My nerves are a little on edge when I get the phone call. Why the nerves, you ask? Because I'm speaking with metal icon Steve 'Zetro' Souza. He was in at the factory ground floor of the Bay Area thrash movement; starting out in Testament (Legacy at that time) then moving on to Exodus, Tenet, and currently Hatriot. He co-wrote tunes on Testament's Formation Of Damnation and their forthcoming Dark Roots Of The Earth. He's a permanent fixture in thrash metal and an overseer of the scene, Mr. Toxic Waltz himself...and my cigarette lighter isn't working.
Despite being 30-years into his career, he's still keeping extremely busy. One of his projects, the all-star thrash band Dublin Death Patrol (featuring Chuck Billy of Testament, members of Laaz Rocket, Vio-lence, Heist, and Tesla) has a long awaited album Death Sentence (Mascot) that will finally see the light of day. “The album has been done for over a year now.” Says Steve, more than a little irritated by how many times it's been pushed back by the label. “First it was like, 'it will be released in September', then it was November before the holidays...then March. Okay, my birthday...” He chuckles a bit, “I've seen the actual press release this time – it's for sure coming out on August 13th.” Implying that the label will have to answer to all the fans should it get pushed back again.
His current priorities are with Hatriot. The sound of a strike-anywhere match can be heard on my end before I ask him how the progress is coming along, I'm feeling a little better now. “Right now we're writing. We'll be going into the studio in August and have the album probably released in January. The title is going to be Heroes Of Origin.” On the label front Steve is currently entertaining a couple of offers, “We have two labels out of Germany we're looking at, I can't say which ones right now, but we will know within two-weeks time and send out a press release... they're both really good metal labels that know what they're doing and are excited about what we're doing.”
Hatriot's music is solid old-school thrash, with hints of modern sensibilities. Mr. Souza's upper register snarl has only gotten more sinister sounding with age; I ask him how the band's sound came about.”I guess that's with the kids. I've got my son (Cody Souza) on bass and Kosta Vervatakis on guitar – him and I write all the songs – and he's very well versed on old-school, but they bring elements of new school as well. They know about blast beats and intricate double kicks, but you put two of them together, they don't even equal one of me!” He said, chuckling. “With Kosta, I just picked his brain about metal knowledge and he's telling me about thrash bands from the 80s that even I've never heard of!” On the subject of Kosta's playing, “I have no problems writing lyrics to anything he writes...You've heard the four songs, and with the video, that makes five. We have, like, six other songs that are just heavy as shit. I record the rehearsals on DVD and write lyrics to them at home. That's basically where I'm at with those guys.” I bring up the whole thrash revival with the younger generation, bringing back classic thrash from the sound to the look. “They sure are! It's very conscious. The look...everything.” Relating it to Hatriot, he continues, “With this band I want them to understand what I've done and what I do, especially my son – obviously – and, for me to try to go beyond that would be foolish. Let's give them what I've done for the last thirty years...typical bay area thrash, with just a hint of new school flare.” The key word being 'hint'. Make no mistake, while the songs have modern production and flirt with death metal dynamics, it's pure Bay-Area thrash. Steve brings it all together in one concise statement, “My explanation is 'we're a new thrash band from the Bay-Area'.”
Metal is now at least three generations deep, still, I remember the days of having to hide metal contra-band from puritanical, albeit, well meaning parents. Now it seems these days the only reason you're missing your Slayer CD is because Mom needed something to listen to while at the gym. I ask him if metal – particularly thrash – has become less rebellious and antagonistic. “No way! The reason thrash metal is thrash metal is that it's one more step in rock and roll, where the crowd is as much a part of the show as the band. It's not enough anymore just to go there and bang your head, you're going to get physical!” He punctuates that with a quote that should wind up on a t-shirt, “If you play thrash metal, and it's not full of angst, then you're not doing it correctly.” In regards to subject matter, “I'm 48-years old and I'm still real, real pissed off at a lot of stuff. The things that intrigue me are very dark, very heavy...nothing sweet about it. No love songs from me...oh yeah, I am writing a love song it's about Elizabeth Bathory and her love for bathing in blood” Laughing. “I want to hear 'kill! kill! kill!' That's what metal is about. I want to look out and see seven pits going at once...keep the violence, man.”
While wrapping up the interview Steve kindly gives props to the Salt Lake City, Utah metal fans. Any metal bands touring, listen up. Steve tells us, “The last time I was there was in '93, it was Exodus, Body Count, DRI, and Pro-Pain. Let me tell you something, I love Salt Lake City, I don't give a shit what anybody says about Mormons or whatever, I have partied my fucking ass off every time I've been there!” I mention the over-correction aspects of fans here and how David Lee Roth once mentioned that the wildest groupies were in Utah. “I shit you not!” He continues, “I remember the 'Headbangers Ball' tour hitting Salt Lake and, out of that whole tour, we were cooking there the hardest." Laughing, "Whenever I go to Salt Lake I have a fucking great time.” At this point I'm beaming with home-town pride. Metal As Fuck is based out of Australia, any plans on hitting down under? His response is confident, “Definitely! Hatriot worldwide tour. I'm telling ya!”