Tuesday, 30 November 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Exodus, “Persona Non Grata"

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 19/11/2021
Label: Nuclear Blast

“Persona Non Grata” CD//DD//LP track listing:
 1. Persona Non Grata
 2. R.E.M.F.
 3. Slipping Into Madness
 4. Elitist
 5. Prescribing Horror
 6. The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves)
 7. The Years Of Death And Dying
 8. Clickbait
09. Cosa Del Pantano
10. Lunatic-Liar-Lord
11. The Fires Of Division
12. Antiseed
The Review
Exodus are back. Gary Holt is back in the fold full time and the rest of the band are present- with Steve “Zetro” Souza still at the mic. Tom Hunting laid down his drum parts before his battle with cancer (get well soon) while Lee Altus and Jack Gibson round out the line-up.
I've never made a secret of the fat that I favour Rob Dukes as THE Exodus front man, but no one (including me) can deny that “Zetro” has a fine voice for thrash and is viewed by most as the definitive Exodus vocalist. “Blood in Blood Out” was a fine reunion record, but a little front loaded and missing some of the spite of the Dukes years. 
“Persona Non Grata” comes after several years of Holt moonlighting with Slayer and a global pandemic. You'd expect, then, that the creative juices would be well and truly flowing as the band members focus on Exodus (and Heathen) full time.
The title track is up first and is a speedy thrasher- but it is too long. Much like some of the Dukes era material, it needed editing. It's vicious and speedy but it does, well, go on... “R.E.M.F” and “Slipping Into Madness” are more concise and thus more effective, with the latter being a convincing addiction tale that you can't help feel might be hitting close to home for a few or all of those playing it.
Exodus slow things down occasionally, too. “Prescribing Horror” is an example- and an effective one.  The advance track “The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves)” is simply vintage Exodus; a short, sharp cut that is made for the pit. It's magnificent, prescient in theme and has everything great about the band in three minutes.
As the album progresses, it takes shape. This is similar in approach to “Blood In, Blood Out”. It's occasionally speedy, always aggressive but its bark is a little stronger than its bite on some tracks. There is a lot of fairly mid-paced material over the course of the hour long playing time which is not something that the band necessarily excel at. Much like Iron Maiden, Metallica and some of the other classic thrash acts (even my beloved Overkill): editing is needed. Some tracks could say what they have to say in less playing time and also there is nothing wrong with delivering the best ten tracks rather than stretching material a little thin over twelve tracks.
It's churlish, but sometimes less music really is better than more. Exodus are better on razor sharp songs like “Clickbait” than they are on the blunt force of “The Years of Death and Dying”. It makes the album a little frustrating as my attention wandered a little from track to track- even if the production, lead work and performances are all great. There is a cool instrumental in the form of “Cosa Del Pantano” and it is a welcome detour into a different sonic sphere prior to the lengthy but effective “Lunatic Liar Lord”- which is as heavy as lead  and benefits from the thrashy pacing- and classic Exodus time changes. It's an example of the band doing an epic thrash track well but it loses momentum through the middle and outro sections.
“Persona Non Grata” is available HERE

Band info: facebook