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Andrew’s Judgmental Album Reviews: Exodus – Persona Non Grata (2021)

The JAR has spent a lot of time with classic bands who decided to take the time awarded by 2020 and retool an approach and try to recapture some old magic. How does the new Exodus fair? The JAR did love the old Toxic Waltz…

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The JAR has spent a lot of time with classic bands who decided to take the time awarded by 2020 and retool an approach and try to recapture some old magic. How does the new Exodus fair? The JAR did love the old Toxic Waltz…

Now Exodus is an interesting band. Technically pre-dating most of the thrash bands of the 80s, they never quite broke through. Where Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax are the Big Four, Exodus was always clumped into the next pile. No there is no such thing as a Big 8 or Big 5, as much as people love Overkill, Death Angel, Testament and Exodus, you can’t just make crap up.

Exodus has been through more lineup changes than Megadeth, so that definitely makes each album a coin flip; especially when they’ve had four different singers. This lineup sees Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza stick around since 2014 on his third stint with the band. So if you like Zetro’s vocal stylings, this might fit right into your playlists.

  • Artist: Exodus
  • Album: Persona Non Grata (2021)
  • Label: Nuclear Blast
  • Total Track Time: 60:17

Persona Non Grata the titular song kicks off with quick double bass drum kicks, a ripping guitar and sets a very ferocious pace right off the bat. The lower growled vocals behind Zetro’s lead give things and interesting Mercyful Fate feel. Then we get a small bridge slowing things down a little, but the crunch and heaviness of the guitars feels more like a brief respite before breaking back out into a sprint. Plus the lyrics are great with the meaning of Persona Non Grata. Just talking about basically eating shit and being generally unwelcomed/unappreciated and using the person as a beacon of spite. The early fury, calming a little as the rage builds back and ending aggressive is a great way to flavor this song. Then we go into a sludgy Doom style riff with the layered screams of pain and hatred. This is a crazy clever song that most people can probably relate to. R.E.M.F. well talk about an interesting reference. R.E.M.F. stands for Rear Echelon Mother Fuckers, which is effectively a military term for someone who just kissed a lot of ass to get to the top. So it paints the picture of people that are unqualified deciding who and where the wars get fought. If you have a boss who just sucked up to the right people and have no clue what you do or what they’re really supposed to do, well then, they’re a Rear Echelon Mother Fucker.

Slipping Into Madness has a slower open. We get deliberate marching drums, a crunchy rhythm guitar and light lead that eventually picks up when the lyrics kick in. Now I love this line, ”Slipping into madness, Fire up the high – Slipping into madness, Just slip away and die”. There’s also a line about ground control has killed Major Tom. It’s a fantastically colorful way of lashing out against addiction be it from the streets or big pharma. And the light wahh’d out strum on the lead makes more sense to give kinda that dizzy slipping feeling in the music. I wasn’t expecting an Iron Maiden style double guitar solo, but it’s wonderful. Elitist well purely from the title, this is perfect for a primarily wrestling website now ain’t it? As for the song, it’s a cool driving song, feels more in the early 90s/80s vein of thrash, but the lyrics basically prove the title gives it away. Just a simple song about contempt for the rich elitists who just use and use and expect more. Simple doesn’t mean bad, and if anything; it’s a nice little palate cleanser after the last couple more complex songs.

Prescribing Horror now this starts off slow like a horror movie. Gentle cymbal taps, into a slow guitar, crashes come in when the crunch on the guitars gets heavier and we’ve got church bells to accent things as well. I really like this opening. OKAY, now they’re teaching people things. This song is about the Thalidomide tragedy in the 50s in West Germany. It was a drug that was released as something that could cure coughs, colds and headaches, but apparently was toxic to pregnant women. After just a few years of being released it was taken off the market after being responsible for thousands of birth defects and deaths either miscarried or after birth. So the song has a slow and haunting rhythm, cause damn that’s a heavy topic. Remember kids, knowing is half the battle. The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves) and now I got flashbacks to my grandfather purely from the title. But it starts out a little hokey, a recorded countdown, a siren and fun fast instrumentation. This feels a lot like Toxic Waltz and that’s not a bad thing. Especially after such a goddamned dark song, I like a little uptempo most pit stupidity. The lyrics might be a not so veiled commentary on the how the police dealt with riots in the last few years, but I’m choosing to just focus on the music.

