guitar playing so I was a little concerned when I found out that Kragen Lum (Heathen) was filling in on Holt’s duties. Holt is currently riffing with Slayer and schedule clashes have unfortunately impacted Exodus on this occasion. As for Zetro, I had always been a fan but feel Rob Dukes had managed to hold his role as frontman considerably well. Exhibit A and B are my two favourite Exodus records, if Zetro fell short on those tracks I’d be upset.
Whilst travelling to Camden Underworld I pondered; Would the venues layout cause any sound related issues ? Anybody who has visited the underworld will understand what I mean. For those who haven’t the stage is facing diagonally in a long oblong room. It leads to you getting a lot more of the PA stage left. It’s not ideal. Would Gary Holt’s absence affect the overall performance? To a lot fans Holt is Exodus. I am on the fence with this. He is important in the songwriting and you’d notice if he left but a pretty proficient guitarist should be able fill in well enough. I’m more concerned about the crowd will hold back due to this. Will Zetro perform all the material released since his resignation up to the standard of recent vocalist Rob Dukes? Dukes was great live, I have watched Exodus’ 2010 footage of Wacken many times. My expectations are high.
The set list was a mix of their best hits with four tracks off of their latest release ‘Blood In, Blood out’. Let’s face it when you have been around pushing 30 years you have certain song you are expected to play and they didn’t let those fans who were there from the start down. The confidence in their material was apparent throughout the performance, any hang ups I had about Gary Holt not being there were gone. They had been replaced by a barrage of Exodus fans stage diving and going nuts. I’ve been at shows that have had masses of circle pits and walls of death but never have I seen so many members of the audience take to the stage.
Given the atmosphere I’d let Exodus off for dropping the ball during a break within ‘War is my shepherd’. For whatever reason Tom Hunting counted in and they just stopped playing. It was an obvious mistake that would have definitely been noticed but given the intense energy surrounding the venue, nobody cared. Camden Underworld, you awkward sounding venue you. As expected the venue’s layout interrupted the path of sound. The overall mix was stage left guitarist heavy. If anything this instilled my faith in Lee Altus as a guitarist, Gary who? Unfortunately Kragen Lum’s leads were lost from where I was standing. The rest of the rhythm section was balanced, the bass had a nice clicky top end and the drums made my gut wrench, it was perfect.
My main surprise came from Zetro. His vocals had a sharper edge to them in a live setting. There is an urgency in his shrieking and screaming classic thrash gospel. I feel that something is missing from his vocals on their records , both old and new. And I honestly can’t put my finger on what it is. They had more power and prominence in a live setting to when you are at home scratching your nuts or down the local having a pint.
Having seen Megadeth, Metallica, Overkill and Testament I feel that I have seen top level thrash in a variety of settings from small clubs, festivals and huge arenas. Each band was great in its own way. Overkill and Testament were the best of the bunch and I would now add Exodus to that list. The atmosphere ruled the gig and that’s what I want ultimately. The playing was professional and tight but with no atmosphere what would we be paying for. Might as well just throw the record on at home.
Just to add, those guys who went to the show and were hung up about Gary’s absence throughout the gig just wasted 25 pounds. Exodus is far more than a one man band and their presence and consistency live proved that.
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