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Exodus | Tempo of the Damned | interview | Gary Holt | metal | Lollipop


Tempo of the Damned (Nuclear Blast)
An interview with guitarist Gary Holt
By Tim Den

From the opening riff of lead-off track "Scar Spangled Banner," there's no mistaking that this is Exodus. Those deranged intervals and razor-sharp pull-offs, breaking down into midtempo moshes worthy of the '80s... yup, Exodus are back, and they sound heavier and tougher than when we last left 'em.

Tempo of the Damned is classic Exodus, borrowing the best elements from each of the band's studio records: Pleasures of the Flesh's deceivingly catchy thrashers ("Scar Spangled Banner," "Culling the Herd"), Fabulous Disaster's complex speed ("War is My Sheppard"), Impact is Imminent's abrasive turbo charge (the title track), and updated versions of Force of Habit's swaggering/melodic stomp ("Throwing Down," "Blacklist," "Forward March"). Not that they're copying themselves, they're just writing strong songs that echo the achievements of the past. So much so, in fact, that super oldie "Impaler" (written with original guitarist Kirk Hammet, pre-'85) sounds right at home among the newbies. No doubt about it, Tempo of the Damned is trademark Exodus fare, every bit as secretly melodic and blood-boiling as ever.

It must be noted, however, that the album belongs to drummer Tom Hunting and vocalist Steve "Zetro" Sousa. The former, now seasoned beyond flawlessness, drives the aggression with tasteful-yet-explosive beats and fills, shaming all his past works. The latter, out of the game for over a decade, somehow sounds more insane, pissed off, and sadistic than ever before. Paul Baloff might've been the band's original voice, but Zetro proves once again that he is (and will always be) the voice of Exodus. The power of his shrieks and bellows are simply astounding.

With Testament writing a new album, Nuclear Assault and Death Angel both reformed, and a reawakened Suffocation, 2004 is going to be a (true) metalhead's wet dream.

Let's take it back to the very beginning: Original members, etc.
There were different line-ups for backyard parties and stuff in the very beginning, but the "original" line-up was myself, Tom, Kirk, Paul, and Jeff Andrews on bass. That line-up recorded the first demo which had "Whipping Queen," "Death and Domination," and "Warlords" on it. That was '82.

And, with Rob McKillop replacing Andrews, you recorded and released the landmark Bonded by Blood in '85. Paul was fired right afterward: Why? Especially since you were all best friends...
Any member change is hard, even if they contributed nothing creatively. Paul had problems back then, and he needed to sort them out. A big part of how great Paul was was his personality, his "charisma." Even if he couldn't remember the words that other people wrote. (laughs)

Yeah... back then it was a big mess, kind of like how it is now. (laughs)

What do you mean?
Before and right around Paul's death, myself and other members of the band were getting deeper and deeper into our drug problems, to a point where we were very unproductive and the band almost ended.

Really!? I would've never guessed. Most bands get the drug stuff outta their systems when they're young...
Yeah, well, some of us are slow learners. In fact, one of the things we had to do was get cleaned up before Zetro would rejoin the band and put all his eggs in the basket.

Yeah, I was just going to ask you how he rejoined.
We had two gigs booked when Paul died, and we didn't want to cancel them. Zetro just happened to be taking his family up to Anaheim for Disney World that weekend, so we called him and said "hey, when you're done riding Space Mountain, wanna do a few gigs?" (laughs)

Are you in touch with any other former members?
I haven't seen Robbie or Kirk in years. I saw Mike (Butler, bassist on '92's Force of Habit) a few years ago. He's always in like 10 bands. He's in a power pop/punk band right now that's really good. He was a total punk rock dude even when we first picked him up.

I noticed that you don't play any of Force of Habit's songs live. Why?
First of all, two of the current members didn't play on it (Tom and bassist Jack Gibson). Plus, that album has been out of print for a long time, and I just don't think it's a good idea to play stuff that people can't get out there.

At the time of its release, I read a lot of interviews where you ranted and raved about it. Do you still feel the same?
My opinion of our albums changes every year. Looking back on Force of Habit after making such a harsh album such as Impact is Imminent (which alienated even some of our most hardcore fans), we might have gone too far in the other direction as far as being melodic. But I still like the album. I'd say, though, that Tempo of the Damned is the only album where I wouldn't change a thing.

You broke up after touring behind Force of Habit. What were the reasons?
Mostly business stuff. It wasn't fun anymore, and I always said that I would stop if it became unfun. My daughter was born on that tour... a lot of stuff was happening.

What did you do during your "break-up time?"
I played in a band called Wardance with Tom and Jack. In fact, "Sealed With a Fist" and "Throwing Down" were Wardance songs, except I rewrote the lyrics to the former...

After the '97 reunion tour of the Bonded by Blood line-up (except with Jack on bass), you stated that there wouldn't be a new studio album. Seven years later, we have Tempo of the Damned. Please explain.
We were in a bad record deal at the time, and none of us were writing what we liked, so we decided not to continue. Eventually, we started doing more shows with Paul, and he even learned some of the later material (off of Fabulous Disaster and Impact is Imminent). Once the ball got rolling and we cleaned ourselves up a bit, it just felt natural.

What are some of the new bands feeding your fire these days?
There are so many! It's hard to name 'em all. In Flames, Dimmu Borgir, Marduk, Immortal, The Haunted... A lot of black metal. Satyricon is fucking awesome. I love all that shit.

With you guys, Death Angel, and Nuclear Assault reformed, plus a new Testament album being written, would you say the Bay Area scene is getting a second wave?
Yeah, it's getting there. (laughs)
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