The Years of Death and Dying this song is basically covid’s perspective on the pandemic. It’s really cool, it’s heavy, the chorus is a little awkward going into a bit of a spiral riff; but generally this is cool. Another Bowie reference when he claims “I turned Ziggy into stardust”. I also like how one of the major themes is that this has become out legacy, so it will live forever. Clickbait see and this song is why we don’t do clickbait garbage news on The Chairshot. Sheep will swallow it all but the smarter fans (which you all are) would just get offended by those trash tactics. Cosa Del Pantano is little instrumental with the Italian name for Swamp thing. It definitely has that bluesy Deliverance kind of vibe, so it works for what it’s supposed to be about.

Lunatic-Liar-Lord continues that bluesy southern riff from Swamp Thing and then thrashes it up. So they connect the two well. Lyrically I can see many basically saying this about the Trump regime, as to not assume anyone’s political leanings, I will argue that lyrically this is very applicable to many things in history. I like how the song picks up the aggression when it needs to, but the verses are punctuated with a slower distortion so nothing is lost. I can really see this song picking up steam because of how people want to interpret the lyrics, but they are generalized enough to not push anyone away, they are stinging without being obvious and the music accompanies it all really well. The Fires of Division a song about MATH! No-obviously it’s not. This is another well written song lyrically, because it’s right. Both sides have stoked the fires of hatred between everyone and with all of the stories of people disowning family over who they voted for or an opinion, the division isn’t because of just one side. The song isn’t as thrashy as most of the album, it definitely slows things down a bit. The rhythm guitar tries to gallop through to drive some Thrash, but this definitely feels more Seek and Destroy where it’s heavy and it fits the album, but it’s not Thrash.

Antiseed lyrically is a great way to end things being about indiscriminate slaughter and murder being the seed where everything dies. The antiseed where death grows. There is a really interesting rhythm lick that sounds southern rockish and bluesy. Between the guitar crunch, double bass and furious drumming, that little rhythm piece caught my attention. It just weaves into the song in an interesting way to add a weird peacefulness to violence harvesting more death.

So damn, that was a hell of a ride. Heavy, attacking, a little educational and songs about the last two years that don’t really take sides. Musically they stayed in that vein that many of the old school Thrash bands have since the mid-00s where it’s more heavy and crunchy as opposed to some of the goofy and fun nonsense like Caught in a Mosh, Toxic Waltz and Bored.

While I feel the first half is definitely stronger, that is by no means an indictment on the album. I will say it was smart of them to put politically charged songs toward the end, so if anyone got angry at the lyrics because they assumed the sentiment was against their own, they might already be invested in the album. Well structured, lyrics and music were mostly complimentary, Zetro sounded great and even though I never mentioned it, yes there was bass…this isn’t …And Justice for All. Just none of the bass licks struck me as hard as everything else. Damn good album, might be my favorite Exodus album to date. I should probably go relisten to Exhibit B just to be sure though.

 

Final Judgment: 8.45/10


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Bandwagon Nerds #114: Return of the Reverend

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Bandwagon Nerds
Bandwagon Nerds #114: Return of the Reverend

The Reverend Rey Cash returns to the Bandwagon just in time to discuss all of the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe news and rumors surrounding the upcoming Dr. Strange, Fantastic Four, and Black Panther Films! Patrick figures out why Dave doesn’t care for The Witcher season 2 in the Bandwagon’s review of season two, episode 5.  And finally, are there problems between Disney and Pixar brewing?

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Andrew’s Judgmental Album Reviews: Eliminator – Ancient Light (2022)

YO! The JAR tends to like the New Wave of British Heavy Metal sound. This band is inspired by that 80s sound and it shines brightly! Check it out!

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YO! The JAR tends to like the New Wave of British Heavy Metal sound. This band is inspired by that 80s sound and it shines brightly! Check it out!

Now this is not exactly a unique band name since I’m aware of at least two other “Eliminators”, but this one is from England and been around for about a decade. Similarly as to the first review of 2022, I was clicking around looking for something that struck my interest early on in this new year.

They are from England and stick in that Iron Maiden/Judas Priest New Wave of British Heavy Metal sound. I’m interested to see if they stick in the classic Heavy Metal sound, or if they put their own spin on it. Let’s get to the album!

  • Artist: Eliminator
  • Album: Ancient Light (2022)
  • Label: Dissonance Productions
  • Total Track Time: 50:43

Arrival it definitely strikes you in the face with that Iron Maiden kind of vibe. But the fun this about halfway through, they solo out the bass to lead into a great dueling guitar instrumental section. It doesn’t have the Maiden Gallop but it feels more like old Kill ‘Em All Metallica in the approach to how they put that together. Really rocking opening song with great guitar parts. Silent Stone opens with a very prominent Bassline complimented with just a quick guitar flair and then into more of that Maiden-esque sound. I really appreciate that the dual guitar parts are more harmonic and less lead trades. They complement each other very well and the rhythm section ties it all together beautifully. So far these first two songs feel like they were ripped out of time from Iron Maiden’s cutting room floor, but that’s not really an insult; because I’m referring to good Maiden. Like Somewhere in Time, No Prayer for the Dying, Fear of the Dark; that era. So not the 80s peak, but still notable Maiden.

