Saturday, 11 February 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Overkill - "The Grinding Wheel"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 10/02/2017
Label: Nuclear Blast

This album is a stone cold killer. I have written it and said it before and I will do so again here: Overkill are the best thrash metal band on the planet.

“The Grinding Wheel” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Mean Green Killing Machine (7:29)
2. Goddamn Trouble (6:21)
3. Our Finest Hour (5:49)
4. Shine On (6:03)
5. The Long Road (6:45)
6. Let's All Go To Hades (4:55)
7. Come Heavy (4:59)
8. Red White And Blue (5:05)
9. The Wheel (4:50)
10. The Grinding Wheel (7:55)

The Review:

Overkill are back again with “The Grinding Wheel.” First off, it's a cracker. The band has been in a purple patch now for a decade. “Immortalis” was a strong swing into form and then they followed up with the career highpoint of “Ironbound”. “Electric Age” was a similarly awesome and a straightforward thrash record and then “White Devil Armoury” was also an absolute ripper. In my view, the band are at an all time creative high. After a thirty year career and counting, that is some achievement.

With a stable line up in effect for the last decade, I pressed play with high hopes. First impressions? The band are performing at the top of their game. Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth is ageless. He gives a strong performance throughout and one that is more intense than men half his age. The Dave Linsk/Derek Tailer guitar partnership is in full effect (catch them live; what a team!) and DD Verni locks down the low end, while Ron Lipnicki brings the rhythms with consummate professionalism on what appears to be his swansong with the band. Don't worry, I saw Eddy Garcia play drums with them in 2016 and he slayed.

Opener “Mean Green Killing Machine” is seven and a half minutes of hard as nails thrash. For those of you who have been looking out for the advance tracks, “Goddamn Trouble” is up next - tales of high speed misdemeanour abound on this thrasher; look out for the Deep Purple reference and the nostalgia-triggering tape-into-dash verse!

The thrash fest continues through “Our Finest Hour” while “Shine On” is a mid paced stomper that Overkill often throw in on their best albums. “The Long Road” is very hooky after a lengthy and lead- laden intro, packing a very memorable “Onward! Upward!” refrain. At ten tracks, Overkill have delivered a good lengthy record here. The first five fly by- even with song lengths almost all north of six minutes! The second half is just as strong; “Let's All Go To Hades” is kind of like a Motorhead type track, which is fitting, considering Overkill's consistency and longevity. It has a strong memorable hook and the lyrics are rather poignant. The band mix things up here and there, of course, and throw in “Come Heavy here for a groove laden departure. It's a fine moment for the album and recalls Sabbath at their most playful with a wonderful loping feel.

Overkill always had more rock and roll to them than the likes of Slayer and you can often hear echoes of bands such as AC/DC and Motorhead in their records- this is a good thing and reinforces the working class ethic of the band: nothin' fancy; just thrash metal. “Red White and Blue” has a strong “liberty or death” message- with a difference- and is a thrashing wake up. “The Wheel” and “The Grinding Wheel” round the album out in style. The last two tracks feel like companion pieces to one another, the former being a very catchy revved up anthem, the latter being something of a moody epic, Overkill style.

Having listened through the record multiple times now, I can confidently state that it is a winner. It's immediate and showcases everything that Overkill do well. The production is warmer than “White Devil Armoury” and somewhat less processed than the previous three albums. The drums are a little more organic sounding and the album benefits from this less machine like feel. The aforementioned rock 'n' roll feel comes from this, in my estimation.

With Nuclear Blast delivering a broad range of formats (I have pre-ordered the vinyl and limited CD with a bonus track) there is choice for the collector and casual fan alike. Once again, the label deliver in terms of formats, value for money and packaging. The front cover looks good too- with its gears-locked-in-place visual it absolutely conjures up the right imagery. For a band like Overkill, this is important as they sell a fairly consistent amount of albums, I believe, and have a recognisable brand and sound. They make an album, promote it by touring and then make another one. Professionals to the last.

If you have never heard Overkill, by all means start here... or any of the previous three albums... or “Horrorscope”, “Years of Decay”,Feel The Fire”,From The Underground and Below” and so on. For me, this record is kind of a cousin to 1994's “WFO”; similar thematically and even in production style. Will it win over new fans? It should. Overkill are operating in the kind of bracket that Motorhead did; they've always been around, they've always put out albums every two years or so, their records are always at least good (often great) and they have ALWAYS been under-appreciated. Get on board now, before it's too late. This album is a stone cold killer. I have written it and said it before and I will do so again here: Overkill are the best thrash metal band on the planet. Enjoy them while they are still here.

“The Grinding Wheel” is available here
Band info: official || facebook