Review Summary: Thrash lives.
Back in 1985, thrash metal was beginning to hit its peak. Bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, Exodus, Slayer, and Testament were beginning to gain worldwide recognition, and numerous other bands such as Death and Morbid Angel were just ready to hatch out of their shells. That was almost thirty years ago. Now, thrash is nearly gone. Metallica has opted to switch to a more traditional hard rock style, Megadeth hasn’t put out anything worthwhile for several years, Slayer has lost two of its founding members, and Anthrax hasn’t released any new studio material since 2011. But most of all, the key problem with the dying thrash scene is the fact that it lacks the key component of all heavy music: Energy
. Due to the fact that 90% of thrash metal bands that are still around are the same ones from the 80’s, they all sound tired and almost as though they simply don’t want to be there. After all, if you’re a 50+ year old man in a metal band, you’ve probably got bigger things to be concerned about than writing new music.
However, there are outliers for every genre, and Overkill is most certainly the outlier when it comes to thrash. While they had humble beginnings as one of the more underground members of the community, Overkill finally managed to gain more recognition with their 2010 release, Ironbound
. On their follow-up, The Electric Age
, Bobby and the boys showed no signs of slowing down, with yet more success in both critical and commercial fields, and continued to rigorously tour around the globe. So now, we reach 2014, and Overkill has released yet another album, entitled White Devil Armory
. After a string of disappointing releases from other popular thrash metal bands (*cough* Megadeth
*cough*), is it possible for Overkill to live up to the hype? Or have they bit off more than they can chew?
Not only did they blow away my expectations, they came back for another round and chokeslammed them into the ground.
You see, while the common complaint would obviously be that there’s a lack of variety on the album and with the band in general, this is thrash metal. Unless your band’s name is Coroner, you’re probably going to stick to the traditional formula. Because if there’s one genre where you can apply the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, it’s thrash. Derek Tailer’s riffs sound incredibly crisp and sharp, with Ron Lipnicki’s drumming following close behind. Dave Linsk’s strong soloing and occasional guitar leads also manage to keep the energy within the band flowing, as well as D.D. Verni’s aggressive bass riffs. However, there’s no way you can talk about an Overkill album without mentioning Bobby Ellsworth’s vocals. It’s rather odd, because the vocalist is usually a supporting member in a thrash metal band, since the music focuses mostly on guitars and drums. But Bobby delivers each and every lyric with a type of vigor rarely seen in any metal vocalists nowadays, much less a fifty-five year old man that’s been in the industry for over thirty years. In fact, I would go as far as to say that at some points, Bobby sounds even better than he did in the 80’s. Sure, the lyrics might be complete nonsense, but you’ll probably be too busy banging your head to notice. This is hard-hitting, adrenaline-fueled thrash, and the production job helps to make sure that point gets across. The guitars and drums are thunderously loud, the bass is sonorous, and Bobby’s powerful vocals rise above all else to instill an urge within the listener to immediately throw themselves into a mosh pit or headbang until they have whiplash.
Thrash metal is still a stagnant, faltering genre. With the lack of new blood to mix things up or add new ideas, fans are forced to rely on the big fish. But Overkill is proof that even age cannot hold back the power of an eager, enthusiastic, and hard-working band. Here’s to hoping that Bobby and the boys continue serving up excellent thrash for a long, long time to come.