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Exodus - Shovel Headed Kill Machine (CD)

Shovel Headed Kill Machine
by Grigoris Chronis at 07 September 2005, 7:55 AM

Every now and then it's necessary to 'dig back' in our favorite music's triumphant history, just to confirm that certain Metal sub-genres would not sound the same without the 'influence' of certain famous Metal acts. Speakin' about Thrash Metal, as years pass by I every now and then verify that the non-existence of this colossal U.S. band would drive the whole Thrash movement - its American branch at least - to sound a lot different through these 20+ years. Can't prove something you can't prove (sic), but in this case every commonsense Metal fan will have no difficulties reaching a similar conclusion. And all this due to one and only album…
The evil twins in the original front cover of the Bonded By Blood showed the way in 1985. Yeap, the street lethal energy of Kill 'Em All (1983) accompanied by the blasphemous vice of Show No Mercy (1983) and the 'metallic' force of Fistful Of Metal (1983) had hit the stores prior to this release, but Exodus was already a big name in San Francisco's Bay Area since 1982 (we all know a guitarist from the band's early days…). Additionally to the pre-mentioned facts, I strongly believe Bonded By Blood featured all the 'ingredients' individually presented in each of the above - huge - albums. On the Top-5 list of every reasonable Thrash maniac, Exodus and Bonded By Blood are milestones in the entire Thrash 'lobby'.
The previous paragraph is in no way serving any 'history' or 'dedication' purpose. Exodus do NOT need any introduction, otherwise I'd focus - at least - on all three 80's albums of theirs - both Pleasures Of The Flesh (1987) and Fabulous Disaster (1989) are also awesome releases (always, one level below BBB) and Steve Souza was the best possible choice after Paul Baloff's (R.I.P.) departure back then, giving new life to this incredibly passionate outfit. All this bothering blah blah is just an (worthless;) attempt to connect the glorious Exodus days to the 2005 edition of the band. I'll reveal my cards on a step by step basis:
A band is supposed to be a gathering of musicians, and if you take a closer look to the Exodus 2005 lineup you'll all notice that only a 20% of the 80's members is still alive 'n' kickin' in this gang. Gary Holt, my beloved guitarist, is the mere 'survivor'. 'Zetro' Souza came and left for 2 or 3 times the last five years, drummer Tom Hunting was involved in the Angelwitch reincarnation - to rejoin again for the Tempo Of The Damned album (2004) - and then to call it quits once again due to health problems, Rick Hunolt departed prior to the current album recordings etc, etc, etc… I wonder how Exodus' new lineup can be, even if e.g. the majestic Paul Bostaph (Forbidden, ex-Slayer) pounds the skins in this one.
Enough with the bad facts: Tempo Of The Damned was an excellent 00's Thrash album. An up-to-date production, with the basic constituents of this release laying between the persistence/passion of the band and the thirst for aggressive Thrash in-your-face Metal music. This specific album was not 100% my taste but you have to be at least deaf to deny it was a kick-ass release. Another lesson in violence.
With sadness - mainly - I watched all the shit that happened to the band in one year, with Souza and all that went on. Exodus mean much more to many of us than a pioneer Bay Area band and with suspicion I waited for the new album to come out.
From the first notes of Raze to the outro riff of the self-titled track, three are the most obvious conclusions one can come up with. First of all, it seems that the band has chosen to follow the 'safe' path of the acceptance Tempo Of The Damned gained one year ago. The same songwriting mode, the same production, the same setup for the track listing. Then, vocalist Rob Dukes marks a fairly different approach on the featured tunes, as his voice is 'located' somewhere near the Neo-Thrash principles (don't make me say names). Third, Paul Bostaph is a hurricane - we knew that - and his performance surely upgrades the whole album's potential.
Expanding (accompanied by personal thoughts): Most of the guitar chords are Exodus, 90% of the solo work is Exodus, the rhythm section depicts Exodus and there's no way anyone will say this album is mediocre, with these facts around. The album I found most close - in terms of writing down tunes - to this one must be Fabulous Disaster. Some 'copied' rhythm guitar parts 'traveled' my mind back to the late 80's. I have to repeat that the addition of Paul Bostaph gave the band more possibilities to expand their hostile perfectionism to a new level. Even if I sometimes think he uses the bass drum pedals too much, this does not deteriorate his - in general - splendid playing.
Still, my personal disappointment is Dukes' vocals. Hey, there's nothing bad with this - surely cool - guy! It's just that his 'vibe' is a head dissimilar to what the average Exodus fan would await for. Too 'modern', too 00's Euro-Thrash at times, even 'morbid' at certain points. I would hardly believe that Exodus would make such a choice. During his verse singing I sometimes doubted if I was listening to Exodus, The Haunted, a brutal 'now' Slayer or an all-for-one hybrid… Exodus is Exodus and I can hardly accept this output (I don't know, maybe the lineup shit of the last year caused the album to sound so destructive, and vocals/drums were the latest additions ending to present the general vibe).
Shit… How can someone sum all these up? A track-by-track review surely won't help. That's why - tryin' to clear out the buzz - we must clearly state that Shovel Headed Kill Machine will please all followers of the Tempo Of The Damned release. One out. For the rest, try to see how you will 'handle' the vocals - and the music 'below' them, in result - and make your own choice.
Fuckin' turbulence…

3 Star Rating

Karma's Messenger
Shudder To Think
I Am Abomination
Altered Boy
Going Going Gone
Now Thy Death Day Has Come
44 Magnum Opus
Shovel Headed Kill Machine
Rob Dukes - Vocals
Gary Holt - Guitar
Lee Altus - Guitar
Jack Gibson - Bass
Paul Bostaph - Drums
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records


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