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Let's be honest: if Exodus had been going for subtlety, they wouldn't have called this album Shovel Headed Kill Machine, so nothing else that happens on their seventh full-length should come as much surprise. They also wouldn't have hired Rob Dukes after Steve "Zetro" Souza's departure, since he is one of the most straightforward vocalists you could think of, with a slightly hoarse shout and a slight raspy edge to make it more palatable. They also wouldn't have chosen most of the song titles, most of the riffs, the lyrics, and certainly not the bulldozing bass and guitar tones that start hacking and slashing as soon as 'Raze' opens its battered gates.
That said, maybe Exodus should have realized just how unsubtle this album was going to be and adjusted the songwriting accordingly. There's nothing particularly wrong with any of the songs here, but the blunt force of this kind of muscle-thrash doesn't lend itself to eight and a half minute epics, nor albums that total 53 minutes, and that's only if you avoid the bonus track. If these guys feel like renting a time machine, going back to the point where they entered the recording studio, and then consulting me about the kind of album they should make (if they can have a time machine, why not?), I would strongly recommend they edit 'Altered Boy' and 'Deathamphetamine' down to about five minutes and expel the unspectacular 'Going Going Gone' and '.44 Magnum Opus', though perhaps keep the title of the latter. Down to 36 minutes and eight songs, I don't think the band would need to change much else and then we'd have a winner.
Aside from the unfortunate girth of the running time, the girth of everything else (no, that's not what I'm thinking) is happily excellent, meaning that you'll be troubling your neighbours and possibly the local seismologists when playing this at volume. Jack Gibson must have been thinking Christmas had come early when he heard the final mix because his bass guitar is way up in there with Lee Altus and Gary Holt, meaning that we can hear him grumbling away for the whole album, which is lovely in the mid-paced crusher 'Shudder to Think' and he twangs loosely through the introduction to 'Deathamphetamine', even though he isn't playing especially creative lines. Considering the brutal aesthetic that the band went for with guitars (as Felix 1666 amusingly puts it, this album "prefers to bang the stage against your head"), there are plenty of riffs, most of which are satisfying yet uncomplicated. When 'Deathamphetamine' gets going, there are some great cooking thrash riffs in there, then there's the bulldozing of 'Shudder to Think' and 'Altered Boy', plus the intense title track. Paul Bostaph gets in on the pounding too, cracking his snare mightily and chucking in some fills on the slower tracks.
As I've mentioned, the songwriting leaves a little to be desired, whether that be from shorter songs or more interesting progressions from verse to chorus to lead and back again. Sometimes it's annoying because you can tell that the band nearly made the right decision, such as on 'Altered Boy', where you can actually hear the end of the track (at 5:38, right after the chorus finishes) yet Holt and Altus decide that they're having fun and opt to play another couple of riffs just for the hell of it. Those couple of riffs are pretty decent, though I can't see why they didn't put them into the main song to form a more adventurous verse or to spice up the bridge. The songs that keep things concise are more successful at the intended grievous bodily harm, despite lacking that extra something that would sharpen the aggression to a point and thrust straight through the ribcage. Be it speed, surprise, or great leads, there's an element absent from most of the compositions here, while the only ones that stick out more strongly tend to do so from the power of the instruments as much as the musical ideas.
Personally, I've been a big fan of 'Deathamphetamine' for a long time despite its flaws, 'Now Thy Death Day Come' successfully blusters off the path with an interjection from Gibson's bass and an onslaught of riffs, and that's not mentioning the fact that I've trained my mum to do call and response to the awesome lyrics of 'Raze'. (For those wondering, I start off with "Let's start a fire, biggest one you've ever seen" and she answers with "You bring the matches, I'll bring the gasoline", though sadly she can't quite handle the next line. Still, there's time, I guess.) The key thing about all those good songs is that in fact they're catchy as well as heavy, so on the list of things I don't like about Shovel Headed Kill Machine, I have the uninspired main riff to 'I Am Abomination' and the lumpen shouted chorus of '.44 Magnum Opus', both of which are uncatchy and kind of stupid. 'Going Going Gone' also has a weird melodic thing going on with the verses that reminds me of The Ramones for whatever reason, thus clashes nastily with the concrete thrash of this album. Anyway, every song has something of quality to offer, just spread more thinly in those three just mentioned.
To be brief in summary: Shovel Headed Kill Machine is an album that sounds like its title suggests, overwhelming the listener with heavy-duty riffs and rhythms. The musicianship is nothing truly spectacular, some of the songs need cutting, and Rob Dukes is a bit shouty, but you should still enjoy playing this before, after, and during arguments with your spouse, parents, or neighbours. Happy killing.
