By Brian Krasman
Chances are unless you’re incarcerated, have one of those weird social phobias or just have so much money you needn’t bother with such an activity, you’ve been to the supermarket lately.
As you go to check out with your hellaciously marked-up items while the people in front of you barter over coupon discounts, you’ve no doubt noticed all those magazines staring back at you. You know the ones. Brad and Angelina splitting. Wait, no they aren’t. Some actress has the audacity to reveal cellulite at the beach. Wait, who’s gay now? It’s sensory overload at its most vile, yet people obviously buy the stuff because publishing isn’t exactly free.
If these glossy tabloids make you want to go into a full-on rage and take out the candy displays, you’re not alone. Gary Holt and his mates in the classic thrash quintet EXODUS have your back, and their ninth and latest skullcrusher “Exhibit B: The Human Condition” contains a venomous diatribe “Burn, Hollywood, Burn” that consolidates all those hateful thoughts and malcontent into a four-minute powder keg.
“My daughter watches that ‘My Super Sweet 16,’ and I decided I’d sit down and watch it with her,” Holt recalls, with disdain for the MTV show already finding its way into his voice. “I couldn’t get through the first few minutes. I was appalled. Why would anyone want to watch this? … This isn’t talent, it’s a crime!”
Yet, his anger toward spoiled rich kids who whine when they don’t get a large enough SUV for their 16th birthday sadly puts him in a minority. So do his views on Hollywood in general, a land in which people’s obsession has grown to an almost terrifying level of intrusion over the years. It’s why a song such as “Burn, Hollywood, Burn” at least puts a bit of a smile on his face as he and his mates – vocalist Rob Dukes, fellow guitarist Lee Altus, bassist Jack Gibson, and drummer Tom Hunting – get their chance to answer back as dangerously as possible.
“It’s become a celebrity-obsessed lifestyle worldwide,” Holt explains. “We live through celebrities, and so many aren’t even what you’d call real celebrities. Hollywood just cranks this shit out. I would care less if I never saw Paris Hilton again. And then again, someone like a Kim Kardashian would just come along and steal her thunder. I mean, who fucking cares?”
“Exhibit B,” the follow-up to 2007’s “The Atrocity Exhibition … Exhibit A,” doesn’t just focus on “celebreality.” Much of the content matter examines humankind’s proclivity for violence toward one another, and the population’s everyday ignorance and cruelty that’s led to a deterioration of society as a whole. Holt, who is EXODUS’s primary songwriter, said this wasn’t a chosen path when “Exhibit B” was born out of the creative cycle for “A,” but he noticed as the record came into focus, the tracks were taking on the theme organically so he ran with it.
Another of “Exhibit B’s’ more gripping and blunt songs is “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer),” a song written from the perspective of any of a number of school shooters over the years. Holt is quick to point out he’s not showing any support for his chosen character – anything but – but he wanted to get into the heads of these people and their psychological trauma and to you express what must be going through their minds as they commit these unspeakable acts.
“I think a lot of it for me started with Charles Whitman in Texas,” Holt says.
Whitman went on a shooting rampage in 1966 on the University of Texas campus, killing 14 people and wounding 32 before being shot dead himself by an Austin police officer.
“And then that takes you into Columbine and Virginia Tech, and even the smaller stuff, if you can really even call any of these incidents smaller stuff, it’s all very prevalent when looking at that finger-on-the-trigger way of life,” he says.
While the point of view the band takes on the song could confuse some who simply can’t read between the lines or understand what they were doing with the content matter, Holt says he’s not worried about any backlash and hopes it’ll make people think about these situations a little more thoroughly, a benefit not given to past controversial heavy metal songs such as OZZY OSBOURNE’s “Suicide Solution” or JUDAS PRIEST’s woefully misconstrued “Better By You, Better Than Me.”
EXODUS fans who check out “Exhibit B” also will notice that, much like “Exhibit A,” the album is epic length. Clocking in at 74 minutes (78, if you count the bonus track), it’s actually longer than its predecessor and more in line with the band’s classic thrash style than anything they’ve produced in a while. Holt chuckles when he’s reminded his most recent two albums actually time in at about three albums length and says they’ve really hit on all cylinders creatively the past few years.
“Riff shortages certainly haven’t been a problem,” he says with a laugh. “When we have ideas, we’re just going to run with them. There are plenty of other bands out there who make just three-minute songs, so you can always go listen to them. But as for us, we’re just really into what we’re doing right now, and we do feel we’re having a very prolific period creatively.”
The band is getting ready to celebrate the May 18 release of “Exhibit B” (out on Nuclear Blast) with a trio of album release shows before they head over to Europe for the festival season, then back Stateside for a regular touring cycle. Earlier this spring, EXODUS completed a successful run playing alongside two other thrash metal pioneering acts – MEGADETH and TESTAMENT – on a bill that showed the graybeards still have it in them.
For those unaware, EXODUS are one of the bands that crafted the thrash sound when they crept out of the Bay Area with their 1985 debut “Bonded By Blood,” probably finding their biggest fortunes on 1989’s “Fabulous Disaster” and the song “Toxic Waltz.” Dukes is their third singer, following in the footsteps of original frontman Paul Baloff (who passed away in 2002 following a stroke) and Steve “Zetro” Souza, while Holt and Hunting are the sole original members remaining in the landmark act.
“I think so for sure,” Holt says when asked if classic thrash is enjoying a revival period. “We’re the guys who have been there from the beginning and we know it best. We all learned from our mistakes, realized things we did wrong on past records, and kept making albums for ourselves and not to please others. I can tell you, when we wrote ‘Bonded By Blood,’ we did that thing because it’s what we wanted to hear.”
While the veterans such as EXODUS, as well as OVERKILL and FORBIDDEN, are back out there showing people how it’s done, there’s been a wave of younger bands who are getting into the mid-’80s aesthetic and trying their hand at the genre. Holt says he loves to see this taking place, but that it doesn’t give him any added impulse to make Exodus more explosive.
“I don’t need that to light a fire under me,” he says. “I worked with WARBRINGER and FUELED BY FIRE and BONDED BY BLOOD, and I’ve always been there to give them advice if someone asks me. But I’ll never run out of passion for what I do with EXODUS.”
Considering the mammoth, channeled effort found on “Exhibit B,” only a fool could challenge Holt’s spirit.