It has been over two decades since Megaforce Records unleashed Overkill upon the thrash world. Over the years, the New Jersey outfit has released 14 studio albums, a couple of live recordings, and an album of cover songs.
Their latest release, Immortalis, reunites them with Johnny and Marsha Zazula who were the masterminds behind Megaforce and helped launch their career. This time it is on a new label, Bodog Music. The new album seems to present a reinvigorated band, delivering an old school thrash sound that has its eye set on the future and is bolstered by strong production values.
I never really got into Overkill. There was something about Bobby Blitz's voice that just got under my skin. The music was always all right, but I had a hard time listening to his voice for very long. Prior to Immortalis I only had one Overkill album in my collection, 1994's W.F.O. That album has a couple of good tracks on it, led by "The Wait/New High in Lows."
I guess it didn't help that I was late getting into music, and my journey took me through the "hair metal" era and then went straight into the grunge scene of the early 1990s. Metal was always there, but it was more on the periphery. This caused me to miss a lot of good music. Fortunately, there is always time to double back and pick up the old stuff, or "discover" bands with newer releases as they try to remain relevant.
Overkill has succeeded in keeping thrash alive with this new release; hopefully fans will find it and the curious will give it a shot. It may not be my favorite, but there is a lot to like about it.
I received Immortalis mere hours before going to see the band perform live, so I did not have all that long to get acquainted with the new material. I will say one song jumped out at me on the first listen, "Skull and Bones." It was one of the two cuts off this release that made it to the live set (along with that my previously mentioned track from W.F.O.). The live show was spectacular, perfectly capturing the energy displayed on Immortalis.
This is a band that doesn't care about trends, has let their sound evolve naturally, and delivers a show that gets the pit going. There are no rock star pretensions at work. Bobby goes out there, does his thing, leads the band through a roaring set of thrash, puts his love for the audience on display, and goes full bore. The same is true for the energy trapped in a digital sew that appears on this album.
On Immortalis Bobby's voice is a little deeper than usual, a good thing for me, and the band has detuned to match, also a good thing. Overall, this is a pure thrash album that has a classic style, but has bit of a darker edge with the detuning at work. When compared to the other Overkill disk I own, this clearly has the edge. It seems to be a better album all around from production to songwriting to musicianship. I cannot say how it compares to the earlier Overkill output, as I never really listened to it all that much.
This album gets off to a strong start with "Devils in the Mist," a thrash track that lets you know what you should expect from everything else on the album. Speedy riffs, furiosu double bass, and Blitz’s voice soaring in over the instruments dominate the song. The pace never lessens, never lets up, and never lets you catch your breath. The second track, "What it Takes," sees to it that the speed is kept up.
Business really picks up with the third track "Skull and Bones." The song opens with a very heavy riff, accompanied by some fantastic double bass. It gets extra points for Bobby employing a lower vocal register. Then there are always the guest vocals by Randy Blythe (of Lamb of God). It is a strong song with nice vocal interplay and demonstrates just how compatible the old school style of Overkill can mesh with the much more modern stylings of Blythe's delivery. This is quite possibly my favorite song on the disk.
There are other songs to keep an ear on. The mid-tempo "Hellish Pride" provides a great gallop riff, its tempo may be slowed but the thrashy energy is still quite evident. "Head On" opens with a DD Verni (bass) led instrumental before kicking the energy in. There is an interesting progressive thrash bent to "Charlie Get Your Gun" that sounds really good and adds another dimension to the album. To close the album out on a strong note is "Overkill V…. The Brand." I cannot quite put my finger on it, but this song is just cool, I love the guitar sound and the relentless drums.
Bottomline. It is not my favorite thrash album, nor will it be yours. Still, this is undeniably a good album with some strong songs and plenty of catchiness. Those who would be quick to write them off, would be doing themselves a great disservice — something I did for many years. On the strength of Immortalis, I may need to go back and investigate some of their earlier offerings.