Time really does fly. It feels like just yesterday, watching the Headbangers Ball on MTV, and some band called Overkill comes on with the video “In Union We Stand.” The name glowed in green with a skull bat logo (please cease and desist Avenged Sevenfold) draped on each side of the drum riser. The song had speed but also a hook in the chorus that had me singing it the next morning. It’s been over three decades since that introduction and now I’m staring at their 19th full-length album titled ‘The Wings Of War.’ Overkill climbed out of the New Jersey gutters with a determination to succeed and has been resilient against the trends and changing climates of the music industry. This latest offering shows no signs that this green and black thrash machine will slow down anytime soon. The new caveat to the equation is the addition of drummer Jason Bittner (Shadows Fall, Flotsam and Jetsam, Stigmata), and he turns in a crushing performance. Throughout the songs you continually notice how lethal the drums are. His playing and energy provided the spark to ignite the fuse on this record. The album will be released on Nuclear Blast on February 22 and once again features a brilliant cover design done by Travis Smith (Nevermore, Opeth, Soilwork, Death).
The first single, and opener, for the album is “Last Man Standing.” Two things immediately stand out. The sonic magnitude of the production comes through the speakers like sledgehammer and the bass tone from D.D. Verni. It’s a musical fingerprint that can be traced back to the bands beginning. The song itself is a vintage straight-ahead thrasher soaked in adrenaline and angst that captures the very essence of thrash. After a wicked drum intro by newcomer Jason Bittner, “Believe In The Fight”, rips forward. This song is one of my favorites. The vocal phrasing in the verses has vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth spitting venom with a sneer. The chorus has plenty of hook and the groove in undeniable.
“Head Of A Pin”, the second single, has quite a few layers to it. It starts with a slow thick riff before hitting the gas pedal to get the song moving. The chorus has a different approach and melody than I was expecting. It seemed a bit of an odd combination but it’s become more seamless with more listens. What really works is the transition around the midway point. The guitars veer into a classic thrash vibe that sucks you right back into the song. There is no confusing the intentions of “Bat Shit Crazy”. This is classic Overkill 101 except for one small, out of nowhere, section that gets psychedelic for a moment, but never fear, the intensity goes back to eleven quickly. This song, to me, harks back to the “From The Underground And Below” release. An album that does not get the accolade it deserves.
I’m putting the tag, epic, on the next song called “Distortion”. The bass introduction and majestic guitar solo begins the journey. Blitz plays off the bruising riffs to perfection and the driving chorus hits hard. This song has a different feel and relies on power as opposed to speed to hammer home its effect. The harmonizing guitar parts after the solo has a bit of an Iron Maiden feel to it and transition the song nicely. The chorus is basically one word, “Distortion,” and it sticks in your head. This is definitely one of the standouts on the album. The tempo goes wide open on “A Mother’s Prayer”. There isn’t much give in this one, as it stays strict to its blueprint that revolves around attitude and speed. ‘Welcome To The Garden State” brings another texture and flavor to the album. This a straight up punk song played with a thrashers mentality. Punk music has always had an influence on Overkill and this song showcases it. This song reminds of “Old School,” a song that appeared on the ‘Relixiv’ album. The song roars along with clever lyrics about New Jersey and an addicting chorus. The section after the solo is the catchiest moment of the entire record. If you’re not moving and grooving while it’s playing…I can’t help you any further. “Welcome to the garden state, come on in the waters great”, exclaims Blitz, so I suggest you dive into this one.
“Where Few Dare To Walk” was another instant favorite of mine. The haunting and dark intro leads into a pulsating riff and the rhythm grabs you instantly. The song reminds me a bit of “Gasoline Dream” with how the bass carries through the verses as the guitars fade in and out. Blitz shines on this song and even comes close to hitting out a couple guttural screams. The guitar solo near the end of the song will catch your ear as its pretty unique sounding. One of the fastest songs on the album is “Out On The Road-Kill.” The mission on this one is to destroy everything that gets in its way. The same can be said for the closing track “Hole In My Soul.” This is another song where the throttle is pushed all the way down. Through the chaos there are moments where the groove takes a hold just long enough for you to grab on to it but eventually its swept away underneath the sheer aggressiveness of the verses.
I don’t think there has been a more consistent thrash band than Overkill. Through nineteen albums they have stayed true to themselves and the fans that have supported them. They have never detoured musically or chased musical trends and continue to stay drenched in the elements of thrash. ‘The Wings Of War’ contains everything you would want, and expect, from them. There is speed to burn throughout the album but it’s the fusion of punk, groove, and catchy hooks that separates Overkill from the pack. This album won’t disappoint and it’s ten more songs to keep “Wrecking You Neck” to.
Pre-Order Available Here: nuclearblast.com/overkill-thewingsofwar
OVERKILL Wings Over The USA 2019 Tour with DEATH ANGEL & ACT OF DEFIANCE are:
4/25/2019 Sound Stage/ Rams Head – Baltimore, MD
4/26/2019 Theater of the Living Arts – Philadelphia, PA
4/27/2019 Rex Theater – Pittsburgh, PA
4/28/2019 House of Blues – Cleveland, OH
4/29/2019 Mercury Ballroom – Louisville, KY
4/30/2019 St Andrews Hall – Detroit, MI
5/01/2019 Intersection – Grand Rapids, MI
5/02/2019 House of Blues – Chicago, IL
5/03/2019 Varsity Theater – Minneapolis, MN
5/04/2019 The Rave – Milwaukee, WI
5/05/2019 Delmar Hall – St Louis, MO
5/06/2019 The Cannery Ballroom – Nashville, TN
5/08/2019 Bogarts – Cincinnati, OH
5/09/2019 Montage Music Hall – Rochester, NY
5/10/2019 PlayStation Theater – New York, NY **w/ Life Of Agony
5/11/2019 Paradise – Boston, MA