Review Summary: Grooverkill. Not exactly the band's classic kind of killing, but still an excellent and consistent effort.
From the 1991's masterpiece Horrorscope
, to the sudden orientation towards groove metal and, to a lesser extent, classic rock with I Hear Black
, followed by a powerful, manly punch on the table with the motorcyclist-thrash-monster W.F.O.
, it could be said that, up to this point, New Jersey thrashers Overkill knew how to move correctly during the 90s despite having some changes in the band’s lineup. After the W.F.O. tour and the release of its respective live album Wrecking Your Neck
, Overkill army suffered not one, but two great losses in the middle of the road. Both guitarists Rob Cannavino and Merritt Gant suddenly jumped ship mainly to spend more time in more personal things. Thus DD Verni and co. proceeded to look for new and juvenile blood for the band’s sound. The result of this, though, was thoroughly unpredictable; their choices ended up being ex-Anvil guitarist Sebastian Marino and, as strange as it may seem, ex-Liege Lord singer
Joe Comeau went on to take the six strings’ labor during his brief stay with the band. 1996. A new lineup, a new record label and with it, a new album: The Killing Kind
If you mix the groove metal approach of I Hear Black
with the speedy, fierce and badass attitude on W.F.O.
, plus some modern (back then) production values, what you’ll get is The Killing Kind
. Musically this album follows more the path of the 1994’s opus, since the riffage still has part of the muscular, street and heavy vibe that abounded on such killer classics as ''Fast Junkie'', ''They Eat Their Young'', ''Supersonic Hate'' or ''Gasoline Dream''. In addition, the band doesn’t throw so many slow, somewhat bluesy numbers to the listener compared to I Hear Black
, which in that respect contained songs like ''Shades of Grey'', ''Spiritual Void'' or ''Ignorance & Innocence''; all of them slow, dark and a little atypical of Overkill, yet so energetic, irresistible and entertaining at the same time. Instead, New Jersey thrashers keep focusing on adding grit, power and fun to their compositions, and lyrically this album features lots of tough posturing, as evidenced on ''Let Me Shut That for You'' and especially ''Certifiable'' ('YOU BETTER! LET ME! IN! MOTHER***ER!!!'
Some people argue to find a few industrial influences as well, but unlike Kreator’s Renewal
(another 90s album where a thrash legend added industrial flavors to its compositions), instrumentally and vocally the band didn’t change as radically as Petrozza and his comrades, so the industrial elements are mostly aesthetical and limited to the occasional appearance of samples, Blitz’s sudden fascination with vocal effects and an obscure, somber vibe that the production and arrangements give in a couple of songs. All these elements take prominence mainly in the opening ''Battle'', which features a combination of a robotic, mechanical stop-and-go riffing in the verses, a metallic rhythmic drum pattern and lots of ''yeah'' chants thrown by Blitz after every line during the verse melody. This would be a very awkward combination if it weren’t for the great dose of anthemic power it contains, mainly courtesy of the bite and force provided by the riffing as well as the marching rhythm section and the way Blitz menacingly sings the verses (using his low guttural vocal style in parts) and the chorus ('The battle… the war!'
), so it can stick around as one of the album’s highlights.
There are also a couple of tunes that try to give a slight change to Kill’s usual mood and formula. ''The Morning After/Private Bleeding'' is the obvious example of it as it’s an obscure and polished piano ballad with Blitz showcasing his abilities as a clean, more down-to-earth singer while being backed-up by some occasional synthesized string arrangements, creating a sincere, nostalgic and plausible atmosphere without losing their characteristic edge. The other one, ''Burn You Down – To Ashes'', builds up a bleak and mysterious vibe in its almost seven minutes, undoubtedly the song where you can feel the influence that early Black Sabbath had in the New Jersey quintet. This sort of atmosphere can be breathed as well on ''Let Me Shut That for You'' which, posturing aside, is an interesting alchemy between Overkill’s typical fun wildness, gang shouts and a hypnotizing, dark acoustic vocal section in the middle.
Nevertheless, this is still an Overkill album. ''God-Like'' is relentlessly fast and mean from the start and packs a rebellious 80s thrash vibe thanks to its frenetic guitar playing, and although the bass is not as loud and raw as on W.F.O.
, largely because the production mixes comfortably all the instruments at the same level, that doesn’t mean good old DD Verni has forgotten to give a couple of lessons on how to play bass. His rapid and killing playing style contains the same energy and bite it had on the previous studio effort, and songs like the insane ''Certifiable'', with its inhuman tempo changes and the band becoming an unstoppable two-headed beast, or the powerful and entertaining instrumental ''Feeding Frenzy'' do nothing but prove it. No doubt that these two tracks are a good gift for both Kill fans and bass players in general.
Vocally it’s not a surprise that Bobby ''Blitz'' Ellsworth gives impressive performances with his raspy, over-the-top style in all the songs. However, it’s not a secret that Blitz’s vocals aren’t everyone’s personal cup of coffee, and considering that he began to experiment with his vocals through all kinds of weird and funny samples, effects and gang shouts (the aforementioned ''yeahs'' on ''Battle'', the amusing, B-horror-movie-like ''Whoa!'' scream during the chorus of ''Certifiable'' or the ''Jesus cleanse me now!'' vocal coda of ''The Cleansing''), listening to The Killing Kind
may be a hard task for someone who’s not used to his insane and unique vocal style.
All in all, while The Killing Kind
is far from being one of the first Overkill albums you should look for (that’s too obvious) or one of the first 90s Kill efforts you need to get (those are the magisterial Horrorscope
, plus possibly From the Underground and Below
if you want to appreciate the band’s most aggressive side during its groovy days), that doesn’t mean it’s completely worthless or disposable as some people state. If you already consumed the aforementioned three studio albums and you have more appetite for Grooverkill, then The Killing Kind
can satisfy your needs.