the travel geek

"Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form."

El Cerrito. Sunset View. Paul Baloff.

For frequent searchers of Paul’s grave location: Sunset View Cemetery in El Cerrito. Heian Garden, Row 2, Grave 66B. There is a koi pond and garden below the grave.

I’m currently on a project with a company that works with musicians and artists to plan their events. As such, I’m working was a lot of music aficionados and frankly… hardcore music fans… to the bone hardcore… like I was in the 80s. It feels to me like stepping back in time; having discussions about Rob Halford and whether or not he defined the metal look… or if it was Ronnie James Dio. To a lot of people in Los Angeles, the studded-leather-high-voiced-singer is Heavy Metal.

But for me, my first Heavy Metal albums were Bonded by Blood (Exodus) and Kill ’em All (Metallica). So, this is what I associate with the Metal scene and in my understanding there’s no studded metal and teased hair. I say teased and not big because this post is about Paul Baloff and he had naturally BIG frizzy hair.

Paul Baloff was the first lead singer of the band that fathered Thrash Metal in the Bay Area: Exodus. They were one of the first bands to form and release an album while others were trying to resolve their youth and substance driven personality issues. Everyone that loves Thrash Metal has Bonded by Blood in their vinyl collection. Even those outside the fan base know that Kirk Hammett (Metallica) comes from Exodus… and that Gary Holt (the only Exodus band member who has played on every album) is now with Slayer. Some even know that Paul’s replacement in 1986 was Steve Souza… the original singer for Testament.

Well… Paul Baloff died of a stroke on 02/02/02… exactly 13-years ago…

So, while in San Francisco I sought out his grave. Where Paul is buried is not documented anywhere on the web (or it wasn’t when I went looking). I suspected he lived in El Cerrito and knew that there is only one cemetery in El Cerrito. I also knew he had a grave because on the 1-Year Anniversary of his death, friends posted a photo of his grave on the Exodus forums. This is all I had to work with: a decade+ old photo and a suspicion that he was probably buried in the same place where he might have lived.

How I found his grave freaks me out.

The Sunset View Cemetery in El Cerrito is massive. There is absolutely no way I should have been able to find this grave. In fact, I drove around hills and buildings and ponds and open fields of graves for quite a while before realizing that every time I passed a certain spot, I felt a jolt of electricity… like the shock you get when touching metal after scuffing your feet on carpet. After experiencing this more than a few times I decided to stop in that spot and just look around. And, lo and behold… I parked right next to Paul’s grave…

Where he is buried is a lovely little spot, with a koi pond and flowers… local children periodically play in the pond. Whoever chose this spot, chose well.

Rest in Peace, Paul Baloff.

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