As a small cathedral city situated less than 20 miles from Leeds, it would be fair to say that York is not renowned for its music scene. So when Exodus, a legendary thrash metal band, announced their intentions of performing in York on March 3, every self-respecting metal fan in this city turned out to support. Last night Exodus brought along Finnish thrash-revival group Lost Society, as well as local Leeds-based talent Cryptic Shift to perform in front of what seemed to be a full house at Fibbers, and treated the audience to an incredible show.
The first band on the bill were Cryptic Shift, a fresh-faced local four-piece from Leeds that blend thrash metal ferocity with technical death metal’s brutality and heaviness; think Revocation, with better vocals. With only a handful of self-released demos under their belt but their debut EP out on April 1, this slot was a big break for the band. Their performance was concise, energetic, and largely on-point; riffs that owed as much to The Faceless as to Slayer brought heaviness and weight to the speed, and the guttural growls kept their sound grounded. There were a few moments where they weren’t quite as tight as they needed to be, including one moment where the guitarists seemed slightly out of sync which led to a messy sound. Though the final track’s acoustic section had potential, the guitar tone was weak and it didn’t really lead to a worthwhile pay-off. Unfortunately, the venue changed the time the doors opened from 7.30 to 6.30 on the morning of the show, so the turnout for Cryptic Shift was not great; a shame for the band but the blame lies with the venue. Still, their performance of their EP’s lead single ‘Deathcrusher’ was a ferocious and convincing performance that I think showed that there’s a real gem in the rough here. With an improved setlist and the kind of tightness and stage-presence that comes with experience from further gigging, this band will be one to watch.
Next up were Finnish thrash group Lost Society. Having released their third full-length album just two weeks prior to Fibbers, the band were absolutely full of energy and it showed. Guitarist and singer Samy Elbanna were both so visibly pumped to be on stage thrashing away that it immediately rubbed off on the crowd. The atmosphere was absolutely electric throughout their performance, the setlist running the gamut from their debut album to their most recent release ‘Braindead’. Their performance of ‘Kill (All Those Who Oppose Me)’ was a standout one for me, fizzing energy and urgency as singer Samy tore around the stage screaming his lungs out into the microphone, as well as the brutal beat-downs of ‘Bitch, Out’ My Way’. Frenzied thrash riffs interspersed with massive guitar solos, performed without a single audible mistake made for a great performance. The singer seemed to enjoy a truly brutal wall-of-death that erupted, and displayed real professionalism by performing an impressive impromptu guitar solo when the bassist’s equipment stopped working – a neat way to keep the momentum going and give the technicians time to fix the problem. Their performance of ‘Hollow Eyes’ was another highlight, as was the slower, brutally heavy and menacing song ‘I Am the Antidote’. The band closed their show with the sprawling 8-minute opus ‘Only (My) Death Is Certain’, a ludicrously heavy romp and an explosive way to end a convincing performance. The infectiousness of the band’s energy, particularly the singer and guitarist Samy, and their obvious connection on-stage was a joy to watch and experience.
Exodus were the band most people were here for. They are a legendary thrash metal band that have been tearing it up for almost 40 years now. It was also notable that there were a number of old-school fans of the band present for this gig who made their way towards the front for the show, and vocalist Steve Souza gave them a shout-out later into the show. Though he didn’t exactly throw himself around the stage, his vocals were absolutely on-point and his crowd-interaction made everyone feel involved with the show. The band were on peak form for this gig, tearing their way through ninety minutes and thirty years of material. Cuts from their latest album (released in 2014) including ‘Blood In, Blood Out’, ‘Salt the Wound’, and ‘Body Harvest’ went down a storm. But the band also reached deep into their back catalogue for classic thrash anthems like ‘Bonded By Blood’, ‘And Then There Were None’, and ‘A Lesson in Violence’ (A personal favourite of mine and a real crowd-pleaser) from their eponymous 1985 debut album, and ‘The Toxic Waltz’ from 1989’s ‘Fabulous Disaster’. ‘War Is My Shephard’ from their 2004 album ‘Tempo of the Damned’ was another highlight of the show, with riffs that cut straight to the bone and an anthemic chorus to shout along to. Their barn-storming performance led to some of the most brutal moshpits and walls of death I’ve ever experienced – hopefully, some video footage surfaces because they were absolute madness. Their performance of ‘The Toxic Waltz’ let to a particularly rowdy moshpit and the crowd enthusiastically sang back the chorus to the band, while the closing song ‘Strike of the Beast”s frenetic and chaotic riffs whipping the crowd up into a whirlwind of sweat and aggression. At the end of the show after throwing guitar picks and drumsticks they also spent a considerable amount of time shaking hands, thanking fans in the crowd, and promising to return – after such a convincing performance, let us hope they make good on their word!