EXODUS laid new groundwork for how Thrash was going to work in the 2000s with their return from obscurity and the bad ass release that was “Tempo Of The Damned.” Thusly, it’s a massive surprise to hear the band move more towards a modern sound on their follow-up “Shovel Headed Kill Machine.” Is it the piece of shit that so many fans claim this release to be? Not really, but it is a rather experimental release that treads a bit too much into Post Thrash/Groove territory for most of their fans.
The Bay Area Thrashers really went for the throat on this record and embraced a more riff oriented and semi-Groove style. Holt was always a riff monster with his heavy handed and pounding sound, but “Shovel Headed Kill Machine” utilizes this to almost flawed perfection. Beastly riff after beastly riff pound through each song and are the foundations for this record. Along with its bass heavy mix (which seems to be a sore point despite the solid bass work) and brief appearance from the beastly Paul Bostaph behind the skins, this album is built to be less chaotic and more structured with its rhythm focus.
The most obvious change (despite the missing flair of Tom Hunting on the kit) for EXODUS going into “Shove Headed Kill Machine” is the addition of new vocalist Rob Dukes. Coming from a Thrash legend like Souza who gave a stellar performance on the album prior with his wailing punk influences to Duke's more guttural barking style is going to throw some for a loop. They obviously had faith in the guy though, and his style fits the newer more rhythmatic focus of this album. It’s a modern Thrash sound and some may not find it as their taste, but it is fitting.
Even though “Shovel Headed Kill Machine” is an obvious step down from their previous album, it still has some great moments. The sheer aggressiveness of “Raze,” the long and progressive touched “Deathamphetamine” (which would later become the style that EXODUS goes for), and the fun groove of “Shudder To Think” make for some great highlights on the album. Overall it’s a weaker build for such a classic band, but its still solid despite not being one of their best.
Songs to check out: “Raze,” “Deathamphetamine,” “Now Thy Death Day Come.”
(Online May 10, 2011)