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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews


Shovel Headed Kill Machine

Review by Mike Korn

Much like the bone-crushing juggernaut portrayed on this CD's cover, the thrashing beast known as Exodus continues to grind on. It sure hasn't been easy over the last few years. Original singer Paul Baloff passed away. His replacement Zetro Sousa, who for many was the voice of Exodus, left in a very acrimonious split. Founding member Rick Hunolt took his leave earlier this year and long time drummer Tom Hunting was forced to depart due to health issues. That left only Gary Holt as the core of the band. Did Holt fold up his tent and retire gracefully?

We can be thankful the answer was a resounding "hell, no!" Instead, he rebuilt the band while managing to keep its familiar style of bludgeoning thrash intact. Holt's choices for replacements were exemplary. To replace Hunting, he acquired the services of Paul Bostaph, known for tenure in another thrash band of some notoriety that you may have heard of...Slayer. You can't get much better credentials than that in the metal world. Hunolt's replacement was also spot on: Lee Altus, who played with notable Bay Area thrashers Heathen. To fill Sousa's shoes, Holt took a chance and gave the mike to an Exodus roadie named Rob Dukes. While I can't say I enjoy Dukes more than Sousa or Baloff, he certainly has the hateful sneer to his vocals necessary to accompany Exodus' brand of searing rifferama.

"Shovel Headed Kill Machine" (named after an acquaintance's pit bull puppy, so I have heard) is a flat-out steamroller that hits will all guns blazing from the get go. It lacks some of the nuances of the previous Exodus effort "Tempo of the Damned", but to make up for that, it hits with blunt force trauma. Speed, catchiness and even a dash of melody combine with a thick, punishing production to make this one of the more thunderous examples of straight up thrash metal in recent times.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
The guitar sound here is so thick it sounds like it came out of a concrete mixer. Jack Gibson's bass sound is way heavier than any past Exodus effort. The cut itself is simple, chugging thrash based on catchy rocking the boat with this one. The vocals of Rob Dukes are raspy and scratchy, reminding me a lof of the vocalist for the old death metal band Demolition Hammer.
This lengthy cut reminds me of some of the epics on the very first Exodus album. It kicks off with a stalking feel before zipping into a killer old school thrash riff and from there it builds and builds to a mighty climax. This shows the band's talent for keeping a "rocking" feel in their songs no matter how fast or heavy they get. And believe me, this is fast and heavy.
Karma's Messenger
A little bit of melody injects itself here via some twin guitar harmony work. Otherwise, this is a straightforward bit of fast paced brutality. "Inflict the suffering/Let the punishment fit the crime/I belong to vengeance/And vengeance is mine!"
Shudder To Think
Lumbering like a hippo trying to pull itself from a tar pit, this is one of Exodus' patented slower paced crunchers. Dukes' vocals really come into their own on this song, dripping with poisonous venom and hatred and getting a little bit more room to breath now that the pace is not so hell-bent. The chorus riff is a keeper...punishing and catchy both.
I Am Abomination
The song struck me as a little bit too typical and by the numbers to give all out praise to, though Holt unleashes one of his best guitar solos during the middle. The lyrics are cool: "I am Jehovah/I am the Virgin Whore/I am the battlefield/I am pestilence and war."
Altered Boy
Another ode to the priestly preference for young boys, this is a long, crunching track in a mid-paced mode. This is the kind of cut you nod your head vigorously to, but not to the point of inducing whiplash. That is left to the next one.
Going Going Gone
Strap on your crash helmets for this one! This is Exodus at its intense thrashing best, unleashing a cut that reminds me a lot of the title track to the "Fabulous Disaster" album. Bostaph excels on the drum kit here but it's the cool bouncy chorus that makes the cut so killer. This ranks with the best they've done and is sure to be a live favorite.
Now Thy Death Day Come
Not much of a let up here, there;s something about the guitar riffing in the first part of the song that sounds warped and "gooey". It oozes around a frantic drum attack and spiteful vocals and then transforms into a less distorted, catchier hook. This is one of the sheerly heaviest tracks on the record.
44 Magnum Opus
Here's another cheerful tune about a mass murderer. On this record, the band seems even more obsessed with crime and bloody mayhem than usual. This cut is another long one that is generally fast throughout its length, featuring some good solos. By this time, though, the album is probably wearing out all but the most devoted thrashers.
Shovel Headed Kill Machine
This is short and to the point but seems again a little too "easy" to me, a "by the numbers" screamer. You sure can't say it skimps on the speed, though. It brings this relentless album to a brutal close.
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