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 It’s very old school without sounding outdated, with Zetro once again being on fire with his raspy roars, whereas in Elitist the band sounds less intense but still violent and acid as usual, with Jack and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