Album Review – Exodus / Persona Non Grata (2021)

Don’t be a “persona non grata” in the world of heavy music and get into the circle pit to the sound of the newborn beast by one of the driving forces of Thrash Metal worldwide.

Persona Non Grata, an unacceptable or unwelcome person, is also the name of the brand new Thrash Metal beast by Bay Area titans Exodus, their first studio album since Blood In, Blood Out in 2014 and their second to feature vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza since he returned to the band that same year. Recorded at drummer Tom Hunting’s three home studios in Lake Almanor, California, mixed by Andy Sneap at Backstage Studios, engineered by Steve Lagudi, displaying an ass-kicking, venomous artwork by Pär Olofsson, and featuring guests Rick Hunolt, who had been an Exodus member on and off since replacing original guitarist Kirk Hammett in 1983, and Zetro’s own sons Nick Souza and Cody Souza on backing vocals, both from Zetro’s band Hatriot, Persona Non Grata is another lesson in violence by the aforementioned Zetro and Tom together with guitarists Gary Holt and Lee Altus and bassist Jack Gibson, and despite the delay in the release of the album due to Gary’s commitments with Slayer until 2019 and Tom’s diagnosis with squamous cell carcinoma of the stomach (and I’m sure Tom will beat the shit out of it), the wait was totally worth it as their new album is undoubtedly one of the best releases in the world of metal in 2021.

Gary and Lee waste no time and begin their axe attack in great fashion in the pulverizing title-track Persona Non Grata, a lecture in savagery by Exodus uniting their early days sound with their heavier and more demonic present, also showcasing a beyond bestial Tom on drums;  and they keep hammering our heads mercilessly in the circle pit-generator R.E.M.F., presenting another awesome guitar job by Gary and Lee supported by the metallic bass by Jack, while Zetro vociferates rabidly just the way we like it. Then an incendiary intro evolves into another Thrash Metal extravaganza titled Slipping into Madness, which will inspire you to slam into the pit in the name of heavy music. It’s very old school without sounding outdated, with Zetro once again being on fire with his raspy roars, whereas in Elitist the band sounds less intense but still violent and acid as usual, with Jack and Tom extracting earthshaking sounds from their respective bass and drums while the band’s guitar duo delivers their trademark sharp solos. Sinister sounds permeate the air in Prescribing Horror, a neck-breaking, vile creation by Exodus where Tom smashes his drums flawlessly, followed by The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves), a pure, unfiltered Bay Area Thrash hymn which will sound amazing when played live, with Zetro, Gary and Lee being in total sync from start to finish.

Exodus Persona Non Grata Box Set

The Years of Death and Dying is a lot more melodic than its predecessors, offering their trademark unfriendly lyrics (“I’m a force of nature pure and sure / I’ve killed through all of time / When a GALE force wind blows through you / You’ll know that you are mine / I am legend, I’m your end / You’ll wither when I’m near / I’m the years of death and dying / the sum of all your fears”), while in Clickbait the unstoppable Zetro gnarls the song’s austere words manically (“We take the clickbait / Follow as they lead / With every word they captivate / We blindly follow they trail like human sheep / Never awake always asleep”) accompanied by the brutality blasted by Tom on drums. After the short and sweet Southern Rock-inspired instrumental interlude Cosa del Pantano, the band comes crushing us all in Lunatic-Liar-Lord, featuring a sick guitar solo by Rick Hunolt while the band brings to our ears eight minutes of aggression, speed and adrenaline, all spearheaded by the undisputed riffage by the one and only Gary Holt. There’s no sign of slowing down and the quintet keeps delivering sheer electricity and rage in The Fires of Division, another Thrash Metal anthem perfect for hitting the “dance” floor while Zetro continues to fire his unique growls; and closing such dense and demolishing album of vicious thrash we have Antiseed, starting in a dark manner before exploding into a massive, evil creature led by the aggressive vocals by Zetro and the heavy-as-hell riffage by Gary and Lee.

After listening to over one hour of the ass-kicking, first-class, undisputed Thrash Metal blasted by Exodus in Persona Non Grata, we can rest assured thrash is very much alive, and will forever be, positioning not only the album as one of the best metal releases of the year, but also Exodus as one of the true driving forces of today’s Thrash Metal alongside Testament. Hence, don’t forget to follow Zetro, Gary & Co. on Facebook and on Instagram, and to buy or stream Persona Non Grata by clicking HERE, and if I were you I would definitely go for the beyond special boxset edition of the album (which you can purchase HERE or HERE), limited to 2,000 worldwide and including the album on CD and orange/red swirl with black splatter vinyl, a “Jam Camp!” Blu-ray, a 20-page booklet, a slip mat, a wall flag and a patch, all embraced by a custom packaging with 3D-vacuformed album art and clamshell box with die-cut window and gold foil stamping. And if after all that you still decide not to grab your copy of such insane album, I’m sorry but from now on you’re “persona non grata” at The Headbanging Moose.

Best moments of the album: Persona Non Grata, R.E.M.F., The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves) and Lunatic-Liar-Lord.

Worst moments of the album: The Years of Death and Dying.

