HATRIOT “Thrashed To Death”
In the 1980s, it seemed like the state of California mainlined everything that I gave a shit about directly into my veins. There was skateboarding and BMX. The movie business tugged at my long-term ambitions. But perhaps no golden state export impacted me more than thrash metal did.
Cali was the birthplace of the genre and its icons, including bands like METALLICA, MEGADETH, and SLAYER among many others. But if you were to ask the members of those bands who their favorite thrash band was, the likely answer you’d get would be EXODUS.
In the 90s, most of these cultural exports ebbed in relevancy, the Hollywood machine notwithstanding, and our collective tastes plowed forth. But like most things, pop culture is cyclical and as the aughts gave way to the 2010s, thrash metal in particular seemed stronger than ever. There has been a full-on thrash metal revival.
Enter HATRIOT. The band began in 2011 and it featured legendary EXODUS front man Steve “Zetro” Souza. When the band eventually coalesced around its first stable line up, it also included Souza’s sons Cody and Nick on bass guitar and drums, respectively. Meanwhile, many of the classic thrash bands were reassembling classic lineups to write, record, and tour. After releasing a couple solid albums with HATRIOT, Zetro got the call to rejoin EXODUS and son Cody took over vocal duties.
What many on the outside perceived as the band’s death knell turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Cody and the rest of HATRIOT tweaked their sound to reflect their own, modern sensibilities. They buckled down and committed themselves to the music business fulltime. This reconfigured and refocused lineup has released two exceptional albums, the latest of which— “The Vale of Shadows”—came out this past summer.
Wormwood Chronicles caught up to HATRIOT front man and subsonic saboteur Cody Souza to discuss the band’s new album and how they got here. Read on, Wormsters….
HATRIOT, back when Zetro Souza was the frontman for the band...
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: I first heard HATRIOT when I was sent a promo for “From Days Unto Darkness” back in 2019 and I was blown away. And now that its follow up “The Vale of Shadows” has dropped, it’s clear you guys have decided to add a few more weapons to the arsenal. What’s immediately apparent is your use of death metal tropes including some blast beats and guttural vocals. It’s right up my alley. Could you shed a little light on your decision to include those extreme metal influences on “Shadows”?
CODY SOUZA: We really wanted to evolve the music in a direction towards music we listen to and enjoy ourselves. The band evolved away from the more classic thrash sound but kept its thrash roots. I love how diverse the album came out, yet every song still feels like a HATRIOT song. It has been said that our sound is hard to classify… “thrashy-melo-death-core?” We joke and call it Fight Metal!
WC: Do you have an overall vision for the musical direction of the band, or do you approach it album by album? Or maybe that’s not something you even consciously think about….
CS: We write what we write. We’re fans of all metal genres; you will continue to hear influences to create a sound that fans and ourselves will enjoy. We’re already hard at work on the next album and have some tricks up our sleeves.
WC: Talk a little bit about the origin of the band. It strikes me as unique, to say the least, to start a metal band with your dad, especially when your dad is a world renowned thrash metal legend. What’s really cool, though, is that HATRIOT is such a killer band—especially these last two albums without Dad—that I’m convinced you guys would have landed on everyone’s radar no matter what, so I’m curious about how you all have navigated the EXODUS connection for better and for worse.
CS: It’s good to know people and it’s good to have connections. The interactions we’ve had, and the life and musical experiences and stories are all priceless. But know that there’s been no handout. At the end of the day the music business is a business just like any other—it’s all about numbers and ‘do you have them?’ ‘Is your product good?’ It’s been humbling to see Pops in the canopies while we are working the jungle floor, working our way up.
WC: Have you guys ever caught any shit from douchebags out there similar to what someone like Wolfgang Van Halen has had to deal with or has it been mostly cool?
CS: A few here and there—haters are jokes. It’s the metal scene. It would not stand on its own if the music was no good. Most people think it’s cool or tell me how much my dad impacted their life or how good his performance was when they saw him last.
WC: Immediate family notwithstanding, who were your biggest musical influences growing up?
CS: All over the place! Born into a Metal family, I usually stayed along those lines, with a little punk, a little rap. Obviously, the classic thrash bands, but I also grew up during the nu-metal phase and MySpace era. SLIPKNOT, THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, TRIVIUMM, THE FACELESS, AUGUST BURNS RED, ALL SHALL PERISH...it was all over the place!
WC: Did you start as a bass player or arrive there from another instrument?
CS: I started on bass due to the amount of guitar players out there. It’s funny, I kept losing my picks as a child and I play with my fingers to this day because of it. It’s funny now picking up the guitar in my free time. My left hand has no problem. It’s using a pick on those little strings!
WC: Your vocals are great: modern and aggressive as fuck, and, yet, a little old school. How did you arrive at your style? Were there ever any issues marrying your vocals with your bass playing?
CS: Oh man, I’ve always made noises of all sorts being a product of ‘90s television and having a case of ADHD! So, when I would sing to myself it could include an array of noises! Ultimately, for HATRIOT, I wanted to keep rooted to what Pops did with the snarl, but more energy—blend in the snarl with a shriek like Trevor Strnad (RIP) and lows like Corpsegrinder, all with a twist of my own. As far as playing and singing, and then taking it to the next level with performing and commanding a crowd? That all came piece by piece. I was taught by another musician growing up, “your bass is autonomic, and your parts have to be memorized to an extent, but you are live and in the moment with the vocals.” And I’ve taken that route since.
WC: What impact did Covid have on the band? A lot of bands, my own included, used the time to write lots of material. On the other hand, some bands had entire tours wiped out. How did you guys approach the downtime?
CS: That was when we decided to make HATRIOT a full commitment, no longer hobby status. I know—it was a terrible time to do that, but that was the worst times could get, and things could only go up from there. During the pandemic we wrote “The Vale of Shadows” and transitioned lifestyles to accommodate the band as much as possible.
WC: Covid aside, did “The Vale of Shadows” come together similar to the way your previous albums did or was the process for this one unique in other ways?
CS: We all had a huge hand in this album. “The Vale of Shadows” was a daily effort from all of us during that time. We have our method and I’m glad we had that time to refine how we do things. The band has really adopted a “smarter, not harder” approach.
WC: The lyrics are unsurprisingly dark and violent. However, you do sort of obscure the specificities with a cryptic poeticism. Could you give a little peek behind the proverbial curtain? What inspires your lyrics in these strange times? Describe that process from inspiration to words that are locked in and ready to perform and/or record.
CS: Man, it’s a little of “this is passionate, and I can tell a meaningful thing through a dark story or show the darker side of things” or “hell yes, that’s a cool topic to be nerdy and write about!” I mean, our content is usually about monsters and serial killers in America, showing our darker patriot civilian roots—a HATRIOT. It’s heavy metal. Like how rappers rap about money and girls, we like blood and gore!
WC: HATRIOT has accomplished some objectively rad things over the past decade-plus. What are some of the band’s goals going forward?
CS: We signed with a new management company and are always working to get our music out there. We want to be the next generation, those that carry the torch for the next bunch of metal heads. Keep an eye out and spread the word of HATRIOT!