"Shovel Headed Kill Machine" was the first album with Rob Dukes and, worse still, Zetro Souza was not the only guy who had left the band. Tom Hunting and Rick Hunolt, forty percent of the godlike line-up of "Bonded by Blood", were no longer part of the institution, too. The general overhaul of Exodus' appearance was not without consequences. Dukes made full use of his aggressive voice while adding a brutalising touch to the sound of the band. It quickly became apparent that he had not the intention to be a copycat of his predecessor. Unfortunately, his act of emancipation did not result in an outstanding vocal performance. While Zetro had always played the role of a poisonous dwarf, Dukes appeared as the violent asshole next door. Never charismatic or flexible, he spat out the words in a more or less monotonous manner. Okay, this unformed mass without neck did not ruin the whole record, but it remained a mystery to me why exactly Dukes had been chosen for the job vacancy. Band leader Holt should scrutinise his recruitment process.
From today's perspective, the album belongs to the less prominent outputs of the thrash legend. This is only logical when taking a look at its song material. Gary Holt's creativity did not reach an outstanding level during the song-writing process. Of course, he is among the most talented composers of the thrash metal scene and it comes therefore as no surprise that "Shovel Headed Kill Machine" avoids throwaway tracks. But I must also notice the fact that there is only one song that has the power to make my blood boil. Based on a drilling riff, the torrid "Raze" possesses an irresistible drive. Crowned with a concise chorus, this song is on a par with a great number of the band's early classics. Quite apart of its compositional class, the opener reveals another element of the album in a matter of seconds. The bass guitar is very well audible and it goes without saying that it contributes a very heavy element. The prominent role of the bass matches the antisocial shouting of Dukes and both components push the music of the formation to the next level of harshness and hostility. But was it desirable at all to sacrifice the previously dominating riffs for the sake of pure brutality? I don't think so.
Fortunately, the world is not only black or white. Holt's riffs are still a relevant factor, although they have lost some percent of their importance. The reason for this is easily explained. Each and every of the monolithic songs appears as a rock of granite with the effect that the entire work leaves not much room for technical subtleties. The new configuration of Exodus doesn't lack of energy, but its constant aggression endangers the dynamic of the compositions. For example, the heavyweight and mid-paced "Shudder to Think" reminds me of a slowly rolling bulldozer. Some might say that it just represents the next part of "The Toxic Waltz". Fair position, these guys are not totally wrong. Anyway, it's a good and fairly catchy song, only dynamic components - I have mentioned it before - are conspicuous by their absence. That's the fundamental problem of the album, if one assumes that a 75% output can suffer from fundamental problems at all. While being not able to vary the level of brutality, Exodus do not realize that the vapid face of boredom shows up occasionally. No doubt, some songs leave a good impression (without making us forget the sharp-witted pieces of their first two albums). "Karma's Messenger" kicks asses. It unites a memorable riff at the beginning with straight verses, before the memorably designed chorus and a strong instrumental part with great solos add the final polish. (Well, the 17 seconds between 3:09 and 3:26 seem to be adopted from Metallica's "Creeping Death", but that's no big deal.) The rapid title track also hits the mark, inter alia because of its compact configuration.
In contrast, the two overlong pieces must be branded as ambivalent, because their manageable substance does not justify the playing time. Further tracks do not meet my (high) expectations, but I am not alone in this. You will not find an Exodus fan whose most favourite song is "Going Going Gone" or "44 Magnum Opus", even if the poor guy doesn't know any other track of the group. Speaking of their best songs, I must think of their debut. "Bang your head against the stage" - of course, you know that this programmatic line is taken from its title track. Astonishingly, the massively produced "Shovel Headed Kill Machine" prefers to bang the stage against your head while leaving the listener no possibility to control the vehemence of the collision. This is neither good or bad per se, nevertheless, one has to get used to the situation - and to the new line-up as well. Zetro come back, all is forgiven.
While Tempo of the Damned embodied a more than passable comeback attempt on the Californians' part, Souza soon departed yet again, forcing Exodus to seek out a new vocalist for the first time in nearly twenty years. In an atypical decision, Holt's crew decided to recruit a modern shrieker in Rob Dukes and play up the abrasive, modern thrash angle that was somewhat-hinted at on Tempo of the Damned.
Shovel Headed Kill Machine certainly has no issues with its modern aesthetics, featuring a hollow and mechanical sheen to the guitars' tone that summons mental images of relentless machinery gone wild. The approach is eerily similar to that on Overkill's ReliXIV, evoking similar underproduced swells of distortion along with incendiary, bold chords. The tone is so abrasive and caustic that it loses some of its control over the lower-end of the mix. This is where Gibson's bass steps up and plugs the sonic holes with its crunchy, overdriven, and clangy timbre. This stylistic approach is most evident in the beginning of "Deathamphetamine", during which the tinny bass notes give way to bulky surges of Holt's beyond-overdriven tone. The rocking, groovy disposition of "Shudder to Think" hails back to some of the more mid-paced numbers from Tempo of the Damned, embodying perhaps the highest proclivity of modern influence and clarifying the direction the band was aiming for going forward.
