EXODUS started back in late ’79, early ’80 with Tom Hunting on vocals / drums, Kirk Hammett on guitar, Tim Magnello on guitar and Carlton Nelson on bass. They started out playing covers such as 'Get Your Rocks Off', 'Wasted' (DEF LEPPARD), 'Rock Bottom' (U.F.O.) etc. and a few originals. Needless to say that their music had more in common with traditional Hard Rock / Heavy Metal than with the Thrash stuff that they were known for a few years later. It’s interesting to note at that point that Gary Holt attended one of their early shows that was taking place in his high school and soon became a roadie for Kirk. Kirk showed at the time a couple of chords to Gary and that’s how he learned to play guitar: Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Ted Nugent, Gary Moore and Eddie Van Halen becoming his main influences. During 1981 Carlton Nelson left the band (he was later seen in OUTRAGE, BLIZZARD and then FURHER) and was replaced by Jeff Andrews. Not long after that the band parted ways with Tim Magnello who was replaced by Gary Holt. A few months later the band decided to get a full time singer in the person of Paul Baloff (of Russian decent). Kirk found Paul at a party in Berkeley as he had an IRON MAIDEN button on and he asked him if he knew U.F.O. who was one of Kirk’s fave bands so Paul started to sing 'Rock Bottom' right away. The next day he came down and jammed with that early EXODUS formation and he was in, not because he had the best voice in the world, but he had tons of charisma, was funny as hell and he knew his shit musicwise. Armed with that new line up, the band decided to enter the studio during 1982 to record a three tracker which featured 'Whipping Queen', 'Death And Domination' and 'Warlord' (recently issued a bootleg 7”), the music being very inspired by PRIEST and MAIDEN - Kirk was doing all the songwriting at that point, Paul sounding like Biff Byford! The band then started to terrorize more and more the local club circuit, supporting the likes of ANVIL CHORUS, LAAZ ROCKIT, VICIOUS RUMORS and by November 29th ’82 they were opening for L.A.’s METALLICA - who were making their debut in the Bay Area, offering to the hungry Metal crowds more original material such as 'Endor', 'Pillager', 'Impaler', 'Hell’s Breath', 'Child Of Evil', 'Interrogation' or 'Dying By His Hand'. According to Kirk, that show was Paul’s debut. By the spring of 1983, as the band was having down time they were starting to have problems with Jeff as he couldn’t keep up with the new speed, but still they didn’t want to kick him out as he was a great friend. Kirk got an offer to join METALLICA in an emergency - he flew into New York on April 11th and played his first show on April 16th at the Showplace in Dover, NJ without even having met the other guys before. They were on the verge of entering the studio to record their first opus to replace Dave Mustaine who was thrown out the same day Kirk arrived. Kirk was recommended to METALLICA through Mark Whittaker who was an ex-EXODUS manager before being involved deeper with the METALLICA boys. The band took note of those circumstances to announce that the band was no more so they got rid of Jeff very easily and replaced him with Rob McKillop - who used to be a roadie for EXODUS - while Kirk was replaced by Mike Maung. He didn’t last long as it wasn’t the type of music he wanted to play (he was later seen in the Funk / Dance band, FREAKY EXECUTIVE) and the next replacement was Evan McCasky who was fitting in fine but he simply didn’t have any equipment and had to borrow all his stuff so he just had the time to play one show - and to have his guitar broken, his hair cut off and the word “Liar” written on his forehead with indelible ink because he got caught by his father for cutting school - before he was replaced by Rick Hunolt. Trivia fans will be interested to know that S.F. Metal veteran, Jon Torres (ex- THUNDERHEAD, IRON ASSAULT, WARNING) was also approached around that time to join the band. With Gary at the leading helm, they soon came up with faster / heavier material in the shape of 'No Love' and 'Strike Of The Beast', a drastical change of style to fast heavy Thrash Metal. With no contract under their belts, the band soon became a favorite amongst the local hardcore scene either headlining their own shows or opening for RAVEN / METALLICA (during their famous “Kill ‘Em All For One” tour on September 2nd 1983), MOTÖRHEAD, HEAVEN, METAL CHURCH, SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, LOUDNESS etc. Around the end of 1983, Paul was even mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Gary