Guitarist Gary Holt of San Francisco Bay Area thrash metal veterans EXODUS has released the following statement: "As a band, we all had to make a very difficult choice to part ways with [our singer of the past nine years] Rob Dukes. We have nothing but love and admiration for him and the deepest gratitude for the hard work he has put in and the great work on some killer records. But at this time, Tom [Hunting, drums], Lee [Altus, guitar], Jack [Gibson, bass] and myself thought a change was necessary and the unanimous choice going forward was to welcome back Steve Souza [pictured] to the fold!"
Souza, who previously fronted EXODUS from 1986 to 1993 and from 2002 to 2004, adds: "I spent a great part of my life with EXODUS. That blood flows through me, [and] even not being in the band for the past 10 years, you can't erase that chemistry. I'm very excited!"
Dukes joined EXODUS in January 2005 and appeared on four of the band's studio albums — "Shovel Headed Kill Machine" (2005), "The Atrocity Exhibition... Exhibit A" (2007), "Let There Be Blood" (2008, a re-recording of EXODUS' classic 1985 LP, "Bonded By Blood") and "Exhibit B: The Human Condition" (2010).
Back in March of this year, EXODUS entered a studio in Northern California with producer Andy Sneap (MEGADETH, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, ARCH ENEMY, NEVERMORE) to record the band's tenth studio album. A month later, Dukes told Patch.com about the material that was slated to appear on the CD: "This album is very fast and has more of a punk rock feel to it, whereas I think the last few EXODUS albums were metal epics, with longer songs. These songs are shorter and a little faster. It has a really different feel to it. It sounds great."
EXODUS last month played six shows as direct support to SLAYER (with openers SUICIDAL TENDENCIES) before joining GUNS N' ROSES, AVENGED SEVENFOLD and KID ROCK at this year's Rock On The Range festival.
EXODUS' next live appearance is scheduled for July 11 at the Bang Your Head!!! festival in Balingen, Germany.
Zetro left EXODUS in September 2004 on the eve of the band's South American headlining tour over what was described as long-standing business and personal differences. Holt subsequently issued a statement calling Souza "human crap" for pulling out the trek "only about twenty-four hours before were ready to leave." He added, "Yes, he did a killer job on the new album [2004's 'Tempo Of The Damned'], but mainly because we did not allow him to fuck everything up with his stupid Bon Scott impersonations anymore. We made him sing more like [previous vocalist Paul] Baloff. I tried to make it work. More than you can imagine. But he was (is) the most miserable pile of crap to be around."
After Souza made it clear in several interviews in 2011 that he wanted his old EXODUS job back, Holt — who has been pulling double duty with SLAYER for the past four and a half years — said: "I have nothing against Zetro; really, I don't. I consider him a friend, but the lobbying through the press for people to convince me to give him his job back just got under my skin, because Rob is NOT a placecard holder in EXODUS, he's our singer.
"Zetro's place in EXODUS history is solid, he made some great records with us, and had a good run with the band. But this is now, not then, and we do not plan on throwing away what we have to go back in time."
In a February 2014 interview with DeadRhetoric.com, Souza — who currently fronts an up-and-coming thrash metal band called HATRIOT — stated about the most recent version of EXODUS and whether he would ever return to the group: "I read an interview with Slash about a month ago and he explains it very well. He said, 'The new GUNS N' ROSES, they're great, but this version is not my version of GUNS N' ROSES,' just like this version of EXODUS is not my version of EXODUS, or this version is not Paul Baloff's version of EXODUS. To join would be going backward."
He continued: "Do I love singing those songs? Yeah, for the fans, it would be great. I sing some of those with HATRIOT. I've done so much work with this band, I can do everything my way…
"I would have to pass on [rejoining EXODUS] if that actually came up… I would say, 'Let's turn left.' [And they would say] 'No, let's turn right.' 'But if you turn right, you're going to fall off the cliff! Let's turn left, guys. Who's the most successful out of this business?' But Gary says: 'Let's turn right.' Okay, fine, we fall off the cliff. With HATRIOT, I get to turn left. I get to drive the Cadillac, and it's fine with me."
Asked if he was still on good terms with the EXODUS guys, Souza said: "Two weeks ago in Oakland, Robb Flynn [MACHINE HEAD] had a benefit show for someone who had an accident. I have an AC/DC tribute band called AC/DZ, I opened the show. Gary was there that night. We had a great conversation and talked very well, and it was awesome. It was awesome, and that's the way it needs to be."
He added: "Believe me, I do read the press, so I know. It was late that night and we talked about a lot of stuff, and it was cool. He said, 'I heard you were here and I was looking for you.'
"I don't have a problem with anybody. I'm good with everybody. I get along with everybody and don't have anything bad to say."
Earlier today, HATRIOT released the following statement regarding Zetro's return to EXODUS: "This is great news and we are very happy about it and this will not stop HATRIOT at all. Zetro will be doing both bands. We are still going to be creating music, playing shows and staying an active band. We look forward to the European tour next month."