There are very few bands that are instantly recognisable and have their own “sound”. Even within the distinctive refrains of Thrash Metal, Overkill have always retained identity, honed and refined over 30 years. Yet when Nuclear Blast picked them up on a multi-album deal five years ago (the are on eOne in the USA) a few eyebrows were raised as, despite a W.F.O. (Atlantic) or From The Underground And Below (CMC), it had been over twenty years since the release of the bone fide classics of their canon, the seminal thrashmeister-pieces Feel The Fire, Taking Over, and Horrorscope (Megaforce).
Overkill started their recent run with Ironbound in 2009, an album that stands comfortably replete in hi-tops and leather jacket shoulder to shoulder with the best of the bands’ career. This was big dog reclaiming the yard stuff. Any concerns this return to form was a flash in the pan were quickly dispelled as the band, always a force live, backed up the acclaimed Ironbound tour by releasing its follow-up The Electric Age, which continued in the same vein. Overkill was more than back, and was more than flying.
White Devil Armory completes the hat-trick of belters, possibly outshining its two companions and proudly ranks among their stand-out releases. Alongside having two trademarks elements – DD Verni’s snarling metallic bass growl and Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth’s unmatched nasal spit – one of the key aspects to the East Coast thrashers’ sound has always been their ability to marry aggressive thrash with melody and to produce memorable anthems. From the opener, the gut-punch pummelling ‘Armorist’, to the closing epic chug of ‘In The Name’, that is what you get. Aggressive staccato riffs welded into memorable, powerful thrash tunes, tunes with the vibrancy and commitment of the bands earlier days, but the muscle and know-how of seasoned veterans. These guys know how to get it done, and the win is what matters.
Whether that’s pulling out a manic, catchy chorus in track three ‘Down To The Bone’ and dovetailing that with some choice ‘Use Your Head’ riffage, or reprising the punk/hardcore battery of ‘The SRC’ with the face-smashing ‘Pig’, the consistency and delivery is high-level throughout. The darker stomp of ‘Bitter Pill’, all channelled hammer-to-anvil, leads into stand-out rager ‘Where There’s Smoke…’, a heads-down-see-you-at-the-end opening that hurtles out of the blocks and runs headlong into a trademark Blitz snarl, before seguing into a grooving, juddering mid-section. Any fears of the album petering out are laid to rest by a closing trio of ‘King Of The Rat Bastards’, a classic Overkill slam-dunk mix of the hook and the heavy, the neck-snapping tightness of ‘It’s All Yours’ and finale ‘In The Name’, an Overkill closer in the tradition of an ‘Overkill II (The Nightmare Continues)’, bring matters to a conclusion with its studded-wristband-pumping call-and-answer.
White Devil Armory presents a band at the top of its game. Health issues seemingly long behind him, Blitz personifies this, producing a performance of vigour and confidence, nailing and owning as you’d expect. He brings to the table an assurance in delivery as he knows, even 30 years on, no one does it like he does. He is the boss. This asserted presence filters across and applies to all parties. Guitar twins Dave Linsk and Derek “The Skull” Tailer have partnered each other for over a decade now and with seamless self-assurance bring the riffs, the finger-flurrying solos and the structured melodic links. Elsewhere DD Verni shows off his skills, bass runs filtering through the mix at appropriate times, while Ron Lipnicki is the perfect backbone, punishing when needed, able to groove when required, but at all times driving everything, and releasing the reigns when it’s time for the powersurge.
It may be patronising to say, but to maintain this level of quality, consistency, force and vitality at their age and this deep into their career is testament (sic) to the professionalism and ability of all involved with Overkill, but above all to the passion within the band to keep producing the very best of thrash. Thrash may have come and gone and come back and gone again, with very few of their contemporaries surviving, but when Overkill decreed “We are strong, We will always be” back in 1987 (‘In Union We Stand’) they uttered a statement that sums up their career. This is no Indian summer; White Devil Armory is simply Overkill doing what Overkill do best.