Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 21/4
The Grinding Wheel
Written by: AP on 07/04/2017 17:31:35
A number of things in life are certain: death, taxes and Overkill issuing a new album every two, three years. Often dubbed as the ‘Motörhead of thrash metal’, the band has made only minimal changes to the palette from which 1985’s “Feel the Fire” was assembled (that is, ignoring the intermittent forays into groove metal that began with “I Hear Black” in 1993 and ended with a return to roots on “Ironbound” in 2010), subscribing to the philosophy of not fixing something that ain’t broken with the same sort of fanaticism as the late Lemmy Kilmister and his two cohorts. And so it should be, when your moniker is derived from such an iconic Motörhead piece as “Overkill”. It thus goes without saying that this latest creation — the New Jersey-thrashers’ eighteenth studio album, entitled “The Grinding Wheel” — once again looks to the ‘80s heyday of metal for inspiration and is cruised home by the steady hand of a veteran ensemble.
Overkill takes pride in sounding exactly as they always did, making them an ideal recipient of worship from those who fear and abhor change. But as ever, the music is riddled with so much variety that it seldom feels like déja vu, with touches of heavy, power and groove metal as well as punk all prominently on display. Whether it is the dense, Pantera-style chug riffage of the opening track, “Mean, Green, Killing Machine”, the irresistibly bouncy d-beat and balls-out attitude reminiscent of Anthrax in “Goddamn Trouble” or the grandiose, ‘Maiden-esque balladry sliced into “Shine On”, most strands of connoisseurship are addressed across the ten tracks that comprise “The Grinding Wheel”. And it is all neatly tied up by Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth’s iconic voice which, after nearly 40 years of usage, has lost none of its venom. He sounds especially acerbic, barking vitriol on the standout “Our Finest Hour”, the chorus of which aspires to be among the most striking bits of metal this year, with an epic, Kreator-school melody by lead guitarist David Linsk brilliantly accentuating Ellsworth’s conviction that ”[he’ll] be your conscience. [He’ll] be your guide. [He’ll] be the black hand that stops your genocide. [He’ll] be the understanding, undisputed power. [He’ll] hold your hand — it is [your] finest hour!”.
But as much as that piece assumes the role of a centerpiece, the record keeps a high standard throughout and unloads memorabilia onto the listener at every turn. “Red, White and Blue”, for instance, seems destined to become a live staple by virtue of its headbang-inciting chug segment and those fist-pumping impact shouts of “Red, white and blue!”, ”Damn right!” and ”Hey!” by bassist Carlo ‘D.D.’ Verni. The classic, no-frills thrash orientation of “The Wheel”, meanwhile, is bound to sit well with Overkill’s longest standing disciples; less so the ambitious title track, which proposes to conclude the proceedings on a symphonic note, with church bells and the morose, orchestral repetition of ”The grinding wheel is turning ‘round, and ‘round, and ‘round…” slowly winding the album to a halt. Certainly, the track signals a desire to try to branch out somewhat. But it also illuminates the fact that Overkill are just better at sticking to their guns — it does not quite inspire the wow the thrashers were looking for, ending up too long and inconsequential to make a real impact.
“The Grinding Wheel” is above all the sort of record that triumphs by delivering variety and quality consistently — not by relying on hit singles or trying to revolutionise metal. It renders the process of singling out tracks that fall short of their potential irrelevant because each has its own quirks and ideas for making a lasting impression, the good ol’ Overkill way. As such, the title of the record could hardly be more appropriate: as Ellsworth himself admits, he thinks of it as an all-purpose tool, relentless and resistant to the wear of time.
Download: Goddamn Trouble, Our Finest Hour, Red White and Blue, The Wheel
For the fans of: Anthrax, Exodus, Nuclear Assault, Testament
Release date 10.02.2017
Nuclear Blast Records