Exodus (w/ Special Guests Heathen) 06/11/10

Key Club – West Hollywood, CA

Words/Photos/Videos by Reverend Justito/concertconfessions.com

Growing up in the 1990’s, I spent many hours rocking out in the various muscle cars of Concertconfessions webmaster, Mattchee.  We were the second generation of Bay Area thrash metal fans; the kids who were in Junior High when The Black Album ruled the rock world.  Metallica opened the doors and turned us onto a whole world of bands who played the fast paced melodies which made us wonder why we ever purchased crap such as Kriss Kross and Vanilla Ice.  Knowing they were from our home turf and having once had Metallica’s Kirk Hammett on guitars, how could we not instantly fall in love with Exodus?  18+ years later, I walked into the doors of the Key Club in West Hollywood assuming I, at 31, would be one of the younger individuals in the crowd.  Much to my astonishment, most of the over-sold crowd was not even alive when I discovered Exodus twelve years into their career.  That was only the beginning of my shock and awe.
As I walked up to the bar to order a drink, Heathen was already killing it on stage.  Supporting the just released The Evolution of Chaos record, the band had the full attention of the packed pint-sized venue.  I did my best to find a solid spot within the crowd sunk into the mayhem.  The band already had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands by the time of my arrival.  With crowd chants of HEATHEN! between songs like “Mercy Is No Virtue” and “Arrows of Agony,” one would have thought that they were the headlining act.  Huge circle pits filled the club’s front floor section, as duel axe-slingers Kragen Lum & Lee Altus tore up career-spanning numbers such as “Death By Hanging.”  Most of the crowed seemed shocked when the band exited the stage after “Open The Grave.”  They clearly were not ready for the band’s set to end, as chants for their return drowned out the bright house lights and Mastodon blasting over the PA.

Billed as a release show for the group’s recent Billboard Top 200 album Exhibit B: The Human Condition, Exodus kicked the main event off just past 11pm.  With a world-wide broadcast via Stickam, the five piece band hit the stage like a bag of bricks upside the head.  Opening with the Exhibit B crusher “The Ballad of Leonard and Charles,” the building erupted as fans went absolutely ape-shit.  Did the band even take a break before heading straight into “Beyond The Pale?”  I was more concerned with one of the many kids in the crowd proudly wearing the band’s “Satanic Hispanic” T-Shirt.  I was convinced his brains had splattered on the stair case that his head had just crashed into.  After some help up from fellow fans, the youngster dusted himself off and was thrashing around in the pit by the time the band was rocking the Exhibit A monster – “Iconoclasm.”    After all, Exodus was in town on a Friday night – and this was an event not to be missed.

I felt current vocalist Rob Dukes did a great job of delivering the lyrics from all eras of Exodus, despite the fact that many Internet trash talkers have nothing kind to say about him.  “Blacklist” sounded much better than my first Exodus show with Steev Esquivel back in 2004.  The duel guitar attack from Gary Holt and Lee Altus (who was working a double shift on this particular evening) was the driving force of the music, sending the circle pit into overdrive on classics like “Piranha” and “Fabulous Disaster.”  It didn’t matter which era of songs was recalled — the crowd responded with enthusiastic violence.  The band’s open invitation to stage divers did nothing to calm the carnage.

As if the invite to stage dive was not enough, the true crowd highlight of the evening was the wall of death.  Led by Dukes during the set’s closing number “Strike of the Beast,” the packed floor did a fine job of finding the space to part.  Once Dukes screamed “Go” into the mic, it was pure mayhem as the two sides crashed together forming one solid mob of energy.  Bones were crushed and bodies were bloodied as the band bashed out the Bonded By Blood juggernaut.
Chants of Exodus began within seconds of the band exiting for an encore break.  After blasting through the song “Bonded By Blood” the band asked for fan requests.  With most fans screaming for “The Toxic Waltz,” the band agreed, stipulating that fans promised to cover the entire floor with a circle pit.  The fans were happy with the terms of the deal and formed the largest circle of the night.  I generally don’t approve of bands closing with a new number; however on this particular late spring night, it just seemed to work.  “Good Riddance” declares that the end of the Earth is upon us and perhaps that is just what it will take to end Exodus’s lengthy career.  30 years after Hammett and Holt formed the band, the music is still kicking and is embraced by a very young and very rabid fan base.  With Exodus, the music is timeless and the energy created between the band and the audience is truly something special.  I have no doubt that when the band does it’s 50th anniversary tour, the pit will be rocking with a base of fans who have yet to be conceived.