There are moments during ‘Shovel headed tour machine’, the latest live offering from Exodus, when you are forced to wonder how it never became the Big Five, especially in light of the fact that Exodus’ output has been far more consistent than some of the other bands in that hallowed list. Formed thirty years ago with none other than Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammet (although he defected to Metallica three years later) Exodus have been a staple of the American thrash movement, releasing the classic ‘Bonded by blood’ in 1985 (an album they would re-record as ‘let there be blood’) and going on to release a further eight albums as well as a slew of well-received live albums. Brutal to the extreme and frequently featuring lyrics to terrify the politically correct (see “children of a worthless God” as a prime example), Exodus are a band more than capable of satisfying in the live arena as this DVD ably demonstrates.
So what do you get for your money? Well, ‘Shovel headed tour machine’ offers a professionally shot, beautifully recorded set from Wacken in Germany which appears both as a CD and DVD. As metal DVDs go the sound and picture quality are both excellent although it never quite feels right seeing music like this filmed in daylight and a certain amount of visual impact is lost. Speaking of visual impact, Exodus certainly don’t go in for frills and gimmicks with the band uniformly clad in black and singer Rob Dukes prowling the stage like a particularly angry Pitbull. Not that that detracts from the music which is tight and superbly produced with a great sound which allows the guitars plenty of room to breathe and the solos to shine through. One thing that does grate slightly is the need to launch into tirades of four-letter fury between every song. It’s something that adds nothing to the music and you sometimes wish that Rob would expand his vocabulary beyond branding every person in the crowd incestuous fornicators…or words to that effect.
While the live show is undoubtedly the ‘meat’ of the package, a third disc offers up a treasure trove of bonus features which go above and beyond the call of duty to offer a documentary of life on the road (“Assorted atrocities”) which covers an astonishing five years and offers insight into the late Paul Baloff, the band’s work on Metalocalypse, the filming of various music clips and the recording of the excellent ‘shovel headed kill machine’ album. There’s also a section containing deleted scenes, rare live tracks, music videos, a picture gallery and more. It’s a generous move by a band who care passionately about their fans and it offers a detailed (and frequently funny) insight into the life of the band.
Overall this is a DVD set that goes above and beyond to create an alluring package for fans. The concert alone is worth the price of admission with the twelve tracks all gems and the band clearly fired up to be playing to such a huge and responsive crowd. The bonus features are equally astonishing, and are the sort of thing that you’ll want to return to and dip into from time to time (there’s over three hours of footage). This is a well timed reminder that Exodus are more than capable of kicking it with the best of them.