Guitars and more guitars. What you'll notice before anything else when listening to Persona Non Grata is that the guitars are right up there in the mix, smacking you right in your grill and then coming back and slapping you some more. Short songs, focused twin guitar attack, and crushing hook after hook is the hallmark of Exodus' newest release.
Persona Non Grata is a heavy record that makes a statement and songs like "Elitist" are there to flip off just the right people, and with just the right vocalist. Yes, Steve "Zetro" Sousa is back with his second record since his return to Exodus in 2014, and he kills it. Not shying away from the issues of the moment, Exodus addresses many happenings in society, not only with "Elitist," but with tracks like "Clickbait" and "The Fires of Division." "Clickbait" contains biting social commentary and is musically a composition that's rough, ready, and angry. Zetro, by the way, hasn't lost anything in his voice and might actually sound the best he ever has. Dude can belt out a vocal just as dirty as a San Francisco sidewalk.
An intriguing highlight on the record is surprisingly a neat little acoustic interlude called "Cosa Del Pantano" performed by guitarist Gary Holt. It sounds like Jimmy Page playing some blues number overlooking the Pacific on Big Sur. Another standout is the slower, brooding "Lunatic Liar Lord," which has an acoustic intro. It is the longest song on the LP, clocking in at nearly eight minutes, and sports some epic and burly with some space rock undertones – not exactly something you regularly hear from these Bay Area vets. It's tracks like this that make Persona Non Grata much more satisfying than being "just" a thrash record, especially now that Gary Holt is really showing his versatility in his post-Slayer career.
"The Years of Death and Dying" is the standout cut on a record full of standouts. This particular gem has a wonderful melodic chorus and just tons of shredding. And let's not forget the dueling solos that also make this song memorable. This is all nested in some really driving rhythm work at the hands of drummer Tom Hunting and bassist Jack Gibson. I really want to hear this track live on their upcoming tour.
Overall, with tunes like "The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves," listeners are going to get that massively rich Holt guitar tone. And it's that tone that stands out right from the opening notes of the first cut, "Persona Non Grata." This particular number sounds like Holt has something to prove and he's not taking any prisoners.
More violent than a Walmart opening on Black Friday, Persona Non Grata is, frankly, a lot more than I expected. This is a record that's angrier than an anti-masker on a Southwest flight. It's more vicious than Eagles fans chasing a guy with a Cowboys jersey on. While we know that Exodus can produce a gutsy and gallant thrash record with relative ease, I just wasn't expecting an LP with this much urgency and this much songcraft. It's at the next level for them. With that, Exodus gives us one of their very best records since the glorious 1980's. You won't be able to stop listening to it.