Influential thrash metal vocalist Paul Baloff died Saturday at Highland General Hospital in Oakland, California, after suffering a major stroke Thursday. Baloff, who had no previous major health problems, was left in a coma, and after being declared brain dead, his life support was shut off by doctors, a spokesperson at his record label said. He was 41.
“His flame burned bright — so bright in fact that in hindsight it was all
but impossible to have burned forever,” Exodus guitarist Gary Holt said in a
Baloff was the first vocalist for Exodus, a band he formed in 1981 with
guitarist Kirk Hammett (who left to join Metallica in 1983), bassist Geoff
Andrews and drummer Tom Hunting. The group was instrumental in pioneering
thrash metal — a style of music that blended the fury of hardcore and the
razor-edged precision of such British bands as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest — and soon became the toast of the Bay Area metal scene, which also included Metallica,
Testament, Flotsam & Jetsam and Death Angel.
Exodus’ 1982 demo, Whipping Queen and Death and Domination, became
hugely popular amongst the underground tape-trading community. Two years
later, the band recorded the seminal Bonded by Blood, which was
released in 1985. Personal and musical differences led to Baloff’s dismissal
before the release of the group’s second disc, Pleasures of the Flesh,
which featured new singer Steve Souza. While Baloff didn’t perform on that
record, he received writing credits on the songs “Brain Dead,” “Pleasures of
the Flesh” and “Seeds of Hate.”
After leaving Exodus, Baloff formed the speed metal combo Piranha (titled
after the Bonded by Blood song of the same name), but while the group
recorded a demo, it was never signed and soon split up. Exodus broke up in
1992 after their fifth disc, Force of Habit.
However, in 1997, 10 years after Baloff was ousted from Exodus, he reunited
with his former bandmates for a commemorative concert in San Francisco. That
show was released as the live album Another Lesson in Violence in
1997, and a full tour followed. The group had recently booked seven West Coast shows for
February and March and was working with Baloff on demos for a new album.
“I just can’t believe he’s dead,” Slipknot vocalist Corey Taylor said. “What’s this world coming to?”