Concert Review – The Bay Strikes Back Tour (London Music Hall, London, ON, 10/01/2022)

And the Bay struck back in the city of London, Ontario for the delight of all Thrash Metal lovers slamming into the pit on a completely sold-out night.

INTRO: The Bay Strikes Back Tour 2022

Featuring Bay Area Thrash Metal icons DEATH ANGEL, EXODUS and TESTAMENT, the fantastic party labeled The Bay Strikes Back Tour 2022 actually started back in Europe in February 2020, but only lasted for two months due to all COVID-19 restrictions at that time. However, in 2022 the three bands got back in action with the first leg of a North American tour in April and May, another European leg in the summer, and now a second North American leg this fall, including the sold out, majestic thrashing night on October 1 at the London Music Hall in London, Ontario, here in Canada. The place was jam packed from the very first second the doors opened at 6pm, and that was the landscape until Testament closed the night already past 11pm, requiring a lot of stamina, headbanging and moshing from the fans lucky enough to get a ticket for such unique night of pure Thrash Metal.

DEATH ANGEL

Precisely at 6:50pm, and with the merch lines still being huge (which caused several fans to miss part of the concert), San Francisco, California’s own Thrash Metal squad DEATH ANGEL kicked off the night on a high note, blending old school tunes the likes of Mistress of Pain and Voracious Souls with newest hits such as The Moth and Humanicide, from their latest effort Humanicide, released in 2019. Mark Osegueda was on fire throughout the entire concert, showcasing an amazing vocal performance while his bandmates made sure there was plenty of heaviness and speed for the fans at the London Music Hall to get into the circle pits. It was really cool to see bassist Damien Sisson sporting a Toronto Raptors jersey, and of course seeing how much Canadians love Death Angel. Right after they finished playing the closing tune, the excellent Thrown to the Wolves, it became obvious that their setlist was way too short, but I’m sure the band will be back for a full-bodied, ass-kicking performance sooner than we can say “Thrash Metal”.

Setlist
The Ultra-Violence / Mistress of Pain
Voracious Souls
Seemingly Endless Time
The Dream Calls for Blood
Caster of Shame
The Moth
Humanicide
Thrown to the Wolves

Band members
Mark Osegueda – vocals
Rob Cavestany – guitar
Ted Aguilar – guitar
Damien Sisson – bass
Will Carroll – drums

EXODUS

After a quick bathroom/beer/merch break, all fans at the venue got in their desired positions for the fulminating Thrash Metal attack by the one and only EXODUS, and it was indeed a killer lesson in violence. Steve “Zetro” Souza, Gary Holt, Lee Altus, Jack Gibson and Tom Hunting felt at home in London, crushing everything and everyone that crossed their path during their high-octane, heavy-as-hell performance, and consequently putting a huge smile on the faces of everyone at the venue. Promoting their sensational 2021 opus Persona Non Grata, the band delivered endless adrenaline in a setlist that beautifully mixed new songs like The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves) and The Years of Death and Dying with old school thrashing classics including A Lesson in Violence, Blacklist and Bonded by Blood. Zetro and Gary were insane on stage the whole time, while their fans were simply slamming into the pit like there’s no tomorrow. Close to the end of the show, before they played the electrifying The Toxic Waltz, Zetro thanked everyone at the venue for an amazing sold-out night and thanked security for the excellent job done in keeping everyone safe during the concerts, while a Canadian flag with the Exodus logo was shining bright behind the drums, and Gary made a tear of pure joy fall from everyone’s faces when he played a snippet from Slayer’s undisputed classic “Raining Blood”. We need Slayer back. Anyway, as usual they ended the concert with Strike of the Beast, or maybe I should say STRIKE OF THE FUCKIN’ BEAST, with a promise Exodus will soon return to Canadian lands for another lesson in violence.

