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Former Exodus vocalist turned purveyor of modernity Zetro Souza stood as one of the more tragic casualties of over-processed modernity during the 2000s, culminating in a somewhat mediocre return attempt of said vocalist's former band in "Tempo Of The Damned", which largely aped off Exhorder's formula and went way overboard on the production, not to mention spawning a continual repertoire of similar episodes of boredom after his departure. Likewise, his super group collaboration with several key members of Testament and Vio-Lence dubbed Dublin Death Patrol proved to be an affair in running in place. But one should never count out a man who put his chops to work on such masterpieces as "Fabulous Disaster" and "Pleasures Of The Flesh".
While much of his recent work has been promoting the over-loud Neo-Bay Area garbage mentioned before, Hatriot proves to be a very different beast, and not simply because it's a "father and sons" affair. If anything, one might expect a generation raised up on metalcore to push something even worse than what Zetro has been messing with of late, but "Heroes Of Origin" is definitely cut from a much more old school, traditional grain. Granted, from a production standpoint this album is pretty bombastic and about as tied in with the noise-wars as a lot of recent outings by Death Angel and Heathen, but like those acts, what's going on between the instruments and the voice is far more indicative of a band that is declaring war on shitty hoodie-toting posers and half-thrashers, one sonic bombardment after the other.
All of the obligatory goodies that go with a technical, late 80s Bay Area album are firmly in place, merged with a much more aggressive and percussive sound that brings back memories of Demolition Hammer at their sickest. It's a bit surprising that 2 relatively unknown guitarists laid down what is heard on here, because these riffs do quite well putting Eric Peterson and Gary Holt on notice, exaggerating all their respective strengths to the point of sheer overkill. In fact, when mixing in the ultra-sleazy and nasally vocal assault that Zetro lays down on this sucker, comparisons to Overkill's recent offerings wouldn't be out of order at times, though the riff work wanders around a bit more than a typical New York band and the guitar solos have some heavy Skolnick-inspired technique going for them.
The only thing that album has working against it is, well, that it literally gets to be overkill at times. Between Nick Souza's wildly fast drum work, which veers into modern death metal territory often and spends the rest of the time channeling a hell of a lot of Gene Hoglan and Vinny Daze , all the while having a really pervasive clicking quality to the kick drum and a popping snare that gets a tiny bit overbearing during blast beat sections, which is the one area where this thing goes off the old school thrash reservation. The songwriting is quite good, but also kind of niche prone, generally relying all but totally on a "Slaughter At The Vatican" meets an "Epidemic Of Violence" approach that, while highly effective, doesn't quite manage to be as memorable as the originals. It's one of those things that is quite forgivable, but also something that usually separates a good album from a great one.
Compared to much of what Zetro has been involved in the past decade, Hatriot is the act that he should stick with, unless he wants to turn Dublin Death Patrol into something actually worth listening to or can convince Exodus to dump the metalcore singer and start recording some real thrash metal again. The old school revival has done a lot of good for several bands in the past few years, not the least of which being Testament and Overkill, but it has likewise further exposed the inferior counterfeit version that's been hanging around since the mid 90s and stubbornly refuses to die. Zetro appears to have picked a new side in this ongoing war between thrash and groove, and hopefully more of the old guard will fall in line in the years to come.
It seems like the metal community has been experiencing more intergenerational camaraderie in recent years. Ol Drake of Evile had a brief stint as Destruction’s touring guitarist, Gary Holt produced a Warbringer album, and a whole new can of worms was opened when Max Cavalera revealed that his son would be the newest drummer for Soulfly.
Cue the debut of Hatriot (or Hat Riot as I like to call them), a new thrash band featuring former Exodus/Tenet vocalist Steve “Zetro” Sousa alongside a group of kids that includes his two sons as the rhythm section. Fortunately any signs of nepotism are lost as the group offers a pretty solid debut.
Considering how dear old Zetro is the band’s mastermind, it goes without saying that their first outing feels like it could’ve been a follow-up to Exodus’s Tempo Of The Damned. The production has a clean but crisp tone, the guitars run through numerous trade-offs and harmonies, and the vocals are as pissed off as ever. They even one-up some of his alma mater’s recent work with shorter songs, more extreme drumming, gang vocals, and those punny lyrics that every thrash band was obsessed with using back in the day.
Of course, Heroes Of Origin still has a few quirks to it. The production is somehow even cleaner than your typical Andy Sneap sound-alike with the drums in particular sounding rather triggered and the songs generally operate at faster tempos with very little room to groove. In addition, Zetro seems to be falling into the Tom Araya trap of shrieking at a higher pitch than necessary. His voice is full of energy and never cracks, but you rarely hear the lower Bon Scott sneer that was always his most distinct asset.
