Overkill - The Wings Of War - (9/10)
Published on January 31, 2019
Everybody’s going bat shit crazy!
Very few things in life are constant and eternal. There’s death, corruption, taxes, re-runs of Friends – and Overkill. Over-fuckin’-kill. New Jersey’s finest. Chalie and co. The wrecking crew. Blitz, DD, Derek The Skull & Dave Linsk. A new album from these guys is like a homecoming party. Familiar, yet never fails to deliver on both attitude and pure metal to keep you coming back for more, year after year. What is this, the 20th full-length? Man, these fuckers are unstoppable! Overkill have never put out a truly ‘bad’ album. Even in the groove-infested ’90s the East Coast quintet managed to out-groove every groove band out there. Since returning to their thrash-centric ways in 2010, they’ve run victory lap after victory lap with a steady stream of releases… but those groove elements have slowly crept their way back in… and I could not be happier about that. The Grinding Wheel was as solid as a solid thing, but The Wings Of War sees Chalie spreading his bat-wings to slightly more exploratory musical realms.
There has been a new addition to the family: ex-Flotsam & Jetsam and Shadows Fall skin-basher Jason Bittner. Initial listening might convince you that he’s had a hand in the songwriting for this record. Either way, he kicks ass throughout The Wings Of War, dropping seriously swinging grooves but maintaining Overkill’s instinctive balls-to-the-wall breakneck speed with finesse. For the other players, it’s business as usual. DD’s bass isn’t as forward in the mix as in previous years, but Derek and Dave’s buzzsaw guitar tone is delightful – and they bought a serious bag o’ riffs with them this time around. Check out the main riff to “Hole In My Soul” – pure thrash the way only Overkill can do. Then, of course, there’s Bobby Ellsworth. Good ol’ Blitz sneers, snarls and shrieks away like a fuckin’ banshee with that trademark New Jersey attitude. Those screams at the end of “Head Of A Pin”? You wouldn’t believe this was a guy nearing his 60th birthday. When he’s backed up by gang-shouts, the result is deliciously fun – giving this record a Killing Kind vibe.
So, the main focal point of The Wings Of War is the integration of more groove elements. They haven’t made the full cross into perfectly fused groove/thrash like on Bloodletting or Killbox 13, but there are individual cuts which can be classed as full-on groove metal amongst the clamour of high-quality thrash. Second single “Head Of A Pin” is a multi-faceted bluesy swinger reminiscent of “Come Heavy”; “Distortion” is the longest track on offer, providing us with a real hammer of a riff and thick layers; and “Where Few Dare To Walk” is a brooding, menacing crawler with a beastly performance by Blitz. The rest are definitely thrash-oriented, but with occasional blasts of welcoming mid-paced groove, such as the thuggish ‘ONE! TWO! GEEET IT RIGHT!’ section of “Believe In The Fight”, or the utterly irresistible chorus to “Bat Shit Crazy”. Seriously, you’re gonna wanna have that refrain on repeat for hours.
This record is full of highlights; individual moments that elevate it above the consistency of 2017’s The Grinding Wheel. Sure, it may be missing an epic doom cut like ”Skullkrusher” or ”Horrorscope”, but with the boisterous anthem “Welcome To The Garden State” (this album’s version of “Old School”) there’s more than enough to shout about. In fact, this track should replace “In Union We Stand” as a live staple. Admittedly, “A Mother’s Prayer” comes across as mildly forgettable, but there’s so much more! There’s the technical stop/start intro to “Out On The Road-Kill”, the all-out thrash assault of ”Last Man Standing”, and the punch-in-the-face ending of “Distortion” (seriously, those last two seconds are gold!). Thankfully, this record has moved away from the copy/paste production values of the 2010-2017 era and definitely holds its own sound.
Overkill are probably my favourite band of all time, and thus I should be incredibly critical. But I can’t help it if the Jersey Devils keep cranking out gem after gem! Go buy The Wings Of War. It’s Overkill. They came to shred, and true to their word, regular as clockwork, the wrecking crew are back, year after year, kickin’ our asses from here to the gutter. Put on ya bold face!
‘Welcome to the garden state,
The best damn place in the U.S.A!
You may not agree, you bitch and you moan.
I’ve been everywhere but it’s never like home!”