In terms of quality ‘Shovel Headed Kill Machine’ is only marginally better than the last Exodus album, but in terms of thrashiness it blows it out of the water. ‘Tempo of the Damned’ had too damn much groove, too clean of production, clicky, wussy drums and not enough straight head pounding palm-muted driving riffs to be true, classic thrash. It was thrash, but it was *modern* thrash. Not so here. This is real classic thrash. That’s not a recommendation in and of itself, necessarily, but it’s pretty rare nowadays, so much so that we got so many people imagining that whatever album or band is the rebirth of thrash. This album provides the clearest reminder that no, none of that modern, core or melodeathified stuff so many people have been ranting over is thrash. But, on the down side, this means we’re working in extremely well established parameters, were you aren’t gonna find anything new, and it’s gonna be pretty tough to top what came before. And it doesn’t, but it’s still a helluva good time and the thrashiest album of the last 10 years. (That I’ve heard, anyway.)
The cover says Exodus, but we don’t have much of the same band, with only Gibson and Holt returning. Paul Bostaph fills in for Tom Hunting, and easily out does him. (Though this is partially the harder, heavier production on the drums that helps it) Lee Altus joins Gary Holt on the guitar, and this album has easily the finest leadwork of any Exodus album I’ve heard. Rob Dukes replaces Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza on the vox (himself two time replacement for Paul ‘Worst Singer in the History of Thrash’ Baloff) and is sufficiently competent, if not especially remarkable. He does a kinda half-bark half-growl, which is acceptable, but not very dynamic. He’s nothing for melody, but has got aggression done pretty well.
The overly clean and sharp production of ‘Tempo of the Damned’ has been toned down a bit, still plenty clear but a bit more pushed together with a really punishing guitar tone. Now, this isn’t to say there was anything horribly wrong with the TotD production, this album’s is just about ideal. Well, I think the guitars could use a little more high end, a little less sludge, but it’s totally nitpicking at this point. Also, the lyrics aren’t as cringe-inducingly juvenile as they were on the last album. They’re cliched, for sure, but these are good cliches, and are mercifully free of the ‘clever’ puns and parodies that were common on TotD. Well, it still has some, actually, but they aren’t nearly as lame.
The album opens with the weakest track. ‘Raze’ has decent vocals and a passably catchy chorus, but the verse and chorus riffs are weak as hell. Still, it’s more than passable. ‘Deathamphetamine’ is the strongest track, and is a beautiful example of the sorta thrash epic that ‘Forward March’ wasn’t. Good, extended intro, tons of riffs and some really stunning lead work, easily the best on the album. ‘Karma’s Messenger’ has a groovier chorus, but it’s real catchy and fits in with the thrashing verses nicely. It’s also got a great middle break, with shrieking, harmonized guitars over a speeding drumbeat. And, frankly, other than that it’s tough to come up with any real standout tracks. Just pure driving thrash from beginning to end. It is somewhat mid paced fairly often, but it never moves into groove-thrash territory. Just solid riffs, solid leads, passably interesting choruses etc.
This is as thrash as metal gets, and probably twice as thrash as anything that come out in the new millennia. If that’s what you want, you won’t be disappointed.