Thursday 28 February 2019

Overkill - The Wings of War (2019)

Country: USA
Style: Thrash Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 22 Feb 2019
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OK, I had to wonder for moment just what the heck I was hearing as this album started. Did bees get into my speakers? Are Overkill going techno? Did I wake up in The Twilight Zone?

Well, don't worry about any of that! It's all just a fancy way to set up the opening track, Last Man Standing, which is the sort of blistering neck workout that we expect from the mighty Overkill, capably introduced by the impressive drums of new fish Jason Bittner. It's not as catchy as some Overkill openers (how many opening tracks are as catchy as Deny the Cross, for instance?) but it's a good song and I dug the power metal in the soloing.

Believe in the Fight has some power metal too but in a different way, with an Accept-style backing vocal line for Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth to snarl back at. It's the catchiest thing here thus far and it stays that way for a while, even with a song called Batshitcrazy showing up relatively soon.

Naming a song Batshitcrazy suggests that Overkill really want it to become a crowd favourite. Like much of this album, it's good but it's not great, even with an oddly palatable cooing transition in the middle that should work well for a very brief breather in the pit. Frankly, Welcome to the Garden State is a more likely crowd favourite and not just in New Jersey. It's the Ramones on speed and it's easily the best thing on offer here, the band relishing their punk influences with speed, aggression and a singalong chorus. I love it!

And then there's everything else. If my maths isn't betraying me, this is the nineteenth studio album from Overkill and it's not a bad one. It's old school thrash the way we like it from this band and everything from Blitz's snarl to the underpinning bass of D. D. Verni, the other founding member, is where it ought to be. Verni shines on Where Few Dare to Walk but he's there throughout, a little more obvious than most metal bassists.

While The Wings of War is a good album, it's not a great one. I don't think there's a bad track here and it's all agreeably in our face, so whichever songs make the live set will all play well, but few of them stand out amidst a stellar career that's given us a whole host of great tracks. I found this album fading away into the background and that's a dangerous thing for a thrash album.

A few of the tracks found themselves late, like Head of a Pin, which I didn't grok until about a minute from the end, when it finally grabbed me. Some of them worked the other way around. I adored how Hole in My Soul began, for one, with a slow and heavy riff and the dancing fingers of Verni; this could have been another great one but it isn't as catchy as it wants to be. In between are a heck of a lot of other songs that don't disappoint but don't thrill too much either.

I thought about a six rating, but that didn't seem right. Even if The Wings of War did fade into the background a lot, it sounded good whenever it grabbed my attention came back. I must have played it half a dozen times in entirety and heard it about three or four and it never stopped being enjoyable, even when it could have been more. So a seven it is. Any Overkill album is welcome, after all, and this is no exception.

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