Overkill has long been considered one of the second-tier talents of ’80s thrash metal. While Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax got the lion’s share of praise, Overkill typically flew under the radar. Yet the veteran band proves itself stronger and stronger with each new release; their 15th album, Immortalis, is no exception.
Opening with the one-two punch of “What It Takes” and “Devils in the