Setlist
The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves)
A Lesson in Violence
Blood In, Blood Out
The Years of Death and Dying
Deathamphetamine
Blacklist
Piranha
Prescribing Horror
Bonded by Blood
The Toxic Waltz
Strike of the Beast

Band members
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – lead and rhythm guitars
Lee Altus – lead and rhythm guitars
Jack Gibson – bass
Tom Hunting – drums, percussion

TESTAMENT

It took a little longer for Oakland, California-based Thrash Metal titans TESTAMENT to hit the stage at the London Music Hall, more specifically at 9:30pm, but I must say the wait was totally worth it as Chuck Billy and his crew masterfully blasted our hearts and souls with their very technical, infernal and thrilling Thrash Metal. It didn’t matter if they played newer songs like Rise Up, The Pale King and WWIII, or thrashing classics the likes of Practice What You Preach and First Strike Is Deadly, the crowd went mental into the circle pit, inspiring the whole band to play even faster and heavier than usual. The new songs from their 2020 album Titans Of Creation sounded fantastic live, but it was the old school stuff that set endless fire to the pit. I have to say that D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate), Electric Crown and The Formation of Damnation might be three of the finest Thrash Metal anthems of all time, and if you add to that the sensational way Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick slashed their axes, the rumbling bass by Steve Di Giorgio, and of course the unparalleled drums by Mr. Dave Lombardo, who received perhaps the most heartwarming ovation from the crowd from all bands, there you have the cream of thrash served on a plate of pure gold to their Canadian fans. Chuck Billy was having an amazing time, being extremely happy with the reaction of the crowd before Native Blood when he mentioned the importance of the day before the show, September 30, to all indigenous people due to the National Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada, and pretending he was “brewing” pure Thrash Metal in the giant “casserole” known as the floor section while fans were in a devastating mode during Into the Pit, among a few nice stories he told in between songs. Everyone left the London Music Hall extremely satisfied with the whole night, in special with the ass-kicking performance by Testament, and it won’t take long for them to return to Canada to blast our ears once again as long as we always practice what we preach.

Setlist
Rise Up
The New Order
The Pale King
Children of the Next Level
Practice What You Preach
WWIII
D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)
Native Blood
Night of the Witch
Electric Crown
The Formation of Damnation
First Strike Is Deadly
Into the Pit
Alone in the Dark

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Dave Lombardo – drums

Album Review – Exodus / Persona Non Grata (2021)

Don’t be a “persona non grata” in the world of heavy music and get into the circle pit to the sound of the newborn beast by one of the driving forces of Thrash Metal worldwide.

Persona Non Grata, an unacceptable or unwelcome person, is also the name of the brand new Thrash Metal beast by Bay Area titans Exodus, their first studio album since Blood In, Blood Out in 2014 and their second to feature vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza since he returned to the band that same year. Recorded at drummer Tom Hunting’s three home studios in Lake Almanor, California, mixed by Andy Sneap at Backstage Studios, engineered by Steve Lagudi, displaying an ass-kicking, venomous artwork by Pär Olofsson, and featuring guests Rick Hunolt, who had been an Exodus member on and off since replacing original guitarist Kirk Hammett in 1983, and Zetro’s own sons Nick Souza and Cody Souza on backing vocals, both from Zetro’s band Hatriot, Persona Non Grata is another lesson in violence by the aforementioned Zetro and Tom together with guitarists Gary Holt and Lee Altus and bassist Jack Gibson, and despite the delay in the release of the album due to Gary’s commitments with Slayer until 2019 and Tom’s diagnosis with squamous cell carcinoma of the stomach (and I’m sure Tom will beat the shit out of it), the wait was totally worth it as their new album is undoubtedly one of the best releases in the world of metal in 2021.

