Overkill – Scorched Review

If you told me back in the 80s that New Jersey’s most pugnacious metal act, Overkill would still be kicking and screaming in 2023, I would have thought your brain was rotten to the core. Yet here we are 38 years after their debut EP and along comes album number 20, Scorched! While I’ve found something to enjoy on every Overkill outing, 2019s The Wings of War had issues with bloat and sometimes underwhelming writing. I harvested the best cuts and moved on, rarely revisiting once my reviewing duties were complete. As a lifelong fan, I certainly came into Scorched hoping for more, and I’m happy to report this is a leaner, meaner fighting machine with tighter, better writing. It finds Overkill going back to their roots with some nostalgic treats for long-time fans, and it even offers a few surprises as it curb stomps you into a bloody pulp in a seedy back alley. What more could you want from this seasoned wrecking crew this late in their career of thuggery?

You want an Overkill platter to open with a nasty sucker punch, and the title track accomplishes that handily. It’s classic stuff with all the broken glass and gutter trash you’ve come to expect and it’s got enough grit, testosterone, and bathtub gin to make you feel volatile. Riffs are jagged and Bobby Blitz sounds as bitter and obnoxious as ever. It’s the longest song here and the only one to cross the 6-minute mark, and though it could stand a wee bit of trimming, it’s good enough to take the weight and the guitar work on the backend is completely insane and different enough from the usual Overkilling to grab your attention. There’s a collection of absolute bangers here, like “Goin Home” which sounds like it fell off the truck during the Under the Influence days and features some riffs that’ll take you back to the band’s 80s heyday. “The Surgeon” is just plain mean with vocal patterns that remind me of “It Ain’t My Fault” by The Brothers Osbourne, which makes it even cooler. “Wicked Place” brings out the band’s bluesy swagger with a sweet Sabbathian groove, and that Sabbath worship returns on “Fever” where subtle bongo drum rolls accompany Bobby’s uncharacteristically “delicate” singing until the whiskey and Drano kick in. There’s a dark, doomy mood here that works wonders. “Won’t Be Coming Back” is my personal favorite, with a great throwback feel delving into the band’s punk roots for just the right amount of pissed-off energy and drunken wisdom. Some of the riffs sound like a call back to “Overkill” from their Feel the Fire debut, and that warms the cockles of my metal heart.

“Know Her Name” is another first-rate stomper with big, meaty riffs riding roughshod over everything as Bobby has a vocal feeding frenzy and D.D. Verni thunders away with big bass rumbles. While there are no expired cuts present, “Harder They Fall” is pretty rote, by-the-numbers Overkill aggro, though it ends up enjoyable due to its sheer ugliness and brass knuckle sincerity. With tighter, slicker writing, Scorched feels way more spry and dangerous than the last few albums did and there are more legitimate hooks present. Even with a 51-minute runtime, it feels like a 40-minute album and it flies by in a flash of electro-violence. It also sounds great thanks to a bruising production by Colin Richardson, with the guitars sounding raw and in your face and Verni’s bass pummeling away relentlessly.

It’s the rabid riffs from Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer that drive the green machine hard, with every track powered by razor-sharp leads and amped-up aggression. They also get the chance to dabble in new sounds, as on the title track and the funky “Bag O Bones.” Bobby remains an ageless wonder, his leathery voice somehow preserved by his home state’s medical waste and refinery crud. He could still go back and record Feel the Fire and sound every bit as vital, and that’s simply amazing. His venomous screech and sneer make every song feel like an invitation to a brawl and no one else can do what he does. D.D. Verni remains the ever-reliable backbone with his Steve Harris meets The Misfits style of Thunderdome basswork. This is a grizzled, weathered crew making the music they love and it’s infectious to hear.

I had muted expectations for Scorched and Overkill whacked me with a lead pipe, rolled me up in a carpet, and dumped me in the Meadowlands marshes to rot alongside the Jets. There’s still plenty of fight in these low-rent hooligans and this is the best Overkill platter since White Devil Armory. Step right up if you have the nutsack. Teeth are overrated anyway.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 275 kbps
Label: Nuclear Blast
Websites: wreckingcrew.com/Ironbound | overkillmetal.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/overkillwreckingcrew
Releases Worldwide: April 14th, 2023

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