Overkill // The Electric Age
Rating: 3.5/5.0 —Hello again from the gutter (i.e. New Jersey)
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Websites: wreckingcrew.com | myspace.com
Release Dates: EU: 30.03.2012 US: 03.27.2012
Overkill is the king of the B level metal bands. Perpetual runners up to the “Big Four” thrash bands, they’ve been pedalling their punky blend of speed and traditional metal since 1983 and show no signs of stopping…ever! Their Feel the Fire debut is one of my all time favorite albums, and over their long career, they’ve created many a memorable metal moment of the old school variety. Just how long have they been at this? Well, The Electric Age is their SIXTEENTH freakin album, for Christ’s sake! That’s a whole lot of metal from this New Jersey wrecking crew. Much like 2010’s excellent Ironbound, The Electric Age is a thrashy, frantic affair, loaded with energy, adrenaline and cojones. It’s classic Overkill all day long, without much in the way of innovation, growth or progress. Let’s face it, if Overkill was going to evolve, it would’ve happened long ago. They enjoy their neanderthal niche in the metalverse and I wouldn’t change a hair on their grizzled heads.
In true Overkill fashion, early tracks like “Come and Get It,” “Electric Rattlesnake” and “Wish You Were Dead” aim to tear your face off with nary a trace of subtlety or grace. It’s all thick, thrashy riffing, thunderous bass and drums, and Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth’s one-of-a-kind raspy snarl. Things never really let up from there, as all ten tracks are nasty and furious speed anthems, with just enough melodic sense to keep things semi-memorable. “Black Daze” has a bit more mid-tempo grind and a ton of tough swagger. “Drop the Hammer Down” is a winning scorcher, exuding a NY/NJ variety of pissed-off attitude that’s as authentic as it’s mean-spirited. The one-two punch of “Old Wounds, New Scars” and “All Over But the Shouting” will make even the most pacifistic among you feel like breaking a bottle over somebody’s dome. All the songs work and all should pump you up like Red Bull and steroids. This is the soundtrack for an alcohol fueled bender, filled with drunken wisdom, bravado and street justice.
One of the reasons I always loved Overkill‘s sound was the prominence of D.D. Verni’s bass. He provides a powerful low-end rumble, which makes the music seem so much more angry and huge. The guitar tandem of Derek Tailer and Dave Linsk always impress, and here is no different. They throw jack hammer riffs all over the place and rip out some excellent solos. Somehow, Bobby Blitz sounds better and better with age, though scientifically speaking, he shouldn’t even be able to whisper anymore. The man has been abusing his throat for over 30 years at the mic, after all. To this day, no one sounds better tossing off pre-brawl barroom smack talk like “you got a lotta mouth for a Jersey white boy.”
The downsides are few but noticeable. The songs are all so hyper and in your face, they tend to blend together after a while. By the time the acoustic guitars in closer “Good Night” come along, you realize you’ve been beaten pretty badly by the non-stop, balls-out speed, and some tempo diversity might have helped. There’s also a slight drop-off in the quality of the choruses since Ironbound, and few stick on the first listen. I suppose one could also complain this is utterly without surprises and too similar to Ironbound in style and delivery, but I’m not gonna be one of them. I didn’t expect them to adopt post-rock drone or anything equally un-Overkill.
While not quite as stellar as Ironbound or older classics like The Years of Decay and Horrorscope, The Electric Age is everything you would want in an Overkill album. It’s angry, fast and loud (like most people from New Jersey!) It’s also a grower and sinks deeper into the skin with each successive spin. There’s no Low-T in sight with these guys, and despite a lifetime in the metal underground, they’re still pissing iron. The so-called “Big Four” should take careful notes on these guys. They get harder with age and sound just as convincing as they did in their misspent youth. Congrats guys, I hope there’s sixteen more albums in your rowdy future.