Released: 2005, Spitfire Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
How is it possible for Overkill to be in their twentieth year of existence and still maintain the ability to kick as much ass as they do? Member changes, not to mention the choppy musical tides, seem to be impervious to the power of Overkill. While many have come and gone or changed to fit the latest “in thing,” Overkill has shunted trends, staying true to their thrash roots. The band is set to release their latest masterpiece, ReliXIV, and, not surprisingly, it is a trend-bucking slab of thrash done just the way that Overkill knows how—brash, in-your-face and old school. Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth sounds every bit as pissed off as he did on 1984’s FEEL THE FIRE and his raspy, snarling delivery still sounds as mean as a junkyard dog. D.D. Verni’s bass lines are just as thick and chunky as ever and the riffs of Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer are tight, fast and punishing. Even Tim Mallare—a veteran of the band since 1993’s I HEAR BLACK—pushes on with all the double-bass expectations we have come to know and love. There are a couple of minor weak spots on ReliXIV but overall, this is Overkill’s strongest album in years.
At first glance, the first few song titles of ReliXIV made me think I was looking at an Usher CD! “Within Your Eyes”…”Love”…what the hell?! Not to worry, friends, as Overkill have definitely NOT gone R&B on us. “Within Your Eyes” starts out slowly with some guitar reverb but builds into a meaty rocker with a killer bass line from Verni and furious double bass from Mallare. The first ripper is “Love,” as Blitz sounds as if his eyes are going to pop right out of his skull during the scream in the chorus. The groove on this track is amazing, too, with crunching riffs during the chorus and a solid rhythm provided by Mallare and Verni. “Bats In The Belfry” is a typical Overkill track but the thrash riffs are two-ton behemoths and the solos smoke. Blitz’ growled “COME ON!” during the chorus are a real highlight, as well. The shred fest really manifests itself on “A Pound of Flesh,” which is sure to become an Overkill classic. This is what thrash is all about and like, Exodus, Overkill is flying the flag of old school thrash metal high with tracks like this. The headbanging becomes an almost involuntary reflex as Mallare pounds away and Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer trade off leads and hyperspeed solos. This is PURE HEAVEN!! Things slow down on “Keeper,” “Wheelz” and “The Mark,” which are those slow-burning groove numbers that the band is able to pull off but these are definitely the weak points of the album. The album closer, “Old School,” is a punk-inspired track that is just plain fun. Like their classic “Fuck You,” “Old School” is a big middle finger to the bands that sold out and didn’t stay true to metal. A tip of the hat to their early days as a New Jersey club band echoes throughout the sing-along chorus which is in the “Oi!” vein of old-time punk and with radio personality Eddie Trunk and original manager George Parente making appearances, it is clear the band is still having a blast doing what they know best.
ReliXIV is the best Overkill CD since NECROSHINE or possibly even HORRORSCOPE. KILLBOX 13 was good but not quite up to snuff, so I had high expectations for this record to get Overkill back on to my own metal map and they have truly outdone themselves. Old school thrash remains the central focus of Overkill but there are a few modern touches to the music that never compromise what they originally set out to do. To paraphrase Roddy Piper from the classic film, THEY LIVE, Overkill is here to kick ass and chew bubble gum…and they’re all out of bubblegum!
KILLER KUTS: “Within Your Eyes,” “Love,” “Bats In The Belfry,” “A Pound of Flesh,” “Old School”