By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A trio of top-flight Bay Area metal bands team up for a good cause Saturday when Thee Parkside holds a benefit to help legendary Exodus drummer Tom Hunting with his battle against stomach cancer.

READ MORE: PG&E Charged With Manslaughter For Sparking Wildfire That Killed 4

Exodus drummer Tom Hunting (credit: Raymond Ahner)

One of the most talented drummers to make a mark on thrash, Hunting has laid down the ferocious beats powering Bay Area metal pioneers Exodus for the better part of the last four decades. Often referred to as the heart and soul of the Bay Area thrash scene that embraced Metallica when the band moved north from Los Angeles, Exodus helped codify the brutal style of music that married metal’s heaviness with the energetic attack of punk. Co-founding drummer Hunting was a major part of that sound.

Last spring, Hunting announced that he had been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the stomach. In addition to a regimen of chemotherapy to treat the cancer, this summer he was forced to undergo a full gastrectomy and is now recovering from that operation and adjusting to living life without a stomach.

While he and his Exodus bandmates were able to record their latest effort (and first album in seven years) Persona Non Grata during late summer of 2020 at Hunting’s home studio near Lake Almanor prior to his diagnosis, the drummer has also had to endure his cancer treatment and recovery while being evacuated from that house due to danger from the Dixie Fire, adding to his stress level.

Hunting is hopeful he will be recovered enough physically to join Exodus onstage when they tour with fellow Bay Area thrash-metal icons Testament and Death Angel this fall ahead of Nuclear Blast releasing Persona Non Grata on November 19, but he is still dealing with substantial medical bills from his cancer fight. In addition to the GoFundMe campaign started by Exodus guitarist Gary Holt that has raised over $108,000, this San Francisco benefit show marks the second concert held to raise money to help Hunting after a Sacramento show last July.

In addition to performances from local metal stalwarts Hell Fire, Molten and Hellhunter and DJ sets by DJ Bleeding Priest (aka Death Angel and Old Grandad drummer Will Carroll) and the Last Angry Manny, the event will be hosting a raffle to give away the following prizes:

  • An ESP Guitar and Death Angel gift pack (grand prize)
  • Super7 Re-Action Figures
  • Screen printed posters from Secret Serpents
  • A prize pack of vinyl from Nuclear Blast Records
  • Free admission to a future show at one of the following venues: Bottom of the Hill, Thee Parkside, Rickshaw Stop, Amado’s, Great American Music Hall, and the Knockout
  • Free merch and products from Heart And Dagger Saloon, El Rio, SubliminalSF, Three Sisters Bloody Mary Mix, Iron Man Moving and Storage, plus various local bands and more
  • Free drinks and gift certificates to Bender’s, St. Mary’s, Thee Parkside, Rock Bar, Eli’s Mile High Club, Merchant’s, Butcher’s Crown Roadhouse, Winter’s Tavern, Zeitgeist, and more

Raffle tickets to raise money for Hunting will be $5 each or 5 or $20. There will also be a silent auction, drink specials and surprise guests at the event.

Bashing out their classic-sounding mix of late ’70s British metal influences and more aggressive early thrash riffs, Hell Fire was founded in 2010 by guitarist, San Francisco native and pro BMX rider Tony Campos after he met recently transplanted Mexican metal fiend and bassist Herman Bandala. The pair started out playing covers of songs by their heroes Iron Maiden, Diamond Head and Metallica, gradually developing their own vocabulary and writing original songs. The two musicians found additional collaborators and started playing their thrashing tunes at shows around the Bay Area.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Thousands Forced To Flee Fawn Fire; 'I See My Life Gone;' Arson Suspected As Blaze Burns Homes

After cycling through several line-up changes and refining their songwriting, Hell Fire eventually connected with singer Jake Nunn before recording their self-released debut album Metal Masses in 2016. The current line-up would be complete when drummer Mike Smith joined before the band recorded its sophomore album Free Again the following year. The effort showed a quantum leap forward in songwriting and arranging as Campos and Bandala refined their riff chemistry on NWOBHM-infused tracks like “Wheels of Fate” and “Beyond Nightmares” (the later featuring Bandala’s growling wah-wah pedal manipulations that recalled Metallica’s original bass legend Cliff Burton).

Since that release, the band has steadily raised its profile, playing shows with local thrash legends Exodus and Municipal Waste and touring clubs across the country. Hell Fire signed to noted SoCal metal imprint Riding Easy Records, which reissued Free Again on vinyl in 2018 ahead of the band’s label debut Mania in the spring of 2019.

The first recording to feature Nunn playing guitar since he took up the instrument, it showcases more deft six-string interplay and some of the band’s most memorable metal anthems yet. Hell Fire is joined by two rising SF metal outfits. All-star quintet Molten features a murderer’s row of scene veterans including guitarists Chris Corona (Floating Goat, Hazzard’s Cure, and Wild Eyes among others), Gary Goudreau (East Coast band End-time Illusion), drummer Damon Lockaby (Banquet) and Hell Fire bassist Bandala playing bass as well as keys and classical guitar (singer Brandon Bristol rounds out the band).

The band quickly gained a following with its brutal mix of thrash and death metal influences, garnering national press coverage just on the strength of their demo. Early in 2021, Molten self-released its punishing debut full-length Dystopian Syndrome to wide praise. Like-minded blackened SF metallers Hellhunter open the show with Will Carroll guesting behind the drum kit. More information on the event is available at Thee Parkside website and the Subliminal SF website.

MORE NEWS: Three Charged With Allegedly Ripping Off $2 Million In EDD Unemployment Benefits

Tom Hunting Benefit with Hell Fire, Molten and Hellhunter
Saturday, Sept. 18, 9 p.m. $15 (sliding scale)
Thee Parkside