If like me the thought of radical line up shifts in your favourite bands makes you roll your eyes you may have missed out on 2005′s Shovel Headed Kill Machine, an album with only one original member on board. The fact that the new guitarist was Lee Atlus of Heathen and the drummer was the great Paul Bostaph of Forbidden and Slayer should have been enough to convince me that this album would be decent enough album with so much bay area credentials to warrant a token listen, but I foolishly let the album pass me buy.
After seeing the error of my ways after watching Shovel Headed Tour Machine on DVD and instantly falling in love with new singer Rob Dukes (and indeed helped by the stability of the line up over the next three albums and the extra legitimacy given by original drummer Tom Hunting returning) I finally got around to listening to Shovel Headed Kill Machine.
What an album it is, it manages to retain everything good about the band’s heritage without sounding like a nostalgia act, it is a perfect segue between the bands later more bleak and scathing work and their more fun past. On top of it all, it is full of excellent and memorable songs with catchy choruses, cool guitar solos and the singular riff style that makes Exodus so unique.
The absolute highlight for me is ‘Shudder to Think,’ an upper-mid tempo chugging number that recalls the style of classics like ‘Brain Dead,’ and ‘Toxic Waltz,’ but with all the modern serious approach you now expect from the band. Other great moments include the groovier ‘I Am Abomination,’ the catchy as hell ‘Going Going Gone,’ which has an almost Fabulous Disaster quality and the anti peadophile semi-epic ‘Altered Boy,’ which features some of the most interesting and bendy riffs to ever come out of Garry Holt and co.
Garry Holt really is a truly underrated artist who deserves immense credit not only for his role in the band’s past but his amazing job keeping the ship afloat all these years and especially for making this album sound so very Exodus when all the changes and the passage of time threatened to stop that from being so.
If you have any interest in Exodus whatsoever you owe it to yourself to check this album out and let it sink in. This is far from a throw away album, it is essential listening and if I was feeling bold, I would go as far as to suggest it is the best album the band have ever released.