Exodus – Persona Non Grata Review

Let’s face it, Exodus is more metal than you. They’ve been at the thrash thing for a zillion years and helped write the book on the genre (both the good and bad chapters). Some may even think they belong in the Big Four more than some of the Big Four, but that’s a bar fight for another time. Their 11th album is upon us, the first since 2014s Blood In, Blood Out, and it’s about freaking time! Persona Non Grata finds Exodus pretty much exactly where we left them 7 years ago. The same lineup, the same approach, the same refusal to bend the knee to trends. This is Exodus in all their hairy, wart-covered glory and you either love them or hate them. And as usual, their latest gives you reasons to do a bit of both. It’s just over an hour of angry thrash with vaguely modern edges, with some songs wandering into the 7-8 minute exclusionary zone. As usual, it’s a whole buncha MOAR for the sake of MOAAAR, which is the Exodus mission statement. Where does this lifestyle choice get them in these days of thrash paucity? Let’s find out.

Opening a thrash album with a 7:31 minute song is something best left to Vektor and maybe early Voivod, but Exodus will not be deterred. This zaftig title track is straight-up thrash with all the shreddy bells1 and whistles Gary Holt and Lee Altus can throw at you. The main riffs are solid and crunchy and Zetro Souza sounds as weird and manic as ever, screaming, rasping, and generally sounding like a hysterical 10-year old in need of a time out. The song blows way past the logical stopping point around 5:30, but it manages to twist and contort in enough ways to keep things interesting. From there you’re treated to a few short, nasty slices of ballsy thrash like “R.E.M.F.,” “Click-Bait” and most notable, “The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves),” which is currently being piped into the n00b pit 24/7 to stifle resistance.

Flavorful moments include “Slipping Into Madness” which sounds like it was meant for Fabulous Disaster and features some inspired guitar fireworks from Holt/Altus. “Prescribing Horror” slows things down for a creepier atmosphere that helps shake off thrash malaise, and “The Fires of Division” is exactly the kind of hard, mean shit I want from these low-life bastards. So what’s the bad news? Well, “Elitist” is an unlovable cut that feels silly and cartoonish with lyrics that make me want to forget the English language. A few songs I basically enjoy, like the title track and especially 8-minute cut “Lunatic Liar Lord,” would be way better with 2-3 minutes excised from their bulk, and expecting rapt attention to this kind of high-speed dirt for over an hour is a big ask. Trim 15 minutes off this monsterwork and it would be so much better as to be a completely altered beast. This is not the Exodus way, however, so you get what they think you deserve.

Gary Holt is thrash metal royalty, having been a genre pioneer with Exodus as well as serving time in Slayer. He and fellow unstrung hero Lee Altus (Heathen) bring more talent to the guitar department than AMG and I bring frustration to the staffers, and that’s saying a lot. There’s an ample collection of juicy riffs and meathead chugs available for consumption, and to say these cats go all in come solo time doesn’t do them justice. There is much shreddery to behold, which explains the bloated song lengths. Despite how much I love the Holt/Altus tandem, I don’t love the guitar tone they’ve adopted. It feels too modern and tame for this kind of music. The same cannot be said for Mr. Souza, who sounds untame and probably rabid. He’s helmed the Exodus attack since I was in high school. I’m really olde now, but here he is, sounding pretty much as he did in 1987. His one-of-a-kind nasal squeal/shout still works, and he even veers into death metal vocals here and there for added salsa. Tom Hunting does his usual solid work on the kit, and someone forgot to bury Jack Gibson’s bass in the mix, as I can hear his quality playing with alarming regularity.

Persona Non Grata is the poser-executing Exodus album you (probably) wanted and definitely deserved. It’s high-energy dad thrash with a few unsightly bald spots and a lumbar shortage, but it’s good, friendly, violent fun, and more consistently entertaining than the last outing. In a year where I haven’t found much speed to my liking, this is a welcome addition to the thrash cabinet. Exodus may be old, but they’re still in this fight, and they’re still more metal than you.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: V0 mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast
Websites: exodusattack.com/site | facebook.com/exodusattack
Releases Worldwide: November 19th, 2021

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  1. I know how you read that, you sickos.
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