Review Summary: A last gasp of air before heading into the suffocating funk that Overkill wallowed in for the ensuing thirteen years, Underground is a worthwhile release that gets lost in the bands massive catalogue.
Hi, I am the Black Llama and I am an Overkill junkie. Getting that out of the way, I have listened to a lot of Overkill over my 34 years of life and the bands (nearing) 40 years. There have been highs and lows and everything in between. From their punk thrash roots of the early 80’s the band evolved into a thrash powerhouse in the late 80’s and early 90’s peaking in 1991 with the release of Horrorscope. The albums that followed were all excellent in their own right, but that is a hard mountain to climb, and the band would not do so again until 2010. One cannot simply write off the bands work between those two separate peaks, there were a lot of fine offerings during that time period. That brings us to Overkill in 1997. Music and metal in particular were going in odd directions. Power metal was starting to rise from bands overseas and in the US post grunge and nu metal were taking over the landscape.
After releasing Horrorscope Blitz and the boys had been playing around with different styles on each record. While they all maintained the feel of an “Overkill” album, each brought a mixture of new and old elements to the table. From the groove oriented pace of I Hear Black
to the very thrashy W.F.O.
followed by the modern (at the time) influences that were heard on The Killing Kind
they were always a band that was willing to throw something new into the mix. From the Underground and Below was a rare bird even for a band prone to experimenting with their sound.
Retaining drummer Tim Mallare (whose work really shines on this release) Blitz and DD kept the guitar duo of Sebastian Marino (former Anvil) and relative new-comer Joe Comeau. The frantic riffage and blues based soloing of both brings this album to life and the blend of thrash and groove make for an excellent listening experience. It’s hard to find new things to say about the bass stylings of one DD Verni, he is the dark, beating heart of this band, and this release is no different from any other. Blitz pours out the vitriol on this release, and some of his grittiest song writing is on display here. Long Time Dying is one of the best, shout along songs that Overkill has put out on over 16 albums. An interesting note here is the 2nd to last song, Promises which is a straight up metal ballad. Yes, Overkill recorded a ballad (don’t worry mom, it’s still heavy) and in a rare feat they actually manage to make it sincere and plausible. The guitar tone on this release is top notch. Concentric layers of warmth and heaviness make it sound as if there are 10 guitarists playing on this release instead of two.
It is a shame that this album is so easily lost in Overkill’s catalogue. It is an overlooked gem that had it been released at a different time would have garnered the attention it deserves.