In metal and music at large, there’s an unfortunate trend of artists ‘wearing out their welcome’, so to speak. A perfect example of this is Metallica, who- despite continuing to sell out stadiums- have become something of a laughingstock in recent years for their post-90s transgressions. On the other hand, bands such as Iron Maiden and Overkill have continued to receive praise and excitement for new albums. Lasting inspiration and band chemistry is certainly a factor when considering the long-term popularity of bands like these, but I think a large part of it has to do with sticking to a band’s roots. While Metallica beckoned the chagrin of metalheads worldwide for dancing with mainstream rock and ‘trash can metal’, the long-term winners stick to their guns, maintaining their trademark sound and giving it a kick in the rear once in a while to keep it fresh. Approaching a new Overkill album, fans know what they’re going to get. In the case of this legendary East Coast act, it is a lethal dose of ball busting, over-the-top thrash metal. “The Electric Age” is a proud testament to the band’s longevity- thrashers, take heed!
Overkill have not held the broadsword of excellence high throughout their entire career, but 2010′s “Ironbound” sought to bring back the glory. In that sense, “The Electric Age” is not much of a revelation or ‘surprise comeback’ record; it’s a continuation of the heavy-hitting fury they’re known for. Comparisons have been drawn between the sound of Overkill and that of Megadeth, and it rings true on “The Electric Age.” However, while Megadeth went a bit conservative with energy and speed in their more recent material, Overkill maintain the same burstfire aggression of their youth. As a testament to their experience as musicians, Overkill continue to refine their production standards and technical precision.
The guitar duo of Linsk and Tailer is one of the best matches in thrash metal today. Although most thrash guitarists I’ve heard tend to rely on the twenty second solo opening to demonstrate their proficiency, these two bring the incredible musicianship to the rhythms. I get the impression listening to the busy, shifting riffs throughout “The Electric Age” that Linsk and Tailer were trying to outdo the earlier incarnations of Overkill. Although they aren’t original members of the band, they sound right at home with Overkill. The riffs come a dozen a minute it seems, and the tight songcraft manages to tie it all together in such a way that they all compliment each other.
Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of Overkill has always been Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth. Like a thrash metal Bruce Dickinson, his voice has stood the test of time, belting out his blistering combination of snarls and falsetto shrieks as well as he ever has. Megadeth is certainly a go-to comparison for any newcomers, but I’d also go ahead and cite a strong similarity to GWAR in parts. This pair of GWAR and Megadeth is mirrored greatly in the vocal delivery, best demonstrated in the album’s heavy highlight “Old Wounds, New Scars.” The vocals switch off between a Mustaine-esque snarl, a deep clean voice that could pass for Oderus Urungus, and- of course- Bobby’s signature shriek. At times, Bobby’s inflections will get a bit nasal for my tastes, but I cannot think of a better vocalist to match Overkill’s aggressive style.
I’ll admit; “The Electric Age” is my first full-album experience with Overkill. However, what limited listening I had done endowed me with a sense of respect and expectation for this album. In a word, it’s excellent. Memorable songwriting, rich production, and an incendiary performance. It’s nothing really new for Overkill, but it does not disappoint in the slightest.
1. Come and Get It (6:17)
2. Electric Rattlesnake (6:19)
3. Wish You Were Dead (4:19)
4. Black Daze (3:55)
5. Save Yourself (3:43)
6. Drop The Hammer Down (6:25)
7. 21st Century Man (4:12)
8. Old Wounds, New Scars (4:11)
9. All Over But the Shouting (5:30)
10. Good Night (5:36)
* D.D. Verni – bass, vocals
* Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth – vocals
* Dave Linsk / lead guitar
* Derek ”The Skull” Tailer – rhythm guitar
* Ron Lipnicki – drums