ALBUM REVIEW: Exodus – Persona Non Grata

There’s a line in 1982 science fiction movie Blade Runner which goes: “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long”. While this might be true, every rule has its exception and Bay Area thrashers Exodus are exactly that. Since dishing out their first full-length lesson in violence way back in 1985, the San Franciscan legends have seen off opposition from virtually everywhere. Even with an extended hiatus during the nineties the band’s absence never felt terminal, more like they were simply lying in wait to strike again.

Resilient to the last, not even a number of high-profile personnel changes could stop their charge. If anything, constant fighting against the tide made the band even hungrier. Even when guitarist/founder member Gary Holt left to join Slayer for their final few years, the fans had the second coming of Steve “Zetro” Souza to celebrate, happy in the knowledge that whenever Holt reappeared, a return to the classic (post-Paul Baloff) era was imminent.


However, with the majority of Zetro’s 2014 comeback having been written for previous vocalist Rob Dukes, it’s taken until now – seven long years later – for that promise to be fulfilled in all its glory. As well as it was received, Blood In, Blood Out (Nuclear Blast) was never really Zetro’s album, the singer not given enough time to stamp his distinctive personality onto each song with any true authority. Persona Non Grata (Nuclear Blast) though? Well, that’s a different story…

Straight out of the gates, the title track grabs you by the throat, spitting and screaming with breakneck speed, a venomous groove and a tendency towards the utterly fucking unhinged. ‘R.E.M.F.’ (or “Rear Echelon Mother Fucker” – military slang for soldiers perceived to have the easy jobs at the back) continues the abuse, kicking you repeatedly to the ground so the retro-thrash of ‘Slipping into Madness’ (co-written by Zetro and guitarist Lee Altus) and the stomping ‘Elitist’ – the first song to be co-written by Holt and Souza since 2004 – can continue the job of beating you into a state of unconsciousness.

The hulking monstrosity of ‘Prescribing Horror’ is five minutes of pure, brooding menace, Zetro switching vocal styles for a time before the brilliantly titled first single ‘The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves)’ attacks with all guns blazing. Although brimming with unbridled aggression, ‘The Years of Death and Dying’ also features one of the catchiest choruses on the album while ‘Clickbait’ is absolute carnage from beginning to end. After taking a much-needed breather with the acoustic interlude of ‘Cosa del Pantano’, the riffs return with a vengeance on the darkly portentous ‘Lunatic-Liar-Lord’, rip-roaring penultimate cut ‘The Fires of Division’ and incendiary closer ‘Antiseed’.


Pushed back from its initial release by a few months due to a combination of Covid-related issues and the upsetting news of drummer Tom Hunting‘s cancer diagnosis, Exodus’s eleventh studio album has been more than worth the wait. A raw and unapologetically belligerent lunatic parade of dive-bombing solos, crunching riffs and razor sharp hooks, inhuman drumming and deranged vocals, Persona Non Grata delivers on its promise in every way imaginable. The Exodus attack is well and truly back.


Buy the record here:

9 / 10