Most of Shovel Headed Kill Machine rumbles by at a decent-enough tempo, even if it fails to challenge even its direct predecessor in terms of churning velocity. This more calculated compositional style gives a knuckle-cracking appeal to behemoths like "Going Going Gone" and "Altered Boy", the latter of which sounds exactly like Overkill's "Black Daze". "Going Going Gone" is still my favorite, featuring a mid-paced upsurge after a spastic false start. Even Dukes sounds decent here, with some more inventive lyrics and wordplay that help me put Souza's departure behind me. While Dukes is still clearly the weak link here, he lacks the upfront and irritating appeal present on albums like Exhibit B: The Human Condition.
Other sections of the album are a little harder to keep around, like the Dukes-driven dropout verses of "Raze" and the overall mediocre "Karma's Messenger". Shovel Headed Kill Machine also hints at Exodus' future preference for overlong compositions, mainly due to the excessively-protracted nature of "Deathamphetamine". It should be a credit to the band that they manage to keep this one interesting for its entire duration, but it could still use some fat trimmed off to streamline its combustible appeal. Nothing here is downright offensive, which is something I couldn't even say for Tempo of the Damned, so it at least has that much going for it. I can go either way regarding Bostaph's performance here, though. He throws a number of interesting and atypical percussive patterns into the mixing pot, but the final outcome fails to make much of its desired impact due to the plastic-sounding nature of the kit. Hunting is a much more creative and better fit for Exodus, and his absence here leaves a gaping wound that never fully cauterizes no matter how fiery the proceedings get.
Shovel Headed Kill Machine has the tendency to sound somewhat samey after a while, but this is in hindsight the best we can probably expect from the Dukes lineup. The compositions are decent enough, and Exodus naturally tramples any semblance of restraint under their collective tank treads. Its got it where it counts.
The 1990s, for all of their silver-linings, were defined by a period of death for most metal institutions, particularly in America. In turn, the demise of said decade brought about a rekindled interest in the old ways. Exodus was one of many classic 80s metal institutions that were resurrected in the 2000s thanks to a renewed interest in both thrash and traditional heavy metal. However, their resurgence came with a surprisingly high amount of 90s baggage, in much the same respect as Overkill (though they carried it fairly well and dropped much of it by the time "Killbox 13" came into being), and they came out sounding pretty damn similar to the groove infused mixed bags that were "From The Underground And Below", "Necroshine", and a few others from that period, minus a lot of the peripheral elements that made Overkill's version of grayness a little easier to digest.
When coupled with the exit of longtime front man Steve Souza and his replacement being a virtual unknown, the modern trappings that embody "Shovel Headed Kill Machine" put it at an immediate disadvantage. Rob Dukes brings very little to the table in terms of distinctiveness, as his mixture of gruff and nastiness has more in common with Anders Friden circa "Clayman" and a number of metalcore singers who've all but parroted In Flames' latter period. His work is adequate by modern standards, but generally listens like a one-dimensional affair in tough guy posturing rather than the multiple layers of angst and outrage that normally comes from a seasoned thrash vocalist. By the same token, while the riff work that dominates this album has a pretty strong affinity with the punchy and catchy nature of the late 80s Bay Area sound, the hyper-slick production and overloud guitar sound obscure it to the point that it listens largely like the follow up to "Reinventing The Steel" that never happened, even though it is actually more intricate than anything Pantera ever put out.
As with a number of modern thrash albums, things tend to work better the shorter and faster things are kept on here. Long, drawn out numbers with occasional glory moments like "Altered Boy" do a respectable job of playing up the groove factor in a reasonably multifaceted fashion, but it just drags on too long and the monotony of the vocal sound does little to help matters. Even "Deathamphetamine", which is more thrashing than groovy, just drags on too long and has too many low points to really beat the sense out of the hearer the way it should. The real strong points of this album are found on "Raze", "44 Magnum Opus" and the closing title track where things are kept short and the neck-wrecking mayhem remains constant. Even when the lyrics start to sound moderately retarded and the vocals start to grate like nails on a chalkboard, the speed factor and Holt's signature and inventive riff work manages to keep thing interesting.
The mixed reaction of praise and scorn heaped upon this album is among the more logical reactions regarding the actual nature of a thrash album over the course of the past 10 years. Even when casting aside the history and legacy of the Exodus name, this album is a mixed bag of stomping skulls into dust power when it's on its game, and just barely avoiding hypnotic overlong drudgery when it's off, and proves to be discount bin treasure for those looking for a complete Exodus collection and a worthy pickup for groove fans who didn't get enough of the 90s version of the style. Loyalists be warned; if consistency is a requirement, you may want to skip this one.