Ancient Light starts a little more erratic and then goes into a slower ballad like delivery before the guitars start to drive the tone and tempo back up to the established energy level of the album. While the instrumentation really does stay in league with the band I keep referencing, the vocal tone the singer takes feels more like Geoff Tate from Queensryche until we get to a breakdown and he turns up the head voice and vocal fry usage like 80s Bruce Dickinson. Goddess of Life is the first song to really utilize that Maiden Gallop in the instrumentation. It does flip the arrangement from the last song where it starts off heavy and galloping and then really slows down to this epic moment when the guitars kick in for their duel and reignite the tempo. Only real complaint is they stay in that gallop for so much of the song, the tempo change is the only really intriguing part of the song, and the rest almost becomes a metronome boring me just a little bit. The Sculptor of the Stone Lady well they got their naming conventions from either Iron Maiden or Nightwish. So this is at least very on brand. One of my favorite aspects of these first few songs, is how audible the basslines are. They keep things moving, lock really well with the drum for the rhythm section and too often do bass parts get lost in the mix (I’m looking at you And Justice for All). This song also has a little flamenco guitar break similar to Marty Friedman’s in Holy Wars. The difference is the break actually bridges into a verse with the adjusted tempo, they come out and adjust the tempo again to the swaying almost rock anthem sounding instrumentation. I’m not gonna lie, all of the small changes really had me feeling some Dream Theater vibes, but it was all done really well. They’re just this great building flourish to one final line and then the song ends after a little more noodling. Damn fun song.

Lord of Sleep, Dreammaster someone call Dokken, we need the Dream Warriors! Not really a lot of places to go with breaking this down, the lyrics play in this high fantasy section, so it’s cool and it has many of the similar elements from previous songs with tempo changes, guitar duel and stays driving but the drummer does a much better job with fills to keep the song engaging and not hypnotizing. The Library immediately, I got some King Diamond vibes. From the simple yet ominous title to a quicker opening before steering back into the ominous haunted feeling. But the guitar tone while still very Maiden, reminds me more of like a Welcome Home. And when it picks back up about 2/3rds of the way through the song, again that Maiden/Diamond mixture really just resonates with me. It’s a well put together song and paints great imagery. Mercy definitely using much more vocal fry technique, this sounds more like later 90s Dickinson where it’s going for a heavier tone instead of the grandiose epic vibe. While not bad, the lyrics not being overly enunciated for the sake of using fry and the instrumentation not being anything creative, it falls into that ‘kinda boring’ vein.

Foreverless so a made up word is either going to be a poignant song, or irritating. While it takes about 50 seconds for the lyrics to kick in, it switches things up 2 or 3 times and then goes into a straight Iron Maiden epic sound. We mean like more current Maiden, Benjamin Breeg comes to mind. But they keep the rhythm rocking, the drum crashes and fills mixed with a proper amount of falsetto and fry actually do drive this song well. It’s pretty cool when we get about halfway to a small guitar solo before the story of the song switches to more of the Maiden gallop and what could be interpreted as a glorious resolution. The Nightmare of Aeon let’s see if they are using Aeon to mean life or if they’re just really big fans of Final Fantasy 10. This takes a demonic almost approach, with church bells, a trudging tempo and what sounds like drowned out choral backing vocals. So it’s really hammering down on the dark and foreboding vibe. We get a nearly listless feeling from the guitar solo as it bridges the verses together. We go from an implied spiral to slowly picking up steam back into the Maiden-esque gallop and power, even with an audible fret slide. Hitting the last line if “Nightmare of aeon…” as the song just fades is a nice touch.

So I’ve seen a couple comments and I can’t help but agree; that this album is what Senjutsu could have been. We get the Iron Maiden album we deserved last year. Eliminator does a great job at not dragging on too long, even songs that had that longer epic feel, quickly came to fruition with the longest song being Foreverless at 6:31. That may not sound short, but when current Maiden likes 9+ minute songs…6 and change is short as hell. But what does this all mean? The album is really damn good. I may have started to get a little bored at times, but nothing was egregious or terrible.

With all that said, if you like Iron Maiden you’ll love this band. Give it a spin!

 

Final Judgment: 8.1/10


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