Released: 2010, Nuclear Blast
The veteran New Jersey boys return with a compelling slab of unmistakeably old school thrash that is tinged with a fine mix of groove, progressiveness and melody that separates Overkill from the multitudes of carbon-copy thrashers out there. This is modern thrash the way it should be played: roots in the 80s but with its direction and ambition befitting a metal scene on the cusp of its 30-year anniversary. If there were ever a call for revisionist nonsense, I'd put forward the case for Overkill being a member of the Big 4 of thrash at the expense of Anthrax.
Overkill's 2007 album IMMORTALIS showed a marked improvement over 2005's ReliXIV in almost every department: songwriting, riff construction, lead-playing, vocals, production etc. 2010 will be a stellar year for Overkill if their performance on IRONBOUND is anything to go by. The guitar attack of Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer is blistering and tight, unquestionably their best performance in the studio over the last three albums at least. They also benefit from an ultra-modern production that really does justice to the riffing style. The same can't be said about the drums, however. I don't normally complain about production values but the kick drum sound on IRONBOUND is terribly thin and clicky, and is irritating enough that even I noticed. I've never been one of those bedroom sound-tech nazis complaining about death metal bands over-relying on triggered drums, but this is too much even for me.
But leaving that minor complaint aside, the ever-present face of Overkill, its longest serving member besides founding member D.D. Verni, is the biggest surprise on IRONBOUND. Bobby Blitz, take a bow, you evergreen son of a bitch. Moving from his trademark constipated yelp, he explores other avenues of vocal expression, throwing in a cleaner style of singing at times, even embarking on a couple of power metal-ish screams. In fact, this over-arching sense of melody is even more apparent than usual, with several guitar passages in the album coming dangerously close to NWOBHM style riffing, even Maiden-ish in quality, for example, in that guitar-bass-vocal interplay on "Endless War".
It's a beautiful thing to behold: while most of their contemporaries have split up or sold out, Overkill are still doing their thing, updating and improving but never forgetting where they came from. It's only January 2010, but this is definitely a keeper for the new year.