SHKM is arguably Exodus's most consistent album since Fabulous disaster. There are no huge ups and huge downs like the ones in 'Tempo of the damned'. The album is pretty solid and consistent through out. Gary holt and company come up with many great songs, proving that they still got it. The most noticeable change here is, Rob Dukes, A new unknown vocalist who just joined Exodus out of nowhere. People have expressed their displeasure at this but I have to Rob Dukes isn't bad at all. Infact, he gets the job done for the most part.
A lot of fans want Steve Souza to come back but to be honest, His time here was up already. He couldn't keep dragging exodus for any longer. In comes dukes, He sounds a bit like Baloff and Zetro when he hits certain notes but he's not quite good as either. His voice is generic, Not unusual among the bands of today. He certainly lacks the edginess of his predecessors. The strongest part about his vocals are that you can actually make out what he's saying pretty well. The song writing is still intact and pretty strong. Gary holt is still going strong, He does an excellent job on this album, There are plenty of vintage 80's exodus riffs and solos to be found. The production is good like 'Tempo of the damned', Maybe a little too good.
The best tracks on this album are 'Raze' and 'Shovel headed kill machine', They have a 'Metallic' sound about them just like most songs on this album. The drumming is good, They are very good for the most part but nothing too awesome. The lyrics are obviously a little bit immature. Dukes does a solid job for the most part. There are still lots of Intricate, groovy riffs to be found on this album and no really exceptional solos, But they're not that bad either.
There are a few problems, Most songs have the same speed and structure. Some of them feel a little too long, Rob Dukes is not Hetfield, his vocals can't carry some of the longer songs. It gets repetetive and dull by the 4th track on this album. The lyrics are pointless, The silliness is overwhelming, Rob Dukes adopts a 'tough-guy' vocal style on some of this tracks, Which will make you wonder. "Is this guy from trivium or some other metalcore band?". Gary Holt certainly trusts in him, So there must be something good about him. There are lots of groove riffs which some people detest.
Overall, a fun listen, Just don't over-analyze the lyrics and the themes found on this album, They're just silly. For 2005, you can't get much better thrash metal albums, All the 'Big 4' have slowed down, and so did Exodus. But this is still a solid offering.
Despite how low key Exodus has become in the last decade or so, the reunion album, Tempo of the Damned was an amazing feat in thrash revival and even though Steve Souza did leave Exodus (again) the band continues on. Releasing their latest effort, Shovel Headed Kill Machine, Exodus has grounded their rebirth as one of thrash titans in the industry.
Granted this album is more groove oriented than Tempo of the Damned and the new singer has more modern thrash vocals. So this isn't a "true" return to old school thrash. It still is one of the best newer thrash albums to be released in the last 5 years. As newer thrash bands try to cross that boundary between death metal and thrash, bands like Exodus really keep it true.
It's nice to know that great guitar writers like Gary Holt are still around to show us that even in metal - the guitars can be both heavy and catchy. His ability to blend speed, brutality, and hooks into his riff work is some of the best in the metal world and Shovel Headed Kill Machine has some of his catchiest riffs yet. Unfortunately, many of the songs in general blend together and the guitar work could use a few more changes in tempo and sound to be truly brilliant. A little too consistent for my tastes. The riffs are a lot crunchier than before too - there is a lot of bottom to the guitar tone that makes it sound a lot heavier. The solos and leads are well written and played but I didn't find myself just in awe of either.
The bass lines are heavy as hell on this album. The bass is still pretty latched onto the guitar lines for the album and it would have been amazing to hear the bass throw a little character into its presence. It's well played and mixed but overall the bass is a tad stale.
The drums are brutal on this album. Positively and awesomely heavy. The double bass is killer on the album (and even though I'm not a fan of double bass a lot in thrash - it works on this album quite well). The diversity could have been a little better but the sheer force of the drums makes up for much of the technicality issues.
Rob Dukes (replacing Steve Souza after he left) does a fine job as a vocalist on Shovel Headed Kill Machine. He fits the style of the album well but I can understand where people are pulling the post thrash comments from. He has more of a barking style than previous Exodus vocalists and this does lead to a more "modern" thrash sound for the band. His vocals can tap that older thrash vibe (see "Raze" on the album) but overall he does have a unique set of pipes that makes him memorable.
This album isn't quite as good as their last - although they are different in many ways. This presents a newer thrash sound for Exodus with an older style attitude mixed in. Too bad the guitars are a little too heavy for the writing but its older style mix is a little too hard not to like.
Songs to check out: Raze, Deathamphetamine, 44 Magnum Opus.