St Pierre in HAWAII (the latter joined for a short while VICIOUS RUMORS after that) but nothing came out of this at the end as Eddy Day got the job. By late January 1984 as L.A.'s SLAYER was making their debut in the Bay Area (“Show No Mercy” had just came out), SLAYER supported (along with SAVAGE GRACE) EXODUS for two dates, EXODUS headlining the dates without any record out. Needless to say that it was kinda hard for SLAYER to impose their own brand of Metal in front of a crowd devoted to EXODUS (especially since SLAYER were still wearing some make up at the time, which didn’t last any longer after that explosive trip!). Around that time the band decided to enter the studio to record a demo featuring their brand new material with the help of ex-COBRA, ex-ANVIL CHORUS, CONTROL guitarist / occasional EXODUS roadie, Doug Piercy at the board, but the demo was never entirely completed and only the basic tracks were recorded. Titled the “Turk Street” demo, this 40 minute tape didn’t take long to enter the tape trading lists around the world of hungry Hardcore ragers. Still soon after that a five song demo appeared and even to this day it’s still a mystery to know if the tracks featured on it ('Exodus', 'And Then There Were None', 'Bonded By Blood', 'A Lesson In Violence' and 'Strike Of The Beast') came from the “Turk Street” demo and were finished or if that demo was recorded somewhere else. Needless to say that this demo is still to this day one of the most brilliant tapes ever made. Following a string of shows in the Bay Area (one from Ruthies Inn from March 30th 1984 being issued not long after as a bootleg vinyl titled “Hardcore Metal”) playing again with the likes of SLAYER, ANTHRAX or newcomers such as DEATH ANGEL, VERMIN or POSSESSED, the band secured a deal with the tiny New York label, Torrid Records with the help of a local figure, Sam Kress from Whiplash fanzine. At that point, I have to add that Mark Oseguada (who was later seen in DEATH ANGEL) was one of their roadies. By July 1984 EXODUS entered the Prairie Sun studios with Mark Whitaker producing (shortly before he had just co-produced “Ride The Lightning”). Originally titled “A Lesson In Violence”, the record didn’t come out before mid 1985 (distributed by Combat in the States and Music For Nations in Europe) as they had to wait seven months for the original cover artwork and when it was finally done, they were displeased with it so they had to come up with a new concept and a new title, “Bonded By Blood” (in case some of you don’t know, that song was mainly inspired by the fact that one time Paul, Kirk, Gary and Tom cut up the palm of their hands to become blood brothers). The album received immediate praise almost everywhere but the comparisons with METALLICA were inevitably present sometimes, especially in Bob Muldowney’s review in Kick Ass Monthly as he would have given it more credit if this record had been out before “Kill ‘Em All”, a silly comment to say the least considering that EXODUS were active long before METALLICA. Around that time, a minor conflict started between the EXO-dudes and the METALLI-boys because Kirk used some of the lyrics in “Creeping Death” from the EXODUS tune 'Hell’s Breath' without asking them, but it didn’t go further and the two bands always stayed on good terms. In between the advance tape of the album came the most traded tape of all time and everybody knew every song of that long awaited album way before it came out. 1984 ended up with EXODUS doing more shows with the likes of MERCYFUL FATE (who were doing their first U.S. tour ever), MEGADETH (who still had no record out yet), HIRAX, DEATH ANGEL and others. Late February 1985 saw the band playing their first date in the L.A. area at the Country Club followed one month later by their first U.S. tour supporting VENOM with SLAYER on VENOM’s first U.S. trip, the tour starting on April 3rd at the infamous Studio 54 in New York City where the entire concert was filmed and later issued on video as “Ultimate Revenge” (it’s interesting to note that the soundtrack of that EXODUS video was released as a CD in 1991 titled “A Lesson In Violence” on Relativity records with the March 1986 three track demo as bonus tracks, an extremely rare item to say the least). The relatively short tour was a success for both Californian bands while it was more or less a disaster for VENOM (Mantas being replaced by two new guitarists). There was talks at this point for EXODUS to record a three track EP featuring two EXODUS live songs and a live version of 'Angel Of Death' from ANGEL WITCH but those plans never became reality