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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.