Exodus' Persona Non Grata: California thrash legends don't stiff on the riffs

Thrash masters Exodus channel their volatile history on 11th album, Persona Non Grata

Exodus, Persona Non Grata cover art crop
(Image: © Nuclear Blast)

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It’s hard to say which is more volatile: Exodus’ incessant thrash metal attack, or their line-up. Eighteen members have comprised the speed freaks during their 42-year rampage, none of whom have held their post for the entire ride. Ex-singer Steve Souza reconciling with guitarist Gary Holt for 2014’s Blood In, Blood Out spawned hopes of stability, but Gary’s Slayer moonlighting and drummer Tom Hunting’s cancer battle have kept nails nibbled. Now, with Slayer entombed and Tom mercifully on the mend, 2021 seems the ideal time for Exodus to flaunt their arsenal at full force – and the primary weapons are those hulking axes.

Gary grips the lead songwriter reins to make Persona Non Grata an hour-long metal guitarist’s wet dream. Gone is the electronic march that commenced Blood In…, as every second is dedicated to ticking off the checklist of thrash riffery. The technicality quota is filled immediately by the title track’s blistering fingers before R.E.M.F. lobs in the inevitable hefty open-E-string chugs. Just as gleefully volleyed at the wall are twin leads à la the NWOBHM masters on Slipping Into Madness, Prescribing Horror’s looming arpeggios and, crazily, bluegrass licks to open Lunatic–Liar–Lord.

Steve Souza scraps for dominance intermittently, like when his Bon Scott-gargling-sandpaper rasp surprisingly softens on The Years Of Death And Dying. However, pseudo-political sloganeering sometimes plagues his lyrics. Although The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves) is a witty anti-cop brutality anthem (‘A little PMA through pepper spray… Take their beatings and smile’), Clickbait is an annoyingly vague swing at partisan journalism.

Despite some twists, Persona Non Grata is essentially Exodus savagery amplified for yet another new decade. After a lifetime of balls-out thrashing, that may not excite everyone. All the same, loyalists get a riff-addled return, hopefully kickstarting a more stable future for these maniacs.

Persona Non Grata is out now via Nuclear Blast

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.