There have always been two elements that made Exodus one of the greater classic eighties thrash bands. First of all of course the riffs. Mr Gary Holt has his own definite style within the boundaries of the genre. Secondly and equally important, characteristic vocals! You may think whatever you must about Baloff and Zetro. They both had their own individual sound. And a characteristic vocalist is something you needed to get your own own face in the scene and to put the icing on the cake. Their first three albums are classics for me but I also really like ‘Impact’, ‘Force’ and ‘Tempo’. (and not forgetting the briliant ‘Another Lesson in Violence’ live album)
I will now explain the three main reasons why ‘Shovel’ is a huge dissappointment for this once proud Exodus fan and how it turned out to become the only Exodus album I gave away for free!
Exodus want to be and want to be called a thrash metal band. Because that is what they once were and what made them famous. Therefor everything they write and release will of course be compared to their best material from the classic eighties thrash metal period. That brings us to this:
On ‘Shovel Headed Kill Machine’ the guitars are more ‘Gary’ than everything the band released after ‘Fabulous Disaster’. This of course is a good thing, but compositionally not many songs on ‘Shovel’ come close to the quality of the holy Exodus trinity ‘Bonded...’, ‘Pleasures...’ and ‘Fabulous...’. Simply because they are not that catchy. Yet one cannot deny the quality of songs like ‘Deathamphetamine’ and ‘Raze’.
Secondly the modern production doesn’t really do it for me. Just like punk, if thrash metal sounds too clean, it simply sounds unconvincing. Thrash metal must have a thrash metal attitude and atmosphere surrounding it. You must ‘hear’ the sweat, the moshing, the diving, the drinking, the jeans, the sneakers. This is lacking since the production has a certain surgical tightness and sterilised sound. Anyway, considering the above, it still could have been a decent album.
But the third and probably most important thing ruining every chance of ‘Shovel’ being a decent Exodus album is some fat bearded bloke called Rob Dukes. This guy does not look thrash metal, he reeks of groove en nu-metal mediocitry. There can be no such thing as these horrid beards in thrash metal (that goes for Kerry King as well!), nor should stupid hardcore hats be allowed.
But apart from his appearance and stage pressence it’s the vocal perfomance that really counts on an album. And that is even more painful! Is it bad? Not really….for a young demo band. It is memorable enough? No. It is plain boring. I get the feeling Exodus were not willing to take the risk of chosing a new characteristic vocalist. Simply because characterictic vocals will always have a big effect on your sound. A good team without a good forward player might still be good but never score….Exodus took the supposedly safe path through the middle with a vocalist that sings neither good nor bad and just fills the space. How many times I listened to the album, I could not find nor remember any charateristics in his sound. He simply does not stand out! He just screams his way through the album just for the sake of having some words on it. This man sounds so bloody average he should never be allowed to sing for a major league thrash metal band again.
So you see, three elements that wreck what could have been a great album. What a shame.
Clearly, some people didn't get the comeback they wanted with Tempo of the Damned, so Exodus promised that Shovel-Headed Kill Machine would up the ante on attitude and brutality. It certainly does that, but it does have its drawbacks. There's the lingering question of whether Exodus should throw in the towel at this point or not; if you were to judge based solely on this album, the answer would be "Hell no! They're just getting started!" But, compared to the classic Exodus albums, SHKM is only halfway there.
I'll start by saying that the aggression has made a big comeback to the band's sound. Maybe not in a way we were expecting, but it beats the passive nature of Tempo of the Damned. There are plenty of rapid-fire assaults powered by Paul Bostaph's powerhouse drumming and charging guitar lines, but there are also the dirty, mid-paced and snide mid-paced songs as well. This, however, is where the album fails in some aspects. Songs like "Altered Boy," while certainly catchy, push the limits of how far these things can be pushed before walking a fine line of tedious songwriting and the rehashing of ideas. The fairly predictable song formulas don't help matters; each song, even the barnburning numbers, follow a typical thrash formula: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, chorus, etc. Occasionally the intro riffs are repeated at later points, which only gives listeners a sense of, "When the HELL will this song be finished?" Generally these types of things aren't a problem with thrash/speed metal, because most songs are a decent and listenable length. Unfortunately, Gary Holt got a little too ambitious in his writing and had the grand idea that he could compose an Exodus album with the epic scope of ...And Justice for All. "Deathamphetamine" clocks in at almost nine minutes, but it easily could have been four or five. (St. Anger, anyone?)
