As both the original vocalist for Testament and Paul Baloff’s (R.I.P.) replacement in Exodus, Steve “Zetro” Souza was certainly a big player in the original Bay Area thrash explosion. After leaving and rejoining Exodus several times and churning out a few Dublin Death Patrol albums with Chuck Billy, Zetro is finally in a band of his own and back to rethrash us like it’s 1986 all over again. Despite band photos strongly suggesting Zetro joined a high school emo rock band, Hatriot is a near perfect clone of Exodus and mimics the Zetro era sound and style down to the minute detail while adding in some interesting bells and whistles to shake things up. While he certainly won’t get any originality points, he knows how to play to his strengths and Heroes of Origin borrows equally (and liberally) from the Fabulous Disaster era and the more recent Exodus material to create a modern thrash album with a lot of old school influence. It sounds like the proper follow-up to Zetro’s last Exodus campaign (Tempo of the Damned) and it’s actually better than the past few Exodus albums because it’s more direct, pissed off and savage. Zetro sounds born again hard and his “Bon Scott with rabies” squeals haven’t spewed as much caustic venom in decades. Wisely, he’s surrounded himself with an impressive group of musicians and together they traffic in mean-spirited, hostile thrash with a surprisingly high degree of technical chops. Ladies and gentlemen, grab a dance partner. You know exactly what type waltz this will be.
Opener “Suicide Run” shows just how closely Hatriot is following the Exodus playbook. It’s mean, nasty, fast and yeah, it’s a big ole Exodus Attack! Zetro sounds deranged and the riffs tear along like Gary Holt and Rick Hunolt did back in the day. There are trace amounts of Slayer-isms and Coroner mixed in for slight variation, but basically, it’s like Zetro went home again. “Weapons of Class Destruction” is a great thrasher with a hint of “Toxic Waltz” in the riff phrasing, but its way heavier and deals with the very serious topic of school shootings (maybe too soon?) The guitar-work throughout is fierce, but gets impressively technical and the whole thing is way catchier than it ought to be.
Quality thrash chesnuts keep dropping from the trees and “Murder American Style,” “Blood Stained Wings” and “The Violent Times of My Dark Passenger” are all immediate, brutal and powerful. Zetro never sounded as intense and insane as he does on “Blood Stained Wings,” and with the inclusion of blast beats and extra heavy riffing, it makes for quite a powerhouse. “The Mechanics of Annihilation” has rapid fire vocals like the old Exodus chestnut “Verbal Razors,” but this is way more vicious. In a token effort to shift tempos, “Shadows of the Buried” includes some ominous grinding segments with foreboding whammy dives that take me back to the halcyon days when Hanneman and King stalked the stage and conspired against Dave Lombardo together.
While “Globicidal and “And Your Children to be Damned” are slightly underwhelming compared to the rest of the material, they’re still respectable, especially the latter. The only real downside is the overly modern, clean production, which lacks the rawness I prefer for thrash. The guitars sound huge and powerful, which is good, but the drums sound very replaced, artificial and “studio-ed up.” It isn’t so bad that it ruins things, but it suffers from the same mixological drawbacks as the past few Exodus albums (I wish Zetro hadn’t copied that part).
Naturally, the nostalgia factor of hearing Zetro back in all his foaming-at-the-mouth glory is a big selling point for older fans, but even those that never heard him before will be impressed with his newfound ferocity and vigor (I thought he sounded godawful on the Dublin Death Patrol albums).
Since vocals alone don’t braise the banshee, it helps that Zetro did a great job of recruiting supporting talent. Kosta V. and Miquel Esparza are gifted players and throw all sorts of finger tearing solos amidst the harsh riffage. Yes, they’re stealing all the toys from Exodus, Slayer and Testament, but they do it well and some of these riffs are serious fucking business. Cody Souza’s bass is audible and aggressive and Nick Souza (it’s a family operation) tears up the kit and provides enough pummeling to make any thrashard happy.
I didn’t expect much from this album, and maybe that’s why it impressed me so much. Heroes of Origin, is heavy, hooky and a great return to the thrash world for Mr. Zetro. I wish Exodus went in this direction after Tempo of the Damned, but at least somebody’s doing it! If you like your rethrash like you like your Exodus (with Zetro and good songs), then this is the album for you. By the way, that cover is a star-spangled clusterfuck.