Pugnacious. That’s what Overkill are and what they’ve always been. From the early days bumming around places like L’Amour in Brooklyn, boozing with the fans and hoping to finagle a slot on stage, on through a slew of influential, punky, neo-thrash albums that became minor classics, this crew of New Jersey ne’er-do-wells always had a big chip on their collective shoulder. Maybe that’s why they’re still hanging around the thrash scene like neighborhood thugs on the street corner, looking for more trouble after a lifetime full of it. They’ve stuck around long enough to release White Devil Armory, their seventeenth goddamn album, and they’re showing no signs of giving up their turf without a bloody fight. And what makes them all the more authentic is just how little they’ve changed with time. Hell, even Sodom has undergone more style changes than these greasy hoodlums. Nothing on album seventeen is different than the sixteenth or fifteenth, and that may be a blessing or a curse depending on your individual tastes. It’s simply more gritty, rowdy, street-level speed metal from a band that’s been doing it forever and a day. It sure ain’t original, but it’s as violent as Hurricane Sandy and full of piss, vinegar and pastrami, just like the guys who created it. It’s also some of their most rabid and acid-drenched material in years, and that’s really saying something.
White Devil Armory is a relentless album and all ten tracks are like a broken beer bottle aimed right for the jugular. Whether it’s the all out thrash attack of “Armorist,” or the slightly more free swinging, pugilistic numbers like “Down to the Bone” and “It’s All Yours,” there isn’t a soft landing to be found anywhere. “Pig” is a nasty bit of unpleasantness that sounds like Billy Joel‘s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” sped up to ludicrous speed, and “Bitter Pill” is classic Overkill with lyrics that read like a call back to “Fatal if Swallowed” and “Elimination.” “Freedom Rings” is a defiant paean to Hurricane Sandy replete with the “Jersey Strong” slogan flying proudly like a battle flag, and “King of the Rat Bastards” rocks the house with a boozy, raucous charm, and has there ever been a more singularly Overkill-esque song title?
The best numbers include “Another Day to Die,” which sports a punky “Holiday in Cambodia” vibe and a rocked out swing; “In the Name” feels like a lost track from the Feel the Fire and Taking Over era where Bobby the Blitz stretches those squeaky pipes alongside some extra epic riffing and tosses in a wonderfully cheesy sing along for good measure; and “Where There’s Smoke” is just pure thrash lunacy with Bobby screaming “the Devils on the wiYARR!”
Oddly enough, the pinnacle of the album is relegated to bonus track status. “The Fight Song” is a truly inspired slice of punk rock fun which had me scrambling to see if it was a cover of some obscure Jersey hardcore act from the 80s. It isn’t and it’s an instant Overkill classic about the joys of excessive drinking, bar fighting and the mysteries of male bonding. When Bobby sings “Raise your glass to the broken ones, to the ones you’ve beaten down,” you know it going to be big fun and man, does it fookin deliver. It’s perfect for drunken sing alongs and even includes a refrain of “I believe that we will win” for all the disgruntled U.S. soccer fans out there. Brilliant stuff!
Bobby sounds in particularly high feather and as cranky and unhappy as ever. He’s definitely one of metal’s most distinctive voices these days and his snarl never seems to age or lose a step. Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer are an unstoppable battery of satisfying thrash riffs and always inject a Black Sabbath swing and punk swagger to the music to makes it quintessentially Overkill. Though D.D. Verni’s bass is less prominent than back in the early days, he’s still a force in the backline and adds a Steve Harris on meth element that always made Overkill sound so distinctive.
At 10 tracks and 50 minutes, this is a tight album with a bit more of a rocking, punked-out feel than Ironbound or The Electric Age had, without sacrificing any of the frantic thrash frenzy. The band sounds tight as hell, very much in their prime and they’re writing with true inspiration and conviction.
Ladies and gents, this is one bona fide bad ass album. Not a weak track anywhere, just in-your-face, confrontational smack talk metal designed to make the drunk asshole throw the first punch. What else do you want (or expect) from a New Jersey band? Shit just got very real.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU][NA]
Websites: wreckingcrew.com/Ironbound | facebook.com/OverkillWreckingCrew
Release Dates: EU: 2014.07.18 | NA: 07.22.2014