REVIEW: OVERKILL – “The Wings of War”
New Jersey’s craziest motherfuckers are back to attack. Overkill’s longevity is enviable – especially in the thrash metal world – having released 19 albums (counting this one) in a span of more than 30 years. Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (vocals), D.D. Verni (bass) and friends, always considered one of the best US thrash acts around, had some musical issues during the 1990’s with less-than-good efforts, but since the thunderous ‘Ironbound’ (2010) these dudes are on a roll, which continues with 2019’s ‘The Wings of War’.
While not nearly as forceful or brutal as albums like recent steamrollers ‘The Electric Age’ (2012) and ‘White Devil Armory’ (2014), Overkill’s new endeavor to the thrash dome is still an interesting one. Considering recurrent characteristics of the band such as the powerful opener (“Last Man Standing”) and some laid-back, almost party-like moments (“Welcome to the Garden State”), this here is yet another classic “in your balls” Overkill record, full of groovy bass lines, faster than hell riffs and some crazy ass “Blitz” howls.
Unlike their other recent albums, though, there are a couple of songs here that don’t bring anything relevant to the table, such as “Head of a Pin”, “A Mother’s Prayer” and “Where Few Dare to Walk”. These are decent, but extremely forgettable and safe instrumental-wise. The duo Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer (guitars) seem not to be at their best playing, and newcomer Jason Bittner (drums, Shadows Fall) doesn’t blast through the kit like a madman as he does on battering rams like “Believe in the Fight” or “Bat Shit Crazy”.
The drum sticks, in fact, have been beautifully passed on from Ron Lipnicki to Bittner. The New Yorker puts a lot of energy in the beats and rips through the speakers like a tornado; big points to the band for making a great choice here.
Other fine moments like “Distortion” and “Out on the Road-Kill”, for example, fill out the album with quality and aggressiveness. While the former brings a dark, somber atmosphere to the table, the latter is yet another frantic, fast-paced track reminiscing those unpretentious moments of the heydays of thrash metal.
Closing the record is “Hole In My Soul”, which starts slowly and builds up as D.D dictates the rhythm. Heavier riffs in the verse and a powerful chorus make for a great outro, which will keep your blood pumping long after the track ends. There is a bonus track called “Ashes”, but since my promo copy didn’t include this I can’t analyze if it’s awesome or a shit fest.
Despite finding their latest entry, ‘The Grinding Wheel’ (2017), a little bit better, ‘The Wings of War’ is definitely more organic and simplistic than its predecessor, which could grab more listeners to Overkill’s ranks. There’s no shortage of cool riffs, crushing bass lines and monstrous drumming, as well as some bonkers trademark screaming by Bobby “Blitz”, which is always an awesome thing to hear.
As far as Overkill albums go, this probably ranks in the middle of the shelf alongside decent works like ‘Necroshine’ (1999) and ‘Killbox 13’ (2003), but continues with the small stepbacks seen since ‘Ironbound’ – which is by far their best album of the 2010’s. All in all, by mixing classic US thrash elements with heavyweight instrumentals and adding to that their characteristic unpretentious approach to music, D.D., “Blitz” and company have done it once again in creating an extremely fun album to listen to, especially in places like the gym or on a road trip; recommended, as always.