OverKill – Wings Of War

There aren’t many bands who can lay claim to sounding better now, with nineteen albums under their belts, than they did at their perceived peak. At least not many who can say it while keeping a straight face anyway. But then again, not every band is OverKill.

We all know that the New Jersey thrashers first four or five albums are among some the best – if also slightly underrated – examples of the genre, but with the dawn of the nineties, like so many other acts, OverKill found themselves struggling. Although never producing anything which could be labeled as their “shit album”, they still couldn’t match the quality of their output from ’85-91. However, all that changed around ten years ago when the band found a second wind which they have ridden for longer than they actually managed in their so-called heyday. A second wind which continues with their latest record The Wings of War (Nuclear Blast).

A stable line-up has certainly helped the band, with the only change over the last twelve years being the recent recruitment of drummer Jason Bittner (formerly of Shadows Fall and Flotsam and Jetsam) for the new album. Otherwise, the band consists of the same old gang (well since 2002 anyway) of original members Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (vocals) and bassist D.D. Verni plus guitarists Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer.

As belligerent an opener as you could wish for, OverKill immediately stick the boot in with ‘Last Man Standing’, an unrepentant thrasher which sounds fresh and energetic while still possessing that classic eighties vibe. ‘Believe In The Fight’ is an Exodus-style maul with a killer middle section. Described by the band as “Black Sabbath on meth”, it’s difficult to argue with them as for the most part as ‘Head Of A Pin’ sounds like ‘Into The Void’ having incestuous back alley relations with ‘Children of the Grave’.

As self-explanatory as it comes, ‘Bat Shit Crazy’ does exactly what it says on the tin, while the moody ‘Distortion’ slows things down, even throwing in a sedate, melodic intro before grinding your face slowly into the concrete. ‘A Mother’s Prayer’ piles on the speed and fury once again, while the Punk-as-absolute-fuck ‘Welcome To The Garden State’ once again highlights the band’s love of all things New Jersey, even opening the song with an extract from The Sopranos.

‘Where Few Dare To Walk’ opens with another moody, acoustic intro before descending into something memorably melodic but equally dark. The up-tempo ‘Out On The Road-Kill’ and the neck-crunching ‘Hole In My Soul’ (absolutely not a cover version of the Aerosmith song) close out the album in serious style, leaving you wondering just how in the hell they’ve managed to outdo many bands half their age. Again.

8 / 10

GARY ALCOCK