Review Summary: *Insert witty puns about wheels and grinding here*
Over the course of the last 37 years Overkill has produced eighteen studio releases. Let that settle in a bit. Their subject matter has meandered between comical, political and (lyrically) downright hysterical. It is a cliché phrase, but Overkill always sounds like; well, Overkill. This in itself is not a bad thing. This far into their career I am not looking for Blitz and company to reinvent the wheel (see, I knew that pun was in there somewhere!). After a slight delay in release 2017 finds the band grinding out (hah!) another quality album.
Aside from perennial founders Blitz (whose voice seems eternal at this point) and DD the band finally seems to have found some membership stability. Linsk, Tailer and Lipnicki all return for their 5th studio album release. This is the most longevity for a single lineup over the bands entire career, and maybe their most consistent so far. Without delving too far into the past the last three releases have been on the higher side quality wise. Ironbound was a monster comeback, The Electric Age was solid (and excellently fast paced) and White Devil Armory was interesting to say the least. The latter may have been the weakest of the three. As a fan of the band I was a little bored by its lack of depth. Overkill has always kept their thrash roots firmly in check but I have always loved them best when they mixed in some groove and dark malevolence into the mix. It is the return of this deviance from pure speed that sets The Grinding Wheel above their more recent releases.
Over the 11 tracks (get the bonus edition for some Thin Lizzy love) the band delves into almost every aspect of their previous 17 releases. Thankfully any attempts at a ballad has been left behind (hey, Promises wasn’t a terrible song…). What they did bring back from the grave was their ability to temper the speed of things with some lovely groove oriented thrash and an undercurrent of their classic metal roots. . Initial single Our Finest Hour for example; shreds for the first four minutes or so before dropping into a killer riffed out bridge with an excellent vocal hook. You do not hear a lot about Linsk and Tailer but they write some excellent hooks on this one. Shine On and Come Heavy are absolute stand outs. Lipnicki is an excellent drummer, and the best the band has seen since Sid Falk sat behind the kit. Thankfully he has been mixed much better on The Grinding Wheel, and sounds much less mechanical than the last few albums. DD Verni should get a lot more credit as a bass player, and again his playing shines through. Like past releases the bass is not subtle in the mix, but it is well tempered and readily present when needed.
Bobby Blitz has always been the polarizing factor with Overkill. Loud, abrasive and obnoxious as ever one has to wonder what deal with the devil he has made to keep up as he does. I will say this, his vocals here are more reminiscent of what he did on some of the band’s 90s work. Lyrically The Grinding Wheel is a step above recent efforts, though I am surprised the Bobby kept a lot of his political views out of the content. The title track is a killer example of all he has to offer and has a stellar ‘Years of Decay’ vibe to it. Featuring every weapon in his arsenal from high pitched shrieks to some downright eerie chanting and spoken word at the end. A really excellent throwback to the band’s past.
My only complaints with this album is that it does get a little repetitive in the middle and some of the songs could have been simplified. The Long Road and Let’s All Go to Hades are not bad tracks, but lack any distinguishing shine compared to the stand out songs here. After repeat runs of the albums I still cannot find anything terribly redeeming about them. Overall though this is Overkill running at top speed. Aside from a few mid album sleepers this is maybe my favorite from them since WFO. Sharing more in common with that release than anything over the last 10 years. The Grinding Wheel and Come Heavy are stand out tracks and deserve some respect. 37 year and counting and we find Overkill doing more than releasing “just another Overkill Album”.