and the band embarked in early August 1985 on a U.S. / Canadian tour supporting EXCITER but after three dates, EXCITER left the tour following fights inside the band and EXODUS continued their one month trip as headliners, hitting the major cities of both countries one after another, being supported by local acts such as SACRED BLADE, SLAUGHTER, SACRIFICE, BLESSED DEATH etc. which included an appearance at the Banzai festival which was held in Montreal on August 17th alongside METAL CHURCH, HALLOW’S EVE, AGENT STEEL and SLAYER. By mid September the band was back at home and were getting ready to invade Europe for the first time supporting VENOM once again. The tour started in the U.K. and went in many countries such as Denmark, France, Switzerland, Italy, Holland and of course Germany! Biggest highlight of the tour was certainly the Eindhoven gig in Holland on October 27th where EXODUS headlined (two bootleg vinyl albums of that legendary show exist, “Strike Of The Beast” and “And Then There Were… 300”) and the crowd was totally annihilated. During those two last tours, the band started to incorporate either new numbers such as 'Pleasures Of The Flesh' or old timers such as 'Hell’s Breath' or 'Death Row'. While this tour was again a big success for EXODUS allowing them to play relatively big places and win some new fans, it still wasn’t exactly the right tour for them as some dates were cancelled due to poor ticket sales as VENOM were definitely on the downside. Once they were back, Gary and Paul started with some friends a crossover hobby band in S.F. called SPASTIC CHILDREN featuring Gary on guitar, Paul screaming, Doug Piercy (HEATHEN) on bass and Fred “Rotten” Cotton on drums, this was the very first version of that well known project as it featured a short while later a new line up consisting of the late Cliff Burton on bass, James Hetfield on drums, Fred on vocals and James McDaniels on guitar - and also at different times Jim Martin (FAITH NO MORE), Al Voltage (PIRANHA) among others. In late December 1985 the band went to Brooklyn, New York to perform a one off date at the famous L’Amour club for their loyal East Coast fans supported by AGNOSTIC FRONT and LETHAL AGRESSION followed a few days later on New Years Eve by a huge show in their hometown supporting METALLICA with the likes of METAL CHURCH and ANTHRAX and like if it wasn’t enough the band headlined a huge Thrash festival in Los Angeles three days later. During late February / early March 1986 after having performed two shows back to back at the Mabuhay Gardens and at Ruthies Inn where two new songs made their way in the set, 'Faster Than You’ll Ever Live To Be' and 'Brain Dead', the EXO-dudes were back in the studio to cut on tape three new songs, 'Pleasures Of The Flesh', 'Seeds Of Hate' and 'Brain Dead', the latter being a weak attempt at commercialism to the surprise of their die hard fans. On the other side, the other two numbers showed clearly that EXODUS had lost none of their originality and capacity in writing over the top mind blowing material. By the end of that same month EXODUS were opening in Santa Monica for VENOM along with HIRAX, three months later they were playing with ANTHRAX in New York at the Ritz on June 14th 1986 and the unexpected happened a few days later when it was announced that Paul had left EXODUS following a mutual decision. It’s interesting to note that EXODUS had already written songs for the next LP that never made it on any album such as 'Speed Freak', 'Gut Ripper'… A couple weeks later Paul was replaced by Steve “Zetro” Sousa from LEGACY (Zetro being replaced in LEGACY by Chuck Billy ex-RAMPAGE, ex-GUILT) who made his debut by performing back to back two shows at the Farm in S.F. on July 17th and 18th where Paul was invited to sing 'Bonded By Blood' with Zetro. No need to cover what happened to EXODUS after that as it’s another story. Anyway once Paul had left EXODUS, he jammed with HIRAX as they were looking for somebody to replace the recently departed Katon W. De Pena but in the end it didn’t work out and Billy Wedgeworth (ex-CORRUPTION) got the job. There were rumors around saying that he had been approached to join DESTRUCTION but according to what Paul said back then, there was never any direct contact between the German Thrashers and him. Instead Paul started right away a new band with Fred Cotton on drums, Bob Eggelston (ex-STORMIN’) on bass and Ron Shipes (later seen with CONTEMPT, TWO BIT THIEF and FUELED) on guitar. A while later he found a second guitarist, Chuck Sedlack (ex-KILLDOZER, ex-EXECUTION), Bob (who joined BLOODBATH ironically