OVERKILL – Scorched
RELEASE YEAR: 2023
BAND URL: http://wreckingcrew.com/
Overkill or Over Kill? Looking at the covers of the 30 (!) full lengths by the New York and New Jersey thrash and groove metal legends it seems more the former but the name is actually one word: Overkill, just like Motörhead’s second album it was named after in 1980 when the original tacky Virgin Killer was rightfully rejected. Given the fact that I had begun my adventure with heavy metal at the age of 15 at the time Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer were at the height of their mainstream popularity, I missed the early years catching up on the past accomplishments of the Bay Area Big Three (I wouldn’t have heard of Anthrax until 1993 with the release of Sound Of White Noise). Overkill, then became known to me after they had already switched from thrash to a more groove oriented approach (starting with I Hear Black¹⁹⁹³) when I purchased Necroshine¹⁹⁹⁹ cassette which briefly sparked some of my interest. It was not until the fantastic Ironbound²⁰¹⁰, which saw Overkill’s return to thrash of the past, that made me a fan and a subsequent buyer of just as engaging The Electric Age²⁰¹², both albums inspiring me to reach back and catch up on Feel The Fire¹⁹⁸⁵ through the aforementioned I Hear Black, of which Horrorscope¹⁹⁹¹ was my favorite, followed by Ten Years Of Decay¹⁹⁸⁹, both of which strongly reminded me of Cowboys From Hell, my favorite Pantera record. Then I reached for the groovier efforts: W.F.O.¹⁹⁹⁴ through Immortalis²⁰⁰⁷ (revisiting Necroshine), none of which my ears distinguished above Ironbound, The Electric Age, Horroscope or Ten Years Of Decay. With White Devil Armory²⁰¹⁴, The Grinding Wheel²⁰¹⁷ and The Wings Of War²⁰¹⁹ I tried to get back Over giving the band a chance to Kill me again as before but none of the three releases caught on for some reason or another. Indeed, I initially even approached this here, 30th album Scorched, released on April 14th, with a mix of trepidation and indifference but having heard accolades from some facebook friends I decided to give it a chance having been encouraged that the album supposedly brought the Ironbound and The Electric Age magic. And it turned out to be a very smart decision because Scorched lives up to the title.
Of the original line up, including the later Anthrax guitarist, Dan Spitz, only two members remain today: Carlo “D.D.” Verni (bass, vocals) and the controversial vocalist Robert Joseph “Bobby Blitz” Ellsworth (briefly ejected from the band in 1983 due to severe substance abuse thus earning his nickname “Blitz”), yet the two, aided by David John “Linsk” Polinski (1999-lead guitar, rhythm guitar 1999-2019), Derek Tailer (2001-backing vocals, 2019-rhythm guitar) and former Shadows Fall drummer Jason Bittner (since 2017), unlike Metallica, Megadeth or Slayer, show absolutely no signs of wear and tear, as if they recorded Feel The Fire just the other day. The opening title track, with its verses evocative of Slayer’s “Seasons In The Abyss” and not entirely convincing structure, may not yet encourage you to dig deeper, but the perfect supercatchy “Going Home” (Blitz’ favorite too) will and I agree with Blitz that it doesn’t sound like what you’d expect from Overkill but more from, say, modern Kreator. And then it’s just constant awesomeness with the thrashy “The Surgeon” recalling a faster Megadeth’s “How The Story Ends” (which had the same “scorch the Earth” phrase the title cut has) with an excellent “Strength Beyond Strength” Pantera groove riff, the even faster “Twist Of The Wick” which starts out like Megadeth’s “44 Minutes” as it alludes to Iron Maiden classic with “evil that men do” and brings back the melodic madness of Helloween’s Wall Of Jericho debut to end with a creepy cello reminiscent of Immolation’s “Illumination”. As the 6/6 tracks continue, “Wicked Place” may be a little slower and more melodic but the hook is just as irresistible, and, besides, it properly thrashes toward the end. The second favorite, “Won’t Be Comin’ Back” is a perfect marriage of Judas Priest and classic Iron Maiden, with melody, again, front and center, as you realize that Overkill refuses to have even one song of the 10 sound like any of its brothers. And then there’s “Fever”, which sends shivers down my spine by reason of Blitz’ cleans as emotionally powerful as Bruce Dickinson’s in his prime. I mean, the man had had a nose surgery which thank God saved him from cancer (1998) but here he sounds like those power metal vocal wizzards half his age, “Fever” easily a kind of “This Love” (Pantera) of the XXI Century! “Harder They Fall” is, like “The Surgeon”, classic Overkill, again, seemingly a nod to Endgame Megadeth and tracks like “Bite The Hand”, and, finally, “Bag Of Bones” is a perfect closer, catchy and painstakingly put together like something from Countdown To Extiction or The System Has Failed the same technical precision and attention to detail with riffs and melodies slowly but permanently taking hold of your brain.
To a careful reader there was already one reason for not granting a perfect score: the title track. “Know Her Name” is the second, some vocal lines and the stylings bringing “Necroshine” to mind (on purpose?), overall, very good but not as great as those aforementioned standouts, although more convincing than the opener. But what are these flaws which are likely due to a personal perception?
As one of my fb friends said, Scorched is an early contender for album of the year and, if you’re a fan of any Overkill era, you should swallow this up like a young pelican, to say nothing for Overkill fanatics whom Scorched will send over the moon. Finally, in comparing the latest from Megadeth, Metallica or Testament, Overkill wins hands down in terms of variety, freshness of ideas, and superior execution with not an ounce of antiquity, which is a feat in and of itself for a 43 year old band.