How long can a band possibly survive artistically when treading water in a genre which has long ago passed its prime? If you take a simple glance at bands like MEGADETH, KREATOR, METALLICA and ANTHRAX, the decay of Thrash Metal is readily apparent. Each and every one of these bands has committed itself to forsaking Thrash as a whole, by either adopting melodic/Gothenburg elements or by merely turning soft and letting the groove over-take the Thrash. OVERKILL stand as a defiant testimony to the fact that Thrash is indeed dead only if you allow it to be.
“Bloodletting” as well as “Killbox 13” were pretty damn strong coming from a band that has been around as long as it has and flirted with groove in the latter middle-half of its career. “ReliXIV” is the 14th disc this blue-collared Thrash band has given birth to and Blitz and Verni have still remained true to their roots. Everything to make a Thrash album succeed is found here in various amounts; including breakneck speed, monstrous riffs and crushing double bass drumming. Indeed, the only factor holding this album back from being one of ‘KILL’s strongest releases is the fact that they still cannot completely shake that groove monkey off their back.
First let’s discuss where this album truly crushes and gets the listener’s head-banging. Blitz’s vocal work is what we have come to expect and well above par in comparison to his peers in the scene. How someone’s voice can hold up for so damn long is beyond me but this man is truly one of Metal’s greats. D.D. Verni is…well, D.D. Verni. Excellent bass-lines can be expected and excellent compositional skills are brought to the table like always. Those two aforementioned elements are the standard building blocks of every album in the band’s discography and are only enhanced ten-fold when given the excellent chops of the musicians these guys surround themselves with.
The most unique aspect of “ReliXIV” is definitely Tim Mallare’s drumming. His work has always been solid behind the kit, but he seems to have revitalized himself before the recording of this album and has brought a new intensity to the studio. The double-bass work combined with a plethora of unique and tantalizing fills gets my hair standing on end and reminds me why I picked up the sticks in the first place.
The riff work on the album is excellent. Logic seems to dictate that after this many years a band would surely have to start recycling riffs as who could possibly have that deep of a creative pocket? This is not the first time OVERKILL have defied reason, as Linsk and Tailer shred relentlessly. The riffs come across as completely ‘KILL, yet remain fresh and exciting as the first time you heard “Feel The Fire”. The energetic intensity flowing from the razor-sharp guitar-work makes it well and clear that after two decades these guys are still enjoying themselves and staying true to Metal.
So where does this album fail exactly? Well, the second track on the album, “Love”, is the first sign that the groove has returned. Mixing groove with Thrash is like taking a huge bite out of the most delicious sandwich possible and crunching into gigantic, horrendous, crunchy feces. Tasty? Didn’t think so.
This groove monster returns in trace amounts throughout the album, manifesting itself primarily in a riff or two which lowers the overall intensity of the particular composition. Luckily, for the most part, this groove keeps itself to a subtle minimum and is overtaken by the intensity of actual Thrash in most instances. Of course “Love” can always be skipped, as that remains the bad apple in this bunch. It is also worth mentioning that the final track, “Old School” is something completely different for this band. No it is not Thrash. Yes it is two parts OVERKILL and one part FLOGGING MOLLY. And YES It does Rock quite hard.
It is 2005 and we see less than a dozen quality Thrash albums released annually. Hence, when OVERKILL gives us another solid slab of intensity we must devour it like a pack of rabid dogs. Check out tracks like “Within Your Eyes” and “A Pound Of Flesh” and submit to instant gratification. This is one of ‘KILL’s most varied albums and certainly has earned its place in their storied discography. “ReliXIV” is not a great album, but it is quite solid.
“Here's to the old school, didn't matter if you looked cool
We drank some beers and broke some heads
We never gave a shit!
We climbed every mountain and stormed every city
They said that this would never lastWe never gave a fuck!” (Online June 17, 2005)