Review Summary: Aggressive and diverse, Overcast's "Reborn to Kill Again" shows us where metalcore came from...
Upon listening to Overcast without previous introduction to the band, most would say “Hey, this sounds like Killswitch Engage with a different singer” or the more intuitive fan might think “Weird, this sounds just like Killswitch with Shadows Fall’s singer”. The latter would basically be correct as these metalcore innovators from Massachusetts boast both KSE bassist Mike D’Antonio as well as Shadows Fall frontman Brian Fair. The band plays a punked-up version of metalcore that has been emulated by countless bands in the now over-saturated metalcore genre. Considering the majority of the songs on “Reborn to Kill Again” were written between 1991 and 1998, it is impossible to deny the impact this band has had on the genre collectively, for better or worse.
All the sounds indicative of East Coast metalcore bands (Unearth, Killswitch, Shadows Fall, Shai Hulud, et cetera) can be found in their embryonic form on the tracks constituting “Reborn to Kill Again”. The guitars are groove-laden and diverse. There is little to no repetition in the riffs found on this album. All the common features of metalcore are evident here such as duel guitar leads, half-speed breakdowns (Pantera’s influence is clear here), gang vocals, and even some solos (“Spun”, “Bleed Into One”). Even a casual listener will easily discover that the foundations of both Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall’s music are present here. This is what makes this album not only an interesting piece of audible modern metal history but a cornerstone of the 21st century metalcore sound. Unique in relation to the current metalcore sound in “Reborn to Kill Again” is the obvious punk influence. Tracks such as “Root Bound Apollo” and “As a Whole/Two Degrees Below” demonstrate a disregard for precision technicality in exchange for a raw-sounding, frenetic pace which was apparently dropped in the modern manifestation of the now maligned metalcore scene. If you enjoy melodic riffing in any form, “Reborn to Kill Again” is a veritable treasure trove and should not be overlooked.
The most interesting part of Overcast’s sound is the prevalence of the bass not only in the mix but as a central instrument in the comprehensive sound. This is not too shocking given D’Antonio’s current status and popularity in Killswitch Engage but for a metalcore record, it’s a pleasant surprise. D’Antonio’s basslines provide the rhythmic template for many tracks including “Diluted Inertia/Grifter”, “As a Whole/Two Degrees Below”, the instrumental “Styrofoam Death Machine”, and “Fate’s Design”. The bass is also high in the mix, allowing the listener to appreciate the bass for its significant contribution to the overall sound Overcast present.
The drumming on “Reborn to Kill Again” simply suits the music. It is nothing truly special but, just like Killswitch Engage, frequent changes in timing and a conscious effort to lay off the persistent double-bass, double-time snare hits lends a shifting quality to the music which keeps it from becoming a uniform blur of sound. The changes in tempo on this record are quick, effective, and unpredictable, keeping the listener interested and attentive.
Concerning the vocals, if you’re a fan of Shadows Fall, you’ll be a fan of Overcast. Brian Fair’s appreciable range is as evident as ever on “Reborn to Kill Again”. His growls/screams are intense as ever and it’s obvious that Fair’s style has had a lasting impact on metalcore vocalists over the past 10 years. The un-Pro Tooled/auto-tuned nature of the vocal production on this record enhances the aggressive streak running through “Reborn to Kill Again” instead of detracting from the otherwise pristine nature of the album.
Given the context that this is a band which existed in a time when “metalcore” didn’t, this is an excellent album. Take away the fact that Overcast essentially birthed two of the most prevalent bands in the scene and “Reborn to Kill Again” is still a high-impact record. It is undeniable in its intensity and superiority in terms of the song structure and execution. So take a trip down memory lane and try to remember a time when metalcore didn’t exist to you (whether you currently love it or hate it) and put in “Reborn to Kill Again”. Chances are you’ll feel not only refreshed (if metalcore is wearing down your soul currently) but amazed by how many bands today are still attempting to replicate their sound. If you have even a fleeting interest in the roots of today’s metalcore scene or are a fan of either Killswitch Engage or Shadows Fall (or any current metalcore act for that matter), give “Reborn to Kill Again” a listen and be prepared to learn a lesson about where and when hardcore and metal first met.