And while there aren’t any tracks that make for truly distinct highlights, they’re all well constructed. Tracks like “Weapons of Class Destruction” and “Murder American Style” offer memorable vocals and guitar runs while “Globicidal” and “The Mechanics of Annihilation” provide the most intense hooks. In addition, “The Violent Time Of My Dark Passenger” has more subdued verses, “And Your Children To Be Damned” dabbles with more guttural flourishes, and “Shadows Of The Buried” starts off with the album’s sole slower moment before picking up speed.
Hatriot’s debut album shows a good balance of old and new elements as it gives thrash fans a sound that they’ve been clamoring for while leaving room for further development. It’s not at the level of a modern classic but it is the kind of album that makes one wonder what could happen if more band mentoring took place in this fashion. And considering how this is supposed to be the Kill ‘Em All of the band’s career, we’ll just see where they’ll go from here.
“Weapons of Class Destruction”
“The Violent Time of My Dark Passenger”
“Murder American Style”
“The Mechanics Of Annihilation”
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com
This album has caused quite a stir in the thrash scene of late, and with good reason. It marks the triumphant return of one of the genre's most beloved and respected frontmen, mighty Steve “Zetro” Souza. A man with an impressive curriculum vitae, he certainly shouldn’t need an introduction, but just in case, let’s make a swift summary. He started his career in pre-Testament band Legacy, whom he left to join Exodus after Paul Baloff parted ways with them, releasing a stream of solid thrash albums of varied quality but indisputable classic status, then leaving them in ’92 when the world of thrash came crashing down. He re-joined Exodus for their comeback album Tempo of the Damned, one of the sparks that ignited the retro-thrash blast, and afterwards he sadly left for good, replaced by Rob Dukes and his obnoxious vocals. But Zetro didn’t stay put, quickly venturing into different projects, like Dublin Death Patrol along his friend and fellow Bay Area legend Chuck Billy, and the harsher and overall better deathrash act Tenet, mostly composed of former Strapping Young Lad’s lads.
So actually, to call this a “return” is not entirely true, as Zetro has never terminated activity completely. However, Hatriot’s debut album is a return of sorts though, Steve’s return to front an ass-kicking old school thrash metal outfit that produces above average music. This new act’s name comes from a line in “Scar-Spangled Banner”, the opening tune of his last album with Exodus. In fact, Heroes of Origin really feels like the path both him and Exodus should’ve partaken after the great but imperfect Tempo of the Damned, had they continued to join forces. Oh, but Fate intervened, that bitch. For Exodus, it all went down pretty bad, and they have released progressively worse and worse albums. But I’m truly enthusiastic about Hatriot, as this badass album destroys everything in its path. It is indeed, my dear metal brothers and sisters, a helluva debut and this time the hype is to be believed. No, it’s not perfect (starting with the ridiculously awful cover artwork), revolutionary nor innovative, but it simple and mercilessly kicks some good damn ass.
So lets forget about Exodus for a while and concentrate on Hatriot. Zetro’s henchmen this time are Miguel Esparza (sadly he’s not a relative of mine, as we share the same surname. Otherwise I could ask him for free tickets and merch!) and Kosta Varvatakis as his guitar team, and his sons Cody and Nick Souza on bass and drums, respectively. Despite any prejudices you might have, they all are fairly proficient at their instruments. That’s right, this is not only about Zetro Senior, nope. The band is a perfectly greased and lethal machine, not a single weak spot to exploit that might save your sorry ass from utter obliteration. Both Esparza and Varvatakis are fine crafters of RIFFS, the ones that’ll mash your grey matter to a pulp as it’s sprayed out of your ears. But it was their soloing the thing that surprised me the most on this record. The solos are outstandingly fulfilling, longer than usual but technical and fast enough, melodic, aggressive and perfectly placed throughout the song structures. The Souza rhythmic section is on fire as well, providing a steel-solid backbone that’ll crush your own with weight and velocity.
The album starts with “Suicide Run”, a fast tune that honestly didn’t impress me the first time I listened to it, nor on the subsequent listens. That’s because it’s just the warm-up for the thrash-fest that awaits us, as the following four tracks, including the single “The Violent Times of My Dark Passenger”, hack and burn in an unstoppable rampage. Riffs and more riffs thrown at you at mind-boggling pace, propelled by Nick’s near incessant double bass artillery, while you’re being immolated by fiery solos that’ll leave you aching for more… and you’ll get it! And of course, the tip of the spear are Steve Souza’s vitriolic vocals, rabid non-conformist utterings of injustice and fucked up realties. And as the image of the band implies, most consist in a strong critique of their homeland’s politics and way of life. Since I think the most suitable persons for criticizing a nation are their own citizens, personally, Hatriot’s lyrical matter is of no consequence, and I’ll leave that theme for other Americans to assess.
