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Classic thrash ruined by modern sound and vocalist - 40%

morbert, April 25th, 2007

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.