Released in 2021 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Persona Non Grata 7:30
2. R.E.M.F. 4:22
3. Slipping into Madness 5:33
4. Elitist 3:58
5. Prescribing Horror 5:09
6. The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves) 3:01
7. The Years of Death and Dying 5:22
8. Clickbait 4:31
9. Cosa del Pantano 1:13
10. Lunatic-Liar-Lord 7:59
11. The Fires of Division 5:23
12. Antiseed 6:17

Band members
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – lead and rhythm guitars
Lee Altus – lead and rhythm guitars
Jack Gibson – bass
Tom Hunting – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Rick Hunolt – lead guitars on “Lunatic-Liar-Lord”, backing vocals
Cody Souza – backing vocals
Nick Souza – backing vocals

Album Review – Exodus / Tempo of the Damned (2004)

Thirteen years ago Exodus returned with another incredible lesson in Thrash Metal.

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Tempo of the DamnedSometimes excellent bands go on a huge musical hiatus due to unforeseen reasons, making their fans at the same time really sad and anxious for a possible return someday. However, some of those bands return with very low-quality material and the damage to their careers is almost incurable, as for example what happened with the disappointing comebacks of Running Wild, with the weak album Shadowmaker, and Guns N’Roses, with the controversial Chinese Democracy.

Fortunately, that’s not what happened to Thrash Metal masters Exodus. Quite the contrary, when they got back to life with their first new album since the interesting Force of Habit, from 1992, they kicked some serious fuckin’ass. Tempo of the Damned might not be the best Thrash Metal album in the history of music, but it’s probably the best of the past two decades in terms of creativity, riffs, and of course, violence. With the return of Steve “Zetro” Souza on vocals, Tom Hunting smashing his drums, and especially an inspired Gary Holt absolutely on fire, Tempo of the Damned is the epitome of what’s best in modern Thrash Metal.

Are you ready for a sonic massacre? Well, the first track, Scar Spangled Banner, is even more than that. For over 6 minutes, we have a perfect representation of the “new” Exodus: extremely politicized and intelligent lyrics (“We the people, for no people / Secure the blessings of tragedy / Do ordain we have established / The scar spangled banner”), awesome riffs and solos, creative variations, and a lot of speed. The second track of this brilliant album, War Is My Shepherd, is another fuckin’ carnage, perfect for an intense mosh pit with Zetro doing a pretty good job on vocals.

Then we have the incomparable hit Blacklist, my favorite track of the album and certainly on my top 5 songs in the history of Exodus, with the best vengeful lyrics in Heavy Metal (“You’d better start runnin’ / Cause you know that I’m comin’ / Cocked and loaded and I never miss / I’m onto your game / And I’m layin’ the blame / And I’m addin’ your name to my blacklist”) and a riff that is beyond perfect for banging our fuckin’ heads until we drop. Shroud of Urine keeps the album at a high note, followed by another pure Thrash Metal song called Forward March, where Gary Holt and Rick Hunolt deliver us some truly amazing solos.

Culling the Herd is slower than the previous tracks (maybe for us to take some air), but it is also a great Thrash Metal song. The shortest song of the album, Sealed with a Fist, focus on all the “beauty” of marriage and it’s highly recommended for a friend’s wedding if you like to play pranks on people. The next track, Throwing Down, shows us why Gary Holt is one of the most underrated riff masters in the world, with outstanding riffs and solos. Seriously, when are people going to recognize Gary’s unparalleled contribution to the world of music?

Exodus2004The album ends with the good song Impaler (written by Metallica’s own Kirk Hammett, and it should have been feature in Bonded By Blood if Kirk Hammett hadn’t taken its main riff with him to be used on “Trapped Under Ice”), and the title-track Tempo of the Damned, which can be called a “musical beast” due to its boisterous rhythm, crazy riffs, fast percussion, and of course its very controversial lyrics paying a “tribute” to all types of religions and churches. And if your neck is still attached to your body when this brutal song is over and you have the special digipack version of the album, you can relax and enjoy a very nice cover for AC/DC’s classic Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, where Zetro simply nailed it with his visceral voice.

Finally, did you notice the length of the songs in Tempo of the Damned? Most of them surpass the 5-minute barrier, something unimaginable for almost all Thrash Metal bands in the world, with some songs having even over 7 minutes. That’s why after this album was released many people started calling Exodus as the “Pink Floyd of Thrash Metal”, and also fans started demanding that Exodus were included in the “Big 4”, making it more like a Big 5 (or even a Big 6 with Testament included too), due to the undeniable quality of their music. I honestly don’t care if they make it a Big 5 or Big 6; what really matters to me is that Exodus keep on delivering us many more “lessons in violence” such as Tempo of the Damned in their career.

Best moments of the album: Scar Spangled Banner, Blacklist and Tempo of the Damned.

Worst moments of the album: It’s hard to choose a bad song in the album, because there are none. I would select Impaler as the “least amazing” tune, though.

Released in 2004 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Scar Spangled Banner 6:41
2. War Is My Shepherd 4:27
3. Blacklist 6:17
4. Shroud of Urine 4:52
5. Forward March 7:32
6. Culling the Herd 6:07
7. Sealed with a Fist 3:36
8. Throwing Down 5:01
9. Impaler 5:25
10. Tempo of the Damned 4:22

Digipack bonus track
11. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (AC/DC cover) 3:52

Band members
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – lead and rhythm guitars
Rick Hunolt – lead and rhythm guitars
Jack Gibson – bass
Tom Hunting – drums