With this aside, the core of each song is a huge step up from Tempo of the Damned. Gary's riffs and solos are some of the meanest he's composed in years, and the chemistry of the band is ten times tighter than anything we've seen from the band. Songs like "Going Going Gone" and "Now Thy Death Day Come" are where the band truly shine with skull-bashing palm-muted riffs, shredding leads, and machine-gun double bass. Some moments hearken to more old-school territory, such as "Shudder to Think," but the majority of the work done here is the new and fierce face of Exodus. Paul's drumming once again proves him to be a thrashing machine, as seen on the mile-a-minute title track. Rob's introduction to the band helps bring back the snide and crass edge to the vocals, but also brings degree of brutality to the sound. His rough, gutteral shouts beat out the old-school vocals in attitude, even though he tries out some clean vocals every now and then. Unfortunately, his performance is somewhat brought down by Gary's cheesy lyrics. It seems like Gary tried to recapture the essence of the old-school Exodus in the lyrics, but it comes off as nothing more than juvenile tough-guy talk. Every line rhymes in a very annoying manner: "Washed up, washed out/What more can I say?/You better start filling out your resume." That's taken from "Shudder to Think." But it only gets better from there... Not. "Altered Boy" is pseudo-political with its stance on the recent troubles in the Catholic church, and "Deathamphetamine" is pretty self-explanatory. Exodus need to be a fucking thrash band, not some twats delivering politically correct messages. Hell, most of the lyrics are downright laughable.
Fortunately, the conviction in the music is enough to cover up for it, and the production on the album is incredible. The guitar tone is massive and thick, with enough treble to cut through the mix. Paul's drums have a deep, punchy sound to them, but have a modern-day control to them that helps things out in the long run. The bass has the signature Exodus sound; sharp and clear, without losing the grit it needs to maintain the nature of everything.
If you can deal with the more boring moments of the album and the slight cheese factors, Shovel-Headed Kill Machine is mean and ferocious as hell.
Favorite tracks: "Deathamphetamine," "Shudder to Think," "Now Thy Death Day Come," "Shovel Headed Kill Machine."
Like several other "legendary" bands, my first experience with Exodus was when they released a new album, that being "Shovel-Headed Kill Machine." Nearly every review that I read said that this was "a return to thrash roots" or "as good as their older material," which I foolishly believed. This belief actually led me to putting off purchasing the older Exodus albums because I assumed that they were all this bad (I later heard some old Souza and Baloff material and realized the error of my ways).
So why is this album so bad? Several things. The biggest is the production; Andy Sneap mixed the album but the production is handled by Holt, as opposed to "Tempo of the Damned" which was produced by Sneap. The change in sound is instantly perceptible; the bass is in the forefront, a major gaffe because not only does the bass sound terrible, Jack Gibson does nothing remotely interesting on his instrument. In fact, he actually hurts songs like “Deathamphetamine” with that overstated sound.
Also, the rhythm guitars are tuned poorly, down-tuned far more than necessary. It certainly doesn’t help that the riffs, ranging from groove-sounding slow to moderately fast, are incredibly bland. Certainly nothing that hasn’t been done before, and when it was done before, it was much more attention-grabbing. There are really only two riffs that I can remember being worthwhile, one after the solo in “Deathamphetamine” and one in the middle of “Now Thy Death Day Come.” The fast parts in “Raze” and “.44 Magnum Opus” are nice, but nothing special. Even the fast opening and surprising break in the title track aren’t enough to save it.
And while Rob Dukes isn’t a terrible vocalist, he isn’t anything extraordinary either. He has an annoying habit of putting emphasis on the “ow” sound in any word such as “down,” “ground,” or “around.” And the lyrics are atrocious; yeah Zetro’s lyrics weren’t much better, and were filled with puns much worse than “Deathamphetamine,” but he sang them with such conviction that they were actually enjoyable. Dukes is just too one-dimensional and lacks any sort of personality other than tough-guy yelling.
The only two positive aspects of this album are the lead guitar and the drumming. Gary Holt and Lee Altus are spectacular soloists, and pretty much every song contains a lead by both of them. We all know Paul Bostaph from his days doing a fantastic job taking over for Dave Lombardo in Slayer, and here his performance is just as impressive. His drumming, while fast and technical, also has a sort of spontaneity that is lacking in many other modern drummers.
Unfortunately, these two highlights are not enough to justify the purchase of this album. Yeah, it’s Exodus and yeah it isn’t nu-metal, but this album is disappointing all the same. Don’t listen to all the ass-kissers who rate this album highly, because they are dead wrong. Download the first two tracks if possible, but save your money for something more worthwhile.
For the follow-up to 2004’s Tempo of the Damned, band leader and main songwriter Gary Holt substituted almost his entire supporting cast, bringing in two Metal all-stars in drummer Paul Bostaph and guitarist Lee Altus, as well as a fairly unknown singer called by the name of Rob Dukes. We all know what Bostaph and Altus can do on their respective instruments (the drumming on Shovel is particularly stellar), and Dukes ain’t no slouch either. His voice is pretty similar to Zetro’s, maybe not quite as instantly recognizable, but still very solid – the guy is definitely a worthy addition to the line-up.
However, Exodus have always been primarily Gary Holt’s baby, and Shovel Headed Kill Machine proves it: despite the radical overhaul in the personnel department, this album is the logical continuation of its predecessor, and it’s still 100% Exodus.