There’re a couple of tunes beside the opener that I felt were more generic, “Globicidal” and the longer “Shadows of the Buried”, but the overall rest of the album delivers the goods as expected, if not better, and even those two songs have their moments. The title-track closes the album in stellar fashion to state that this is modern thrash but it has the old school spirit, and it surpasses both in quality and delivery anything Exodus has put to tape during this still young 21st Century, as well as the vast majority of material by bands composed of kiddies dressed up in tight denim pants and bearing more patches than a Boy Scout troop. It’s also superior to DDP’s output, Testament’s Dark Roots of Earth, and in fact I’d place it a bit higher than Overkill’s The Electric Age, and Kreator’s Phantom Antichrist, on par with Tenet’s debut, a band that will most possibly cease to exist now that we have Hatriot. Important thing is that Zetro’s still got it and we’ll be enjoying it. If you remotely enjoy a thing known as thrash metal, then, what are you waiting for?
Literally led by one of the genre’s guiding figures, former Exodus frontman Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza’s new project Hatriot’s debut “Heroes of Origin” is one of the finest and most devout old-school/retro thrash albums around now. It’s only January and this is already in contention for a year-end best-of nomination.
Starting right off the bat with ‘Suicide Run,’ lead by the pounding drums and razor-sharp riffing, this is a signal to all that Steve hasn’t lost a beat at all and the energetic performances behind him are no doubt intent on declaring a mission statement immediately and this does so expertly before laying down a melodically-leaning solo section that shows these guys have learned well and are more than capable performers. Second track ‘Weapons of Class Destruction’ is just as devastating with a wrecking ball of an opening riff, frenetic drumming overloaded with double-bass and a rather impassioned vocal lashing which goes a long way towards making this one of the better tracks. Those are just a prelude for what’s to come, a firestorm of absolutely molten thrash on the album’s back-to-back highlights in ‘Murder American Style’ that works in a groovy double-bass workout intercut with a frenetic bass-line and overlaid with vicious, jagged riff-work that signals the oncoming tide with its jaw-dropping solos that really showcase the band as being solid performers in their own right and shows the band’s potential in the future. Follow-up track, and for-once worthwhile first-single, ‘Blood Stained Wings’ carries on the violence with a pounding drum attack, groovy guitar-work and perhaps Steve’s most vitriolic and acidic vocals on the album as a whole backed with nicely-placed gang-backing shouts, making this a rather notable single that works rather nicely.
The violence continues nicely with ‘The Violent Time of My Dark Passenger,’ focusing on a more melodic-based example of the bands’ assault before generating some of that classic thrash energy with its solo section that really kicks up the pace nicely. ‘Globicidal’ continues the melodic tone of their sound, incorporating some groove-metal in its attack but contains the records’ most memorable chorus with plenty of grooving thrash behind it, and that continues on with ‘And Your Children to Be Damned,’ though in this case the spoken-word intrusions seem completely at odds with the rest of the music and feels like a retread of the rest of the album, constituting its weakest song overall despite yet another in solid, outstanding solo that really tries to save this one. Next track ‘The Mechanics of Annihilation’ is another monster effort, with a rip-roaring drum-attack, frenetic riffing and the absolutely blasting solo-work so evocative of the earlier stuff and generates a true old-school feel with its fire and grit. With its doomy-ier sections and melodic interludes between the full-throttle thrash firestorm, ‘Shadows of the Buried’ is their really exploratory piece that shines incredibly brightly and generates more emotions than initially expected, coming off as a real surprise before the full-scale slaughter that is the title track while closes this monster out in fine form with the typical barn-burner of a finale.
There’s not a lot of flaws to be found here in this one beyond the one weak track, as this contains such a large quality of infectious old-school thrash. The solid production on this one creates a modern feel that’s current-enough with the devastating double-bass and interlocked bass-work and up-front guitars driving it to the finish line with precision, razor-wire tight riffs and a real penchant for soloing that far belies their young age of the performers. Of course, the real highlight here is Steve’s return to thrash following his Exodus dust-up nearly a decade ago, and he snarls, hisses and screeches like he did in his prime and evokes real memories of his past work and gets a great chance to shine in this violent new killing force. As mentioned earlier, this is going to be a contender for thrash's album of the year already.
