Almost two years to the day since their last LP, the awesome The Grinding Wheel, old-skool thrashers Overkill have returned to get the patched denim jacket masses’ heads banging again. If the band’s knack for consistently crafting thrashterpieces is anything the go by, the latest album – The Wings of War – is certain to do just that.
Opener “Last Man Standing” sets the tone with a pulsing industrial intro that builds into some straight-up simple thrash riffing. The catchy sing-along chorus sticks in the banging head on first listen. Overkill proving again straight off the bat that their natural knack for writing simple yet incredibly hooky bangers is showing no sign of slowing down. The band waste no time in launching into “Believe in the Fight” which continues the trend of hooky riffs and lyrics. There’s a more melodic flair to the track, particularly in the chorus before the grittier mid-section hits, chock-full of shout-a-long moments.
“Head of a Pin” brings things down to a bluesy tonality, blending swinging beats with groovy guitars and another catchy chorus courtesy of frontman Bobby Blitz. The middle displays Overkill’s crunchy side with a great fuzzy guitar sound and more animated vocal gymnastics. Returning to the thrashing tempos is new pit banger “Batshit Crazy”.The pace on the whole is mid-paced thrash though it’s not hard to imagine the mosh pit in motion with the crushing riffs. One of the real standout moments is the middle where the band opt for mysterious arpeggios, tense rim-shot drumming and softer vocals, embellished with light effects to create a building atmosphere. A brief moment of silence is followed by proper thrashing rhythms and wailing solos. There’s certainly a fun mosh to be had when the new songs hit the stage on Overkill’s upcoming tours – “Everybody going Batshit Crazy” indeed.
The arpeggio ideas continue in the intro to “Distortion”, with its melancholic melodies and piano accompaniment. The bass and guitars come in with a tense intro then guitarists Derek Tailer and Dave Linsk throw a curveball into a heavy groove riff. It’s hard not to headbang along with catchy bluesy groove. The band are sounding as good as ever with solid performances from all members. New drummer Jason Bittner fits in well, hitting the skins with precision, his reputable thrash credentials making him a perfect fit for Overkill. “A Mother’s Prayer” sees the band adopting a classic New Wave of British Heavy Metal vibe, before launching into their latest punk-fuelled anthem “Welcome to the Garden State”. The lyrics are a little cheesy but that’s the tune’s charm. The raw energy, the sense of fun and Overkill’s unashamed pride of where they come from makes for a joyously headbanging listen.
The closing stretch of The Wings of War sees a return to heavier territory with the trio of “Where Few Dare to Walk”, “Out on the Road-Kill” and “Hole in My Soul”. The moody atmosphere of “Where Few Dare to Walk” gives D.D. Verni another moment in the spotlight before the following blasts of thrash. “Out on the Road-Kill” balances returning bluesy ideas and all out punk-thrash before “Hole in My Soul”’s moshing finalé of banging riffs.
Overall, The Wings of War is Overkill doing what they do, and doing it well. It doesn’t reinvent the grinding wheel and it doesn’t need to. There’s plenty of old-skool spirit, and blending signature Overkill ideas – simplicity, punk, rock ‘n’ roll, standout bass moments and catchy melodies – all into a solid disc of pure unadulterated metal. Overkill have consistently turned out great modern thrash albums in recent years, and their 19th is no different. When they say “Don’t fuck with a Jersey Devil”, Overkill certainly ain’t lying…
The Wings of War is out now