How’s it hanging Butcher Crew? It’s ya girl, The Saw. And I’m here today to review the new album from thrash legends, Exodus. Persona Non Grata is the band’s eleventh studio album, released on November 19, 2021 by Nuclear Blast Records. First-things-first, we’ve got some ground to cover before we can talk about this riffing Metal assault by the kings of Thrash.
Exodus is from Richmond, California, and formed in 1979 (yep, you read that right!). If you don’t know (and this is fascinating), one of the original guitarists was Kirk Hammett, who left the band in 1983 to replace Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) in a young Metal band named, Metallica. In 1981, the other original guitarist, Tim Agnello, left the band and was replaced by Gary Holt. Gary Holt is the guitarist who would fill in for Jeff Hanneman of Slayer, after his death, on Slayer’s farewell tour. Gary Holt is the only Exodus guitarist to perform on every single Exodus album. He is the main song writer and, along with Lee Altus (guitars), is the main riff master. Hey! You’ve got to be a king of riffs if you’re the one chosen to play with Slayer!
So, another fascinating fact, here, is that Exodus predates the “Big Four” (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax). They are credited as the pioneers of the Bay Area Thrash Metal scene, made famous by Metallica. Many believe that Exodus should be in the “Big Four,” and actually the magic number should be “The Big Five.” So, in the 80s, the title “The Big Four” didn’t exist; it was created after the explosive heyday of Thrash Metal. In fact, with giants like Testament crushing the scene, too, many argue the phrase should be “The Big Six” or even “…Eight,” once you add Overkill and Death Angel. The O.G. (aka, my dad) says that, in the 80s, they knew nothing of a fictitious “Big Four.” There were dozens of bands, later described as “Thrash,” that played fast, driving songs, that were loved by a huge demographic across America (and the world). Today, many of these Thrash Metal titans are still present, or returning to the scene with the old school brand of Metal – enter Exodus.
Persona Non Grata is the second album after the return of Steve “Zetro” Souza (vocals). Zetro has a very unique voice and vocal range; think Bon Scott (RIP – AC/DC), stretched to a brutal extreme, both high and low register. Most of the vocals, here, are his patented searing, almost out of control, higher pitch rants. But for Persona Non Grata, he has added a lower register, almost a gutteral, spattered here and there throughout the record.
And what can you say about the guitar-work on Persona Non Grata?! Holt and Altus have been a crunchy force, churning out beefy riffs, power chords, screeching solos, and just throw-down beatings for many years. With such a huge personality on vocals, you’ve got to have some incredible guitar-work that can stand up under the pressure, and the Holt/Altur tag team deliver a bruising performance. Personally, I think, as great of a guitar player as Holt has always been, his time away with Slayer has greatly benefitted Exodus; obviously on this record, but also in the fresh attention that Exodus has gotten from an enlarged fan base.
Likewise, the long time rhythm section of Tom Hunting (founding drummer) and Jack Gibson (bass) hold up the bottom end of this onslaught beautifully. Gibson is like a rock, always true and solid. The production of this album really accentuates the skill and determination of this support pillar. As for Hunting, in April of 2021, just after his 56thbirthday, it became public knowledge that he had cancer of the stomach. The bad-ass that he is, this only slowed the recording process; his work behind the kit is some of his best! With Exodus being the powerhouse that it is, you must have the grounding drum skills to hold it all together, otherwise the band is lopsided and top heavy. Hunting is the only original member of Exodus, and he’s been holding it down for 42 years! Persona Non Grata contains perfect drum combinations – double base and snare, tom, symbol work – that signal Kings of Thrash Metal.
Persona Non Grata is 60+ minutes of frantic vocals and fantastic riffs. The solos are plentiful and wild and wide ranging. Great drumming and a solid support rumble on bass and you have an excellent Exodus exhibition. Many of the tracks clock in at the usual Thrash Metal time stamp, but a few (the title track, Antiseed, and Lunatic-Liar-Lord) top five and six minutes, with the latter coming in at almost 8:00. The problem with doubling the normal length of a song is the short attention span of the modern listener. But Exodus, ever the extreme and excessive, have no problem keeping your attention with crushing riffs and blazing solos, and manic vocal patterns and styles. Prescribing Horror is, musically, the most unique song on the record; while lyrically, it falls in line with the politics of the others. Where the other tracks have that chanting, stomping feel, Prescribing Horror is haunting and thought provoking. This record is speaking to the socio-political climate today, just as Thrash has always intended.
Persona Non Grata
Slipping Into Madness
The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves)
The Year of Death and Dying
Cosa Del Pantano
The Fires of Division
Rating: 9/10!! An excellent Thrash Metal album, with clean production, and some awesome riffs!
Favorite Songs: Persona Non Grata; Prescribing Horror; Antiseed