The sticker on the cover of Exodus’ latest disc, “Shovel Headed Kill Machine,” brags that this is the “heaviest and meanest album of their career.” This statement is furthered by some rather graphic cover artwork (which is a depiction of a futuristic, bloodied tank shooting while driving over skulls). And from the moment the opening track’s punching riffs and pounding drums kick in, the listener knows that the sticker is probably true.
Newcomer Rob Dukes’ vocals (which wouldn’t be out of place on a Kreator album) are only so-so, but there’s enough stellar musicianship to make up for that small flaw. Exodus’ tenth album is full of dual guitar shredding (fiery riffs, smoking leads, and extended, wailing, Judas Priest-y solos), and fast, skillful drumming (by former Slayer skinsman Paul Bostaph).
“Deathamphetamine” features fast drumming which is complimented well by blowtorch, rapid-fire guitars, and a breakneck tempo change. Tracks three through six are fueled by catchy chug and churn riffs and thumping drums (plus track three has a long, four part guitar solo), and “Going Going Gone” has a pounding double bass as well as a great, memorable, shout-along chorus (which makes this song probably the catchiest on the album). Next, “Now Thy Death Day Come” includes more pulverizing guitar and drum work, and “44 Magnum Opus” is capped off by a searing solo. Finally, the album ending title cut is another scorcher, with a rocketing beat and still more propulsive, bullying riffs.
So, it’s good to hear that Exodus have overcome losing three band members to release a new album. But it’s even more exciting that this twenty year old band is, clearly, still at the top of its game. Plus, with all of the thrash imitators flooding the market today, it’s downright refreshing to hear a slab of sharp, genuine, blistering speed metal. And, as another reviewer said, if you have nostalgia for old-school metal from the 1980’s, “Shovel Headed Kill Machine” was made for you.