Review Summary: Overkill takes a small but enjoyable step back in "Under the Influence"
Hailing from New Jersey, Overkill formed in 1980 making them one of the earliest thrash bands to come into existence. The band is also one of the most stable and active thrash bands, having played together for nearly 33 years. For 1988 Overkill would be experiencing its first line-up change in their recording career, as drummer Rat Skates left the band following the tour in support of "Taking Over". Rat would be replaced by drummer Sid Falck. This is also regarded as the album that broke Overkill into the mainstream, as the band received heavy rotation on MTV's Headbangers Ball with "Hello from the Gutter".
There is one notable difference from "Taking Over", gone is the squeaky clean production, as it is replaced by a raw and grittier sound courtesy of a new production team. The album also lacks some of the technical songwriting found on "Taking Over", and instead the band focuses on catchy and accessible thrash with "Hello from the Gutter" being a prime example. The album is full of energy right from the start, with fiery guitar riffs and pounding drums. The band remains very aggressive and intense, if yet theatrical at times especially on songs like "Never Say Never" and "The End of the Line". The album sticks to the basic thrash metal formula, with the exception of "Drunken Wisdom" which is slowed down in favor of a more groove oriented sound. Although the band did take a small step back with regards to technical songwriting, the music is still very enjoyable and full of energy.
While each member is skilled in their own right, the production can occasionally leave much to be desired. The bass is unnecessarily loud, and while it sounds nice, it overtakes the guitars in some places and could have been turned down a notch. On the other hand the guitars sound as menacing as ever, with clever riffs and skillfully executed solos. The new drummer Sid Falck also makes a fine debut, with his tight drumming backing up the rest of the band perfectly. However, one issue has always been hit or miss for thrash fans, and that is the vocals that come with an Overkill album. Bobby "Blitz" has a very unique and signature approach to singing. His voice is pretty raspy and overdone some times, but he has very impressive range and power. You either like the vocals or you can’t stand them. Despite this issue, the music remains unchallenged due to the bands impressive skills and songwriting.
Overkill has never made an awful album, and this record continues the tradition. Though this album is often regarded as one of their weaker efforts, this album catapulted the band to the front lines of thrash and there are still a lot of heavy and fun times to be found within. Less technical and polished, but more raw and aggressive, this album will undoubtedly satisfy fans, but newcomers should start with some of the bands more well-known efforts.
- Never Say Never
- Hello from the Gutter
- Overkill III (Under the Influence)
Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth - vocals
Bobby Gustafson - guitar
Sid Falck - drums
D.D. Verni - bass
Produced by: Overkill, Alex Perialas, Jon Zazula, Marsha Zazula
Engineered by: Alex Perialas, Rob Hunter
Mixed By; Michael Wagener, Lori Fumar
Mastering by: George Marino
Recorded: March-April 1988
Label: Megaforce Records