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Review by Rick Ossian
This is not just a review. Ah, but then, this is not just an album. Not just any old recording. Anybody who was dismayed about the downfall of thrash metal can rest easy. Overkill have released a proclamation of thrash reigning supreme with this, their latest release. The mere fact that they have this level of energy after 30 years of rocking and slogging it out amidst the metal masses is simply remarkable.
Not only am I recommending this CD – I am going to promote it to the best of my ability amongst the thrash metal community in my little burg. With any luck, this diatribe and any buzz I can generate will bring the boys to Nebraska!
To begin with, a bit of history may suffice. Overkill hail from Old Bridge Township in New Jersey. They have been slamming for 30 years now, and their current line-up is as follows: Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth on vocals, D.D. Verni on bass, Dave Linsk on lead guitar, Derek ‘The Skull’ Tailer on rhythm guitar and Ron Lipnicki on drums.
There are basically two different kinds of tunes on this disc. Well, three if you count the intro (XDM), which is kind a new age doom intro, for lack of a better description. Though I hate pigeon-holing, per se, there are two other categories here: 1) Longer tunes and, 2) shorter tunes. The latter are what bugs me, but you already know why – I wish they were longer! The former are wonderful in my eyes because, alas, they are longer. In fact, a couple of the longer tunes almost belie a bit of progressive leaning. The fact that they are quasi-proggy makes me enjoy them all that much more. Let us delve into the batch!
The shorter numbers include the first slammer, Armorist. All I can say about this one is just hang on to your hat, because you are in for a ride. This track is nothing less than a double-time thrash-tastic triumph! Down to the Bone borders on what we will refer to as ‘prog-thrash’ – not necessarily in the classic, time-honoured traditions that we all know and love. When Overkill get proggy on your ass, it’s not because they’ve gone soft. They just need a more sophisticated way of getting their musical point(s) across, if you will. Bone is that rare critter that is both quick and progressive. I found myself banging and bobbing my head and other body parts during this number. There is an excellent guitar solo at the 2:45 mark, then back into the slamming double-time again. A wicked maniacal laugh closes this one.
Pig is basically another Riff City, simplistically speaking. Drums, guitar and bass abound in deluxe mode on the intro. This is an all-out aural assault attack on the senses. My favourite lyrical passage here goes like so: ‘Fillin’ up the black hole/countin’ up the devil toll/Welcome to the rodeo/Got you on the video’. Not sure why I like it, just know that I do!
Bitter Pill is one of the longer numbers, but at 5:48 sort of rides the fence. There is a creepy-cool guitar into, then almost prog-style thrash again. Some very busy drumming going on, and straight vocals for the most part. There is stand-up power here in Blitz’s voice, however. At one point he bellows “OPEN UP WIDE AND SWALLOW”, and we almost want to, don’t we? Fave vocal passage here is ‘Knock down/Turn around/Double down/ Break your neck‘. At the 3-minute mark there is a brief instrumental passage, a breakdown of sorts. Then the boys shift gears, and at 4 minutes a completely savage shredding solo turns melodic, then increases power at the 4:30 point. This track alone is worth the ride!
Where There’s Smoke finds up back amidst the shorter, double-time slammings, if you will. Of course, where there’s smoke, there’s fire! (surprise) At the 1:50 mark they shift gears again, and at 3:15 there is another bonkers solo. Absolutely blazing shredding going on here. At 3:55 we are back into the slam, and did I mention there are some killer little bass fills here? Hooray for DD!
Freedom Rings is, at just shy of 7 minutes, falls of course into the epic category. It is long and prog-esque again, but doesn’t fall into boring noodling or anything that would normally make us go ho-hum. There is almost a lead bass solo intro here, a very cool lick by the way, and we find ourselves cheering for DD again! The drum build into the main riff is a thing of beauty. At 4:20 the fellows shift gears AGAIN, and at 5:20 there is more shredding of the fretboard(s). At 6 minutes or so we are back into the slam, and Blitz screams “FREEDOM WILL RING“, just in case we missed the point.
Another Day sort of rides the fence again in terms of length, just under five minutes, but is no dud by any stretch of the imagination. I was reminded, by turns, of the Beatles (??) ‘Helter Skelter’ track at the intro, then a bit of Testament and Anthrax here and there. There is a neat riff at the intro to start us of, and our main character (‘a stone cold killer’) appears to be on the rampage. I found my head banging and bobbing a bit again when this track came on. You will hear why when you listen! “No voodoo child/No loaded gun”, yells Blitz, PLUS he uses those famous expletives that I adore so much! “Take your chances/For the Reaper to pass by“, shouts Blitz, warning us that, to this fellow, killing is just another part of another day! The phased atmospheric riffs about midway through are a nice touch also. At the 3:40 point there is yet another shredding steamer of a guitar solo, then back into the slam at about 4:15. Some very moving passages here as well.
King of the Rat Bastards is wonderful! The title alone is worthy of mention, and the headlong thrash(ing) tempo just adds credo to the sheer force of this number. As I mentioned before, for these blokes to have this kind of energy after 30 years is simply remarkable. Broken record, Rick! Sorry, couldn’t help it! By the way, at the 2:30 point there is another guitar solo, then after totally shredding the boards again, they slam back at us at about 3 minutes or so. This is just another day – of the RAT BASTARDS! Blitz had to scream at the close again to remind us, but it IS an inspiring scream!
It’s All Yours is another shorter number, but a cautionary tale nonetheless. ‘It’s all yours to keep/Don’t give it away’, warns Blitz. This track is another heavy, mid-tempo number. It has some nice riffing throughout. Our protagonist has ‘a bulls-eye on his heart’. I really liked that line for some reason. Cool image. There is another guitar solo here (surprise!), and an instrumental breakdown of sorts with some very cool drum fills. More shredding at the 2:50 mark, and some of that exciting, stand-up power again! Man, I need some new words!
In the Name is the closer, and at just over 6 minutes is another of the more prog-esque tracks. For lack of a better word, this is regal thrash. Again, you will understand when you hear it. Which, by the way, I HIGHLY recommend that you do! ‘In the name of the father/In the name of his dying son/In the name of why we fight’ - I am just digging the lyrics again. Not the most profound of statements, mind you, but they work very well. In the name of the nation is another bit I found repetitive but effective nonetheless. A guitar solo and some barre chords and an ending jam that rivals anything on here, and soldiers chanting close out this last track.
I find myself a renewed, excited thrash fan after this listen. I am seriously considering diving into the Overkill back catalogue to see what I’ve missed over the years. Do yourself a favour – buy this CD. That is all!