From Exodus to Tenet and all over again, Steve "Zetro" Souza has been one of the busiest vocalists in all of thrash metal. For quite a while now the man has been working on the Hatriot concept (based after a line in the Exodus number "Scar-Spangled Banner"), searching for strong potential bandmates. As myself and others watched eagerly for months on Facebook as the band's progress developed, the anticipation in the air grew strong. It became stronger yet when the album's release date was announced and soon we'd have our grubby little claws on the newest masterpiece from one of my favorite vocalists in thrash. Is "Heroes of Origin", Hatriot's first full album, a masterpiece? No, not at all, but it's still a solid enough and entertaining thrash monster overall.
Zetro and his group of rag-tag thrashers are a varied group of boys new to the scene, hungry to tear shit up. Kosta Varvatakis and Miguel Esperza make a nice, mean guitar duo capable of truly ferocious thrashing riff attacks and mix it up with a number of more technical and even surprisingly melodic moments. The relatively non-existent bass work is handled by one of Zetro's sons, Nick, while his other hellspawn Cody takes of drumming duties, and man can this kid fucking rock it! His double bass is just pulverizing and his timing is unholy in its perfection, though I think his kick-drumming might be programmed as fuck. And what of Zetro himself? Uh...fucking awesome as always. Like I said the man's always been one of my favorite thrash vocalists and on "Heroes of Origin" his efforts are as bloodthirsty as ever. Seriously, does this guy only get better with age?! All of his nasally shrieks, screams and atom-splitting yelling is in top form and he gives 100% throughout "Heroes of Origin".
My main gripe with this album is that the songs themselves don't stick they way they should. It's basically just thrashing for thrash's sake and sometimes the band gets lost in themselves. The result: unmemorable songs. And while it'll take some time for some of these numbers to sink in, you'll still be banging your head as if up from the dead quite nicely. Some highlights? The opener, "Suicide Run", is a solid cooker to start things off, armed with a chorus that'll be sure to get everyone in the room's respective horns on the air. The heavily guitar-oriented "Mechanics of Annihilation" presents loads of gnarly licks and hooks that kept my toe taping and my head banding. The crunchy "Globicidal" starts out menacing and mid-paced before charging at your unready mortal ears with unrelenting double bass jackhammering and a memorable, nasty chorus. "Blood Stained Wings" shreds away with some nice riffs and a killer solo with semi-melodic power metal overtones. How about "And Your Children To Be Damned"? There's a live favorite in the future right there...
Overall, despite the praise I delivered to some of the songs individually, the tracks on "Heroes of Origin" really warrant more than a few listens to let everything really sink. It's one of those deals where the whole is lesser than the sum of its parts. Even still despite the "so-so" feel of many of these numbers, one can't deny that the energy of Zetro and these bad boys is palpable, and I for one do hope for stronger future endeavors. Hatriot is here, showing that thrash metal is still as American as baseball, apple pie, and 70-year old republicans sitting around in a large, stuffy room all day holding onto their half-baked beliefs.
How I've missed this voice. Of course, hearing a new thrash metal album with these vocals will inevitably remind you of the old Exodus days. Hell, even the old Legacy days for some people. Zetro is one of those characteristic vocalists from the heyday of thrash. His snarling ‘Bon Scott meets Bobby Blitz’ still does it for me anytime.
So then, we have The Voice, we have The Genre. What about the quality of the material presented here? Surprisingly outstanding to be honest. Even though the godawful album cover might turn you off at first, just listen with your eyes closed. Almost everything a thrash metal fan could desire, is here. The average pace is high and even the midpaced sections have a steady drive and the album never drags nor meanders. The types of riffs vary a lot and don’t resort to palm muted chugging too much. There are riffs that’ll remind you more of Exodus than their last three albums themselves but even certain Slayerisms can’t be overheard.
Then there are catchy choruses. Weapons of Class Destruction, Blood Stained Wings, The Violent Times of My Dark Passenger, Globicidal, all catchy as fuck and they’ll take just one or two spins before your realise you can’t imagine these songs haven’t been around already for twenty-plus years. The songs are a warm blanket, a reunion with an old friend. It feels he lever left.
No bad things then? Sure there are, I already mentioned the hideous album cover but the sterile production also doesn’t quite cut the mustard. Thrash metal does need a more organic sound, less triggered than this. And thirdly Zetro is at his most pissed here. Just like he was on his last album with Exodus. This is not a bad thing per say but one feels he could’ve added a few more of his ‘melodic’ passages as well as for instance his work on The Legacy’s Alone In the Dark or Exodus’ Cajun Hell and Lunatic Parade. But nevermind, what we have here is top class material. Welcome back Zetro.
Nothing new under the sun and only the modern production and digital artwork shatter the illusion of pretending it still is 1991. This album will make my year list of 2013, I’m already certain of it.