Big Al's Metal Review

Remember the last time you got cut off in traffic? Yeah, you do. When dealing with the aggressive drivers of the world, it helps to have a CD that lets you deal with your anger. Luckily, that?s my specialty: Exodus?s stunning new album comes to mind. Or how about Cleveland?s favorite sons, Chimaira?

You see, both bands have gone through lineup changes since their last album. Chimaira has tried to match Spinal Tap in the drummer category; Exodus, having lost the beloved Paul Baloff to a stroke a few years ago, return with only Gary Holt from the classic line-up on this latest and perhaps greatest album, Shovel Headed Kill Machine. Album title of the year, no doubt. And so much more.

Since establishing themselves alongside heavyweights like Metallica and Testament as founders of the seminal Bay Area thrash movement in the early ?80s, the members of Exodus have struggled to stay in the limelight. They may have surrendered Kirk Hammett to Metallica, but they stuck to their guns, and produced (barely) above-ground classics such as ?Bonded by Blood.? Shovel Headed Kill Machine, on the other hand, is a departure from their original sound that is more than welcome. It was needed, actually. More Machine Head than Metallica in reference, Exodus reinvents itself here. New singer Rob Dukes mixes a dash of Vulgar-era Phil into his delivery, Paul Bostaph beats the hell out of his drums like he did in Slayer, and Holt?s riffs linger in your brain long after the leads kick in. Some may see this as a stab at staying current; I see this as the masters showing how it?s going to be. Well done!

On the other hand, if you?re in the mood for a little more mechanized violence, then Chimaira?s newest, self-titled album is an awesome way to go. The sonic booms in ?Nothing Remains? will match the shattering glass, and the rest of the album; if you like your metal dense and layered, look no further. Like Exodus?s latest, Chimaira takes many references in its work ? early Exodus, in fact, is one of them. The throwbacks to early riffmeisters only complement the intricate work here. Distracted by the force of the guitar work, the listener risks missing out on the strange sounds lurking in the background.
Like a good movie director who plants visual goodies for audiences to pick up on during their second and third viewing of the film, Chimaira has deposited mini-soundscapes right in the middle of their songs. ?Salvation? is a good example: A hollow-sounding riff dissipates into a breakdown, with standard screaming and angry lyrics. Cool, but listen again. Really, wind up the song again, and ignore it all. Do you hear the keyboards? Bad-ass.

No band can work without a solid rhythm section, and newcomer Kevin Talley (Dying Fetus) anchors it all. Hate to say it, but he fits this band way better than Andols or Ricky ever did. With Talley in place, this band feels like a machine with all its parts locked in, working cohesively. Even the keyboard player fits in well, something that didn?t happen in their debut, The Impossibility of Reason. Like the director, Chris Spicuzza is the final key here, and his vision pays off as he leans back and inserts himself when needed, and when unexpected.

Wind it up again!