If ever there could be a reason for expanding the Big Four to the Big Five, then Exodus are it. As long-standing as their contemporaries and still churning out music as fast and brutal as ever (arguably Slayer are the only Big 4 band who continued in this tradition, with the others mellowing or changing direction), Exodus return with studio album number eleven after a seven year gap. Guitarist and songwriter Gary Holt suddenly seemed to become available a little more often two years to the day ago (as I’m typing this) for some reason, and the band were able to knuckle down and follow up 2014’s Blood In, Blood Out.
I’m glad that Souza opted to stay with the band as his vocals are as much a part of their core sound as are the buzzsaw-edged guitar tones. I’ve nothing against Rob Dukes and really enjoyed the three albums within his tenure, but having been a fan since the early days, Exodus just doesn’t sound the same without Zetro’s snarls. Having said that, backing vocals courtesy of Holt and Hunting seem to be more to the fore than they ever have been, and I like it. The growled tones add a mild “death” feel to a couple of songs. “The Fires of Division” is a great example of this.
While still being supercar fast, the production has been nailed. Every drumbeat, every shredded guitar note and every vocal vibration has been picked up and mixed perfectly. It’s the ideal mix of noise and clarity.
So what we have here is essentially an hour of thrash brutality, but with a modern take. Exodus have dared to tread outside of their defined circle pit a couple of times (“Low Rider” and “Architect of Pain” spring to mind) but on the whole they’ve been foot-to-the-floor old school thrash. With Persona Non Grata they predominantly adhere to this.
There is a little trip into acoustic widdling with a short instrumental (“Cos Del Pantano”), and there are some mild death tones creeping on the periphery, but every album needs to be a little bit different and these work. Enough to catch the ear without making you think that Exodus are trying too hard to try something new for the sake of it.
From the immediate pummelling and fret board madness of the opening title track to the Cajun intro and blistering pace of “Antiseed” this is every bit as good an Exodus album as we could have hoped for. Anyone else excited to see these songs make an appearance at Bloodstock 2022? Long live thrash!
Persona Non Grata is out on November 19th