In terms of songwriting and production, this isn’t much different from Tempo, with the exception that Shovel is overall faster and more aggressive. It seems like with Tempo, Gary first had to reassure himself that he could still do it before he could accomplish the solid slab of Thrash that is Shovel. The new album simply sounds tighter and more self-confident, whereas Tempo often sounded a bit too restrained for my taste and also had some filler material.
There are no actual weak songs on Shovel, everything sounds very homogeneous from start to finish. The only downside is that there are no instant “hits” this time, no songs that really stand out from the rest. Whereas Tempo had instant favorites like “War Is My Shepherd” or “Blacklist,” Shovel is a record that has to be listened to in its entirety to be really appreciated. Anyway, the extra speed and ferocity easily make up for the lack of catchiness.
The production is yet again very crisp and heavy, although I do have a minor bone to pick with the guitars – they sound a bit too low, a bit too down-tuned for my taste. This is particularly noticeable on “Altered Boy,” but it’s really the whole album that would have benefitted from a less modern, more “traditional” guitar sound. Apart from that little flaw, though, the production is pretty much impeccable.
The bottom line is that Shovel Headed Kill Machine is a highly recommendable Thrash album. For those who were a bit disappointed by the prevalence of slower songs on Tempo of the Damned, the added speed and aggression on Shovel – for further evidence, see (among others) “Raze,” “Karma’s Messenger,” “Going Going Gone,” and the title track – is exactly what the doctor prescribed.
Choicest cuts: “Raze,” “Deathamphetamine” (eight-and-a-half minutes long, but never gets boring), “Karma’s Messenger,” “Shudder to Think” (the catchiest song to be found here, very reminiscent of “Blacklist” from Tempo of the Damned), “Going Going Gone,” and “Shovel Headed Kill Machine” (now this is really fast…); even the bonus track of the digipack version, “Purge the World,” is quite excellent…
Boy, am I fucking sick of having an album be strongly recommended to me, then I get it and it’s not as good as it was supposed to be. It’s happened to me with Megadeth’s The System Has Failed, with Death’s The Sound Of Perseverance, and it happened with Tempo Of The Damned. Now this year, it happens again with yet another Exodus album. I knew I should’ve bought Hazardous Mutation instead.
I do have to give this some credit though; it’s better than Tempo at least, and Rob Dukes has a much less annoying voice than Zetro. Plus some parts, like Karma’s Messenger and the fast middle section of Deathamphetamine, are enjoyable. The main thing that bothers me about this though is that contrary to what most people say, it’s not the heaviest Thrash album of the new millennium, nor is it the fastest. If anything, it actually sounds kind of like Slipknot. I’m not even exaggerating. Shortly after I bought this album, I had Winamp going in the other room while I was doing something, and I heard a song playing that sounded like it was off this album. I then came back in the room and it was actually Slipknot’s The Heretic Anthem (and yes, I do listen to some Slipknot when I’m in the mood for it). Rob Dukes’ voice is similar to Corey Taylor’s screaming voice on Iowa, and the riffs are similar to some of Slipknot’s heavier riffs.
The production is another thing that bothers me. It’s loud enough, but the guitar tone is extremely bassy, which combined with the groovish riffs is not a good sign. Plus the bass guitar sounds like someone mashing on the deeper keys on an old piano in a predetermined rhythm for the entire duration of the album. The production also saps the power and energy of some of the moments, because it’s kind of overproduced in parts. For example, listen to the beginning of I Am Abomination, just before the double-bass comes in. The drums come in, and are just kind of playing some beat, with not much emotion showing through. It feels pretty forced and generic. Overall the song is okay, but it could’ve been so much more.
The most painful part of this album would have to be the midpaced, groove parts. Songs like Shudder To Think and Going Going Gone bring back memories of some of the midpaced groove parts on Tempo Of The Damned, which sounded extremely plodding and boring. Take Their Lives, this is not. The faster parts on this album though, like the previously mentioned middle section of Deathamphetamine, are great. At the 5:04 mark, everything suddenly gets fast as fuck, and in comes a great solo. Now if the entire album sounded like this, I would be orgasming so much my pants would be giving birth. The fast part damn near gets ruined at the 5:37 – 5:43 section, when the headbanging flow gets interrupted by a short Fear Factory-ish stop-start section that is still somewhat fast, but it ends up just distracting from the riff before (and after). And I do like some Fear Factory as well, but it just does not fit with that fast riff. At all.
The riffage on this album, like other elements, is pretty generic overall. Occasionally the riffage is quality Thrash, but other times it sounds very groovish. The intro riff to Raze is a good example; it’s extremely simple and dull and repetitive. If it weren’t for the fact that the verses and chorus are extremely catchy (plus the riff that plays under the solo), then Raze would be a shit song. The lyrics are catchy enough and seem well-written, which is one good thing about this album. Plus the front cover is just completely badass. But lyrics and cover art alone don’t make an album good.
