The retro-thrash movement continues apace. Bay Area pioneers Exodus released Tempo of the Damned last year, but while that album didn't suck outright, neither was it the triumph required to measure up to the band's legendary pedigree. Shovel Headed Kill Machine, on the other hand, is everything a metalhead could want from these reunited (and revitalized) '80s legends.
Three Exodus band members -- drummer Paul Bostaph and guitarists Lee Altus and Rick Hunolt -- are among the most talented players in the genre, easily the equal of peers Kirk Hammett, Dave Mustaine, or Dave Lombardo, and on this album everyone is playing at peak intensity. The guitar solos are fleet and concise, but as pyrotechnic as any old-school listener could want, and the drums are astonishing. Bostaph has mixed loud, propelling the music forward at occasionally frightening speed. On "Deathamphetamine," he spends over eight minutes pummeling the kit so hard and fast that the listener can be forgiven for imagining his arms being surgically reattached afterward. Shovel Headed Kill Machine isn't all breakneck rockers, of course; there are some midtempo grinders. But every track, despite lyrics as dumb as the album title, is a killer. This may be Exodus' best album ever.