replacing John Brooks who became later a PIRANHA member and then TOXIC GODS) was replaced by Al Voltage (a Joe Satriani student) and Paul opted for PIRANHA as moniker for his new band. Soon after Chuck left the band (he later retired from Metal to become a flamenco guitarist), Al became the new guitarist while the bass position went to Eric Wong (ex-SPECTRE, ex-HEATHEN). The band started to perform live shows around mid 1988 in the S.F. area playing mainly originals such as 'Nursery Rhymes', 'Feeding Time', 'Take And Take', 'Organisms', 'Questioned Death', 'Alone We’ll Survive', 'Second Coming', 'Piranha 2: The Spawning' and as a cover, the legendary 'Piranha'. Despite Paul’s claims concerning the new EXODUS material not being heavy and aggressive enough for his liking, I for one wasn’t impressed at all by the stuff he came up with in PIRANHA, EXODUS’ second album being 1000 times heavier and better than the PIRANHA material. Following the request of Steve Sinclair (Mechanic Records boss), PIRANHA entered the Prairie Sun Studios during the summer of 1988 to record an exclusive two song demo ('Nursery Rhymes' and 'Alone We’ll Survive') for the label with James Hetfield as producer and a two song 4 track recording ('Feeding Time', 'Second Coming') but in the end Mechanic decided not to take them after all. By the end of 1988, Paul got the offer to join HEATHEN to replace David White Godfrey which he immediately accepted as he was disappointed with what was going with PIRANHA. The band soon went into the studio to record a two track tape with their new vocalist and nobody was really impressed by the result, Paul’s voice sounding somewhat out of place with the music Piercy and Altus had written. After a few shows with HEATHEN during January ’89, the band soon parted ways with Paul and he soon reformed PIRANHA. Trivia fans will note that PIRANHA were still around when Paul joined HEATHEN as the remaining members had been joined by Andy Andersen (ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT, ATTITUDE, TWO BIT THIEF, later seen in WARDANCE) as singer when finally Wong and Voltage (R.I.P.) left to form LAUGHING DEAD and it was the end of that PIRANHA line up. With different line ups, Paul continued PIRANHA without recording any new demos. The 1989 PIRANHA line up after the HEATHEN stint consisted of Paul on vocals, Paul Knotts (ex-CORRUPTOR) and John Gallups (guitars), Randy Monroe (bass), Mark Murhill (ex-CORRUPTOR, ex-SNIPER) (drums), then Randy Monroe was replaced by John Brooks (ex-EXTORTION, ex-BLOODBATH, ex-SPEED DEMON). Then the two guitarists were replaced by Devin Walker and Adam Black (Monroe, Knotts and Gallups went on to form RITUAL). The next move saw Adam Black leaving and being replaced by a guy named Doug before he was replaced by early 1990 by Scott Owen (ex-HIRAX, ex-SUBVERSION), Mark Murhill being replaced by an old colleague of Paul, Tom Hunting (ex-EXODUS) - they managed to play a show with this incredible line up at the Omni, Oakland and recorded four songs at the Sonoma State University. Unfortunately Paul never got around to lay down the vocal tracks on it, then Tom went on to join the revamped ANGEL WITCH. Then came the Concord days mid 1990 which featured some other new line ups with Paul on vocals (as usual), Aaron Strong (guitar) Martin White (guitar), John Brooks (bass), Geza Szent-Gali (ex-NUCLEAR ROACH, ex-SPEED DEMON)(drums), then Strong was replaced by T.J. Georgio (guitar) who was himself shortly after replaced by Scott Arnot (ex-DAMNAKLEEZ), this is the line-up responsible for the "Alone We'll Survive" video and interview as seen on "Tales From The Pit" video magazine Vol. 4 and also the final version of PIRANHA from mid 1993. By the way some of the new songs PIRANHA performed from 1989 to 1993 were 'Daddy Went To Heaven', 'Another Bloody Whore', 'Time To Die', 'Plisken's Theory', 'Religion Song', 'First Right Hook', 'Pledge Allegiance', 'Just What I Needed / Candy-O' (CARS medley), 'Crush Exo-Metal', 'Terrified' and 'Pure Profit'. Next thing we heard was that Paul had been involved in an EXODUS reunion show at Ruthless Inn (formerly Ruthies Inn) in Berkeley on August 8th 1993 which was supposed to feature the classic line up but in the end only him and Tom Hunting were involved as Rob McKillop, Rick Hunolt and Gary Holt refused to take part in that event, being replaced by Rob Flynn (ex-VIOLENCE, MACHINE HEAD), Craig Locicero (FORBIDDEN) and Moose (OTHELLO’S REVENGE). Then from 1993 to 1996 Paul and John Brooks (ex-PIRANHA) basically took a break from music however one project did emerge during those days called