Gary and Lee waste no time and begin their axe attack in great fashion in the pulverizing title-track Persona Non Grata, a lecture in savagery by Exodus uniting their early days sound with their heavier and more demonic present, also showcasing a beyond bestial Tom on drums;  and they keep hammering our heads mercilessly in the circle pit-generator R.E.M.F., presenting another awesome guitar job by Gary and Lee supported by the metallic bass by Jack, while Zetro vociferates rabidly just the way we like it. Then an incendiary intro evolves into another Thrash Metal extravaganza titled Slipping into Madness, which will inspire you to slam into the pit in the name of heavy music. It’s very old school without sounding outdated, with Zetro once again being on fire with his raspy roars, whereas in Elitist the band sounds less intense but still violent and acid as usual, with Jack and Tom extracting earthshaking sounds from their respective bass and drums while the band’s guitar duo delivers their trademark sharp solos. Sinister sounds permeate the air in Prescribing Horror, a neck-breaking, vile creation by Exodus where Tom smashes his drums flawlessly, followed by The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves), a pure, unfiltered Bay Area Thrash hymn which will sound amazing when played live, with Zetro, Gary and Lee being in total sync from start to finish.

Exodus Persona Non Grata Box Set

The Years of Death and Dying is a lot more melodic than its predecessors, offering their trademark unfriendly lyrics (“I’m a force of nature pure and sure / I’ve killed through all of time / When a GALE force wind blows through you / You’ll know that you are mine / I am legend, I’m your end / You’ll wither when I’m near / I’m the years of death and dying / the sum of all your fears”), while in Clickbait the unstoppable Zetro gnarls the song’s austere words manically (“We take the clickbait / Follow as they lead / With every word they captivate / We blindly follow they trail like human sheep / Never awake always asleep”) accompanied by the brutality blasted by Tom on drums. After the short and sweet Southern Rock-inspired instrumental interlude Cosa del Pantano, the band comes crushing us all in Lunatic-Liar-Lord, featuring a sick guitar solo by Rick Hunolt while the band brings to our ears eight minutes of aggression, speed and adrenaline, all spearheaded by the undisputed riffage by the one and only Gary Holt. There’s no sign of slowing down and the quintet keeps delivering sheer electricity and rage in The Fires of Division, another Thrash Metal anthem perfect for hitting the “dance” floor while Zetro continues to fire his unique growls; and closing such dense and demolishing album of vicious thrash we have Antiseed, starting in a dark manner before exploding into a massive, evil creature led by the aggressive vocals by Zetro and the heavy-as-hell riffage by Gary and Lee.

After listening to over one hour of the ass-kicking, first-class, undisputed Thrash Metal blasted by Exodus in Persona Non Grata, we can rest assured thrash is very much alive, and will forever be, positioning not only the album as one of the best metal releases of the year, but also Exodus as one of the true driving forces of today’s Thrash Metal alongside Testament. Hence, don’t forget to follow Zetro, Gary & Co. on Facebook and on Instagram, and to buy or stream Persona Non Grata by clicking HERE, and if I were you I would definitely go for the beyond special boxset edition of the album (which you can purchase HERE or HERE), limited to 2,000 worldwide and including the album on CD and orange/red swirl with black splatter vinyl, a “Jam Camp!” Blu-ray, a 20-page booklet, a slip mat, a wall flag and a patch, all embraced by a custom packaging with 3D-vacuformed album art and clamshell box with die-cut window and gold foil stamping. And if after all that you still decide not to grab your copy of such insane album, I’m sorry but from now on you’re “persona non grata” at The Headbanging Moose.

Best moments of the album: Persona Non Grata, R.E.M.F., The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves) and Lunatic-Liar-Lord.

Worst moments of the album: The Years of Death and Dying.

Released in 2021 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Persona Non Grata 7:30
2. R.E.M.F. 4:22
3. Slipping into Madness 5:33
4. Elitist 3:58
5. Prescribing Horror 5:09
6. The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves) 3:01
7. The Years of Death and Dying 5:22
8. Clickbait 4:31
9. Cosa del Pantano 1:13
10. Lunatic-Liar-Lord 7:59
11. The Fires of Division 5:23
12. Antiseed 6:17

Band members
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – lead and rhythm guitars
Lee Altus – lead and rhythm guitars
Jack Gibson – bass
Tom Hunting – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Rick Hunolt – lead guitars on “Lunatic-Liar-Lord”, backing vocals
Cody Souza – backing vocals
Nick Souza – backing vocals