Talk about not missing a beat! Three-fifths of the band turn over, Gary Holt lets out a chuckle, and then proceeds to rip off heads and shit down throats with "Shovel Headed Kill Machine". The big question in my mind was how the EXODUS sound would change with the departure of Steve "Zetro" Souza. I dig Zetro too, but I shit you not when I say that it'll take about two seconds of listening to Rob Dukes' throat rage before you forget about Souza. The guy fits like a glove. His vocal style is a little deeper, but he spews forth all the piss and vinegar of Zetro. I will assume you weren't worried about Paul Bostaph (ex-SLAYER, TESTAMENT) and Lee Altus (HEATHEN) stepping into the drum and second guitar slots, respectively. If anything, "Shovel Headed Kill Machine" is a nastier piece of thrash metal than its highly acclaimed predecessor, "Tempo of the Damned".
It starts and ends with those piercing licks and ear-splitting solos that hurt so damn good. Andy Sneap has the EXODUS sound down cold. Just as they did on "Tempo of the Damned", Gary and the boys ride those grinding riffs for all they're worth, often expanding song lengths well beyond what one would expect after the last chorus. EXODUS simply wants to make sure you choke on every last note. Album opener "Raze" is currently my personal favorite, based in large part on a ripping (and hooky) chorus. As it pertains to "Shovel Headed Kill Machine" though, there is no such thing as a standout, as the term implies a series of lesser songs as well. On this album, every tune counts. "Deathamphetamine", "Karma's Messenger", and "I Am Abomination" are razor-blade riff storms with vitriolic lyrics that make the blood boil and the face redden. Then again, that would describe pretty much every second of music on the disc. "Altered Boy" features some extra venomous ranting about pedophilia and the Catholic Church. "44 Magnum Opus" has the potential to force into action those contemplating an office shooting spree, while the album-closing speed demon that is the title track will soon be an EXODUS classic.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what is going on here. "Shovel Headed Kill Machine" is about crushing the weak and, if necessary, burying them alive. Bottom line? EXODUS couldn't have produced a better follow-up to "Tempo of the Damned".