KILLPARTY. The line-up consisted of Paul on vocals, Josh Gonzales (now with LIQUID 8) and Jeremy Davis on guitars, John Brooks (now in DRIVEN and RELAPSE) on bass and Matt O'Meara on drums (now with LEGION VICTORIOUS), this band never recorded anything. Then in 1996 with the help of then Century Media A & R person and ex-METAL FORCES, TERORIZER scribe, Borivoj Krgin, the different members decided to rejoin forces together and did their first reunion show in Sacramento during the first week of March 1997 with Holt, Hunting, Baloff and Hunolt being joined by ex-WARDANCE, ex-C.O.V. bassist, Jack Gibson as Rob Mc Killop was out of the music scene and just didn’t feel able to perform anymore - Jack Gibson was in WARDANCE with Gary and Tom before they decided to reform EXODUS. But the real event took place in San Francisco on March 8th, supported by SKINLAB (featuring Steve Esquiveel, ex-DEFIANCE, ex-C.O.V.) and UNJUST (featuring Eric Wong, ex-PIRANHA, ex-LAUGHING DEAD), the show was recorded and filmed for a later release which came not long after in the shape of a live album simply titled “Another Lesson In Violence” released on Century Media Records which showed EXODUS at their best, this album remaining as one of the heaviest / most aggressive records ever made on this planet, Paul sounding more METAL than ever, Gary and Rick’s playing sounding sharper than ever with the production done by Andy Sneap. Not only many old time fans showed up but also many musicians who had been influenced by what EXODUS had started - notably with Rob Flynn (ex-FORBIDDEN EVIL, ex-VIOLENCE, MACHINE HEAD) going on stage for a rendition of 'A Lesson In Violence' - without forgetting to mention an incredible crunchy version of 'Impaler', a song originally written by Hammett which hadn’t been played since 1985. What could have looked like a short time reunion turned real fast into a full time reformation with the band starting to do more shows all around California and no less than two months later the band arrived in Europe for a short tour starting with an appearance at the Dynamo Open Air Festival in Holland in front of 88.000 people, 12 years after the first time they had been welcomed with open arms at the small Dynamo club. That short European tour was followed two months later by a two and a half month U.S. tour supported by SKINLAB, the first in a long long while where they played in nearly every city they could, playing small clubs most of the time minus an appearance at the infamous Milwaukee Festival on July 25th. Despite what some people said concerning Paul’s voice supposedly not being as powerful or aggressive as before, I still maintain that EXODUS never sounded as brutally heavy than in 1997. A new record was announced for 1998 but besides some South American dates that they performed there that same year, nothing could be heard anymore from the EXODUS camp until mid 2001 when the band was scheduled to appear on the Thrash Of The Titans bill in S.F. on August 11th alongside FLOTSAM & JETSAM, FORBIDDEN EVIL, S.O.D., HEATHEN, SADUS, VIOLENCE and LEGACY. That night it was clear that the band hadn’t rehearsed for a long while as their performance was really low. Zetro was even invited to perform with Paul as a duo on 'Brain Dead'. What seemed to be a one and only performance from that band soon became a new reformation as they announced a string of dates during the Autumn / Winter of 2001 in California. As the band were on the way to regain the lost ground - something which they obviously didn’t manage to do in 1997 - by playing more and more dates in their area and by planning to do some on the East Coast / South America, after a last show in Sacramento on January 19th which featured Jon Torres on bass, tragedy struck the band on February 2nd 2002 as Paul died following a massive stroke that left him lying in a coma with irreparable damage. It remains to be seen if the band will continue without him or not - the scheduled dates from February were still performed with Zetro on vocals - but one thing is sure, it’ll never be EXODUS again just like it happened when he left them in June 1986. The Thrash Metal world has lost one of its most genuine characters and a unique personality that had a huge part in bringing us some of the best Metal ever in the shape of “Bonded By Blood” and “Another Lesson In Violence”. Now Chuck, Cliff, Roger and Joe, you have been joined by one of the most intense vocalists ever so make sure to perform wherever you are more hot stuff - the new gang of super heavy is ready! 1960 - 2002.
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