Anyone who thinks that thrash metal is in any way obsolete or past its best need only to have peeked into Belfast’s Limelight on Monday February, 29. Inside, you would have seen a sea of long hair, patched denim vests and old school metal t-shirts – oh, and heard one of the best metal gigs of the year, as well.
As if to prove that point, support act Lost Society, despite having recently released their third album Braindead, are still a young band (as in ‘barely allowed in a pub’ young), but are carrying the thrash torch with unbridled enthusiasm and ability. Striding onstage to the very un-thrash (but delightfully silly) ‘Talk Shit, Get Shot’, they hit the ground running and delight a very full Limelight with a set full of breathtaking energy, fun and talent.
They seem to have only one speed – very fast – and, although clearly influenced by the likes of their legendary tour mates, they have brought thrash metal kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century. The result is a thrashy cacophany that wins the approval of thrash fans both young and old tonight. It also helps that they are so obviously thrilled to be here, in Belfast of all places, playing to such a exhilarated crowd. “How the fuck are we, Belfast?!” screams frontman Samy Elbanna, beaming delightedly at the loudly roared response.
Each song is also well received, from Braindead‘s lead single ‘I Am the Antidote’ to ‘Overdosed Brain’, featuring some nifty drum work, not to mention a double kick drum workout that literally shakes the furniture. Final track ‘Braindead (Til the End)’, with it’s monstrously hooky chorus, is the perfect way to end their breathless and exciting set.
An almost ‘boxing match’ style intro heralds the arrival of the band everyone is here to see tonight: it’s time for Eighties thrash legends Exodus to show us if they’ve still ‘got it’. Returning vocalist Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza kicks off first track ‘Black 13’ and blows everyone away immediately, as it’s clear that his voice has lost not even a tiny percentage of its power and venom, even after all these years. He holds the crowd in the palm of his hand from those opening notes and throughout, encouraging singalongs, headbanging, fist pumping and moshpits.
They blaze their way through the band’s history, going (as Souza describes it) “back to the beginning” with songs such as ‘And Then There Were None’, ‘A Lesson In Violence’ and the legendary ‘Bonded By Blood’, going right the way up to tracks from 2014’s Blood In, Blood Out. What must be extremely gratifying for them is that not only do those songs, such as ‘Salt the Wound’ and the grisly ‘Body Harvest’ slot effortlessly into their set, they’re also received by the crowd with equal levels of delirium – Exodus fans are certainly nothing if not loyal.
Souza is the consummate frontman, chatting amiably and often to the crowd (“the last time I was in Belfast with the band was in 1989!”), firing them up to frenzied levels of excitement – and never, ever dropping a note in their entire ninety minute set.
He is also rather humbly taken aback at the sight of such a packed venue: “It’s Monday but it feels like Friday night in here with you crazy motherfuckers!” he remarks to the adoring crowd.
By three songs in, it’s hotter than Satan’s armpit in the Limelight, but both the crowd and the band keep up the ferocious energy levels turned up to eleven for the duration: this is, simply put, a master class in how to play a proper metal gig. From the fist pumping “hey hey hey!”s to the band’s razor sharp performance and even the tribute to Lemmy, the atmosphere is electric. They even pull a rare oldie out of the box in the form of 1997’s ‘Impaler’, with its audible link to former member Kirk Hammett.
They finish off with the one-two-THREE knockout punches of their biggest hit ‘Bonded By Blood’, 1989’s ‘Toxic Waltz’ and the snarling and vicious ‘Strike of the Beast’. There’s no encore (the venue doesn’t really lend itself to them); they simply say their goodbyes and leave the stage as sweaty and spent as the crowd.
It really can’t be emphasised enough: this was a spectacular gig. Like a fine wine, Exodus keep getting better; there were no flat points where the crowd got restless, no coasting midsection, no vocal lapses or inaudible, gasped lyrics (looking at you, Vince Neil). They were simply phenomenal from start to finish, and could put some younger bands to shame with their energy levels and precision. Thrash metal has had its day? No fucking way, man. Melanie Brehaut
Photos by Liam Kielt