In the end, this album isn’t completely and utterly horrible. I can listen to it and be somewhat entertained for the majority of the album, hence the rating isn’t extremely low. What does annoy me though is that something this mediocre is being orgasmed over by nearly everyone as being the number 1 post-2000 Thrash album ever. I don’t think it’s that great at all. If Lee Altus had had more of a part in the album than just playing solos, then I’m sure this would’ve been better. So if you’re looking for something that is 100% pure unadulterated Thrash Metal, I suggest you look elsewhere. If on the other hand, you want something that resembles Thrash for the most part, but has noticeable Pantera and Slipknot influences and is overproduced, then get this album. Man, I should stop buying newer Exodus albums and just get Bonded By Blood and get it over with already.
And because I can’t think of anywhere else to say this, Deathamphetamine steals a riff from Destruction’s The Antichrist album. Listen to the :58 mark of Deathamphetamine, then listen to the :09 mark of Dictators Of Cruelty. Exodus speed this up and play a note or two differently, but they still sound extremely similar. I think that’s pretty bad.
Call me crazy but I like this more than Tempo of the Damned which was surely the 2005 album of the year! Rick, Hunting and Zetro - three vintage members of Exodus have left leaving only Gary Holt from the original Exodus of yesteryear and Jack Gibson (bassist) picked up for Tempo Of The Damned (also plays in A Lesson In Violence). Three new members have entered the realms of Exodus - Lee Altus of Heathen fame, Paul Bastoph best known for his stint in Slayer and previously unheard of vocalist Rob Dukes.
Any metal fan wouldn't be worried about either Paul or Lee as they are of course thrash veterans and excellent at what they do. Then again, there's also a guy who has never been seen earlier in a metal band (or a band) of any kind - Rob Dukes. Is this guy up to the levels of Zetro or not? I'll give this to you straight off the platter - he isn't the easiest vocalist to digest. At first you'd believe he's imitating Zetro but falls short but after many listens you'd realize that this guy's voice is better, more manly and rough therefore perfectly suiting the music style here which I believe Zetro wouldn't have fitted in. The production is absolutely perfect unleashing the monster within the album in terms of brutality. The guitar tone is like Heathen's guitar tone for their latest demo but EVEN heavier. Rob Dukes snarls his way through in the most inhumane way and the riffs are as heavy as a ton of bricks. Solos really do the job just as Tempo did and though Zetro's lyrical sarcasm is missed, the lyrics here are pretty inhumane and brutal as well. I doubt any thrash album can be disappointed with this.
On a song level, everything rules. Exodus experiments far more than they did with Tempo. Tempo was meant to be a 'safe' album for Exodus in which they just delivered what their fans wanted to get back in the thrash fold even though it was mind-blowing but this album has Exodus experimenting much more than ever. The perfect example would be the 8 minute 30 second thrash epic Deathamphetamine which has some of the heaviest riffs ever recorded. You can see the beauty of the guitar tone in this song right away. Opener Raze is as brutal as it can get and that solo there is pure class and Shudder To Think hits you like a brick wall with its inhumane speed and brutality. Also standing out is the incredible I Am Abomination which slows down the pace a bit and is more groovy - think "Throwing Down" off Tempo Of The Damned but 100x heavier and that chorus in Going, Going, Gone! Is tailored perfectly for a live concert. Shovel Headed Kill Machine is a incredible lesson in thrash the Exodus way, never have Exodus been this good since Bonded By Blood and it isn't even the same lineup as Bonded By Blood! Buy or download now!
Standouts: Raze, Deathamphetamine, Shudder to Think, I am Abomination but the entire album is worth hearing.
What a great album title! It's essentially a new band, Gary Holt the only original member to legitimise trading on the legendary Exodus name. Realising in the world of metal there are no constants, that some bands decline if left to stagnate, espescially as their members get older, Holt has assembled a terriffic lineup to record a worthy follow-up to 'Tempo of the Damned' and stay fresh and vital. If one year is the kind of time Holt and Co. need to record quality modern thrash just like the heyday of the genre in the 1980s I say keep the door revolving.
But keep Paul Bosteph, he's the real star here. The riffs are thick and meaty like you'd except a piece of shovel headed machinery to be after a few frags. The only criticism comes on the 8 1/2 minute "Deathamphetamine" which although enjoying breakneck speed is a little too ambitious with too few ideas to sustain its length. Rob Dukes, the new vocallist, has surely benefited from good production, but nevertheless does a good job, well suited to the modern thrash approach, but at times sounding like a poor man's Tom Angleripper of Sodom in lacking that same venom and punch to rank his performance as truely memorable.
The rest kills. This album will rank both as one of Exodus' best works and one of the best albums of a year defined by some standouts, but a lot of mediocrity and disspointing releases.