With only one founder of the band left (Gary Holt), "Exodus" continues to pump out albums after starting in 1982. "Tempo of the Damned" saw a nice, if not a tad bit overrated, return of these thrash masters, and afterwards also saw the leave of Steve Souza (vocals), Tom Hunting (drums), and Rick Hunolt (guitar). What's a band to do after such loss? Get better or just as good musicians.
Rob Dukes - vocals
Gary Holt - guitar
Lee Altus - guitar
Jack Gibson - bass
Paul Bostaph - drums
With "Shovel Headed Kill Machine", it's almost safe to say this is the 'new' Exodus. Rob Dukes appears on vocals, and pretty much sounds like Souza. Lee Altus appears on guitar alongside Gary Holt, and while he isn't better than Rick Hunolt, he fills in fine. With Tom Hunting gone, who was a superb drummer, a simple replacement could not fill the spot. No, he had to be good. DAMN good. Enter Paul Bostaph. This guy needs almost no introduction, as he as known for such drumming masterpieces like his work on Slayer's 'Divine Intervention'.
As for the album, it takes the speed and heaviness of 'Tempo of the Damned', smacks it, and tells it to quit its b***hing. Think of a breed, a rare one to be exact if done correctly, of Pantera's huge, heavy-crunched filled riffs, and then throw in some of Slayer's speed, and out pops 'Shovel Headed Kill Machine'. Tracks such as 'Raze', 'Deathamphetamine', and '44 Magnum Opus' feature some of the heaviest riffs the thrash community has ever seen. They've replaced a lot of the guitar-work from the previous album with riffs that are based heavily off of palm-mutes, with the occasional branch-off fill that usually accompanies such riffs. Not only are they heavy, but they're played lighting-fast. The opening track, 'Raze', sets the standard for the speed of the entire album, and is only challenged twice, once by 'Shudder to Think', and by the creepy track that is 'Altered Boy'. However, 'Shudder to Think' and 'Altered Boy', while being slower, are still played faster than most music that is written today. The tempo that assaulted you during the first few tracks is quickly thrown directly back into your face after 'Altered Boy' and never ceases.
Rob Dukes basically picks up right where Steve Souza left off. Like Stouza, he has high-pitched scream. Fortunately, it is nowhere near as high as Stouza's, and therefore he doesn't sound like he is whining all the time. While its high-pitched, it still sounds gruff. 'Raze' is probably his best vocal performance on the entire album, which features his screaming throughout the verses, and then he tones it down a bit to a snarl during the chorus. Actually, 'Going Going Gone' features the smallest bit of melody, and is about as close as he will come to actually singing, and its not very close at all. 'Deathamphetamine' gives him a chance to scream just by himself for about 2-3 seconds (He yells 'Deathamphetamine, no surprise there), and he can hold it out for a reasonable amount. The lyrics are somewhat of a letdown. They're not horrible at all, because they're actually good, but they just don't have those great one-liners that Souza had on the previous album. However, 'Raze' features easily some of the coolest lyrics on the entire album, even though they are simple. 'Light this motherf***er like a Roman candle! Burn this b***h straight to the ground!' On 'Altered Boy', Dukes takes a low blow to the Catholic church about the whole Priest-likes-to-touch-little-boys thing. Lyrics such as 'Children fingered by the hand of God, Raped in the name of Christ' and 'Child becomes the victim, The Holy Father becomes the beast' follow accordingly.
The drumming on this album is as top-quality as it could get. Paul Bostaph is a jaw-dropping drummer. While most of the beats and fills that he had previously done on his past work (As I mentioned before, 'Divine Intervention) are ever so present here, they feel right at home, hell, even better than right at home. They fit here as if they were destined to be. 'Deathamphetamine' features him on a nice little intro, playing with Jack Gibson on bass and then later features some great double bass work on his part. The beat and the fills that he does on 'Going Going Gone' are enough for any musician to drop their current instrument and want to pick up some drumsticks and pound away.
Gary Holt and Lee Altus put most modern metal guitarists to shame. These guys can shred with the best of them. The speed and technicality of the notes they play is unreal. While no tracks on this album really take away from their style shown here (heavy palm-muting with a quick branch off at the end of the riff, then repeat), they don't really need to, as the point of this album is to be as loud and fast as it possibly could. The solos are good, but they aren't amazing or anything. On 'Karma's Messenger', it features solo by Gary that just rips onto the scene and he doesn't let up until a good 40 seconds later. Others, such as 'Raze', feature that old-school thrash tactic that is called a whammy-bar 'dive-bomb', right before Gary proceeds to travel the fretboard, and then Lee takes over for a bit. However, one major complaint I have here is the title track. THERE IS NO SOLO! There's about a 1:30 bridge where they could just rip off some soloing, but instead they choose not too.
There are some things that keep this album from being amazing. For starters, after about the first five songs, you won't really notice any difference in the riffing. This album is very hard to sit down and listen to all in one sitting, just because the tempo and the riffs all branch off of one another. Also, Dukes vocals, while slightly better than Souza's, still are only better than average. He doesn't really have any vocal range outside of scream, grunt, or snarl, and just like the riffs, they begin to all sound the same. The lyrics too, aren't as interesting as with previous albums. However, much of the Anti-God messages are gone, so I've got a feeling a lot of people will rejoice about that one.
This a step up from 'Tempo of the Damned', but only slightly. The riffs can still become repetitive after awhile, the vocals haven't really changed although the people have, and the solos aren't quite as good as they have been. However, this album is a headbanger's dream. The riffs are loud, fast, and rude, just as they should be in thrash, the drumming is top quality, and the songs are full of more than enough energy. 'Shovel Headed Kill Machine' is a great ride, and any fan of thrash should take it.
OVERALL: 4.2/5 (not exactly a 4.5, but pretty damn close in my book)
Going Going Gone
44 Magnum Opus
once again, any grammatical errors, let me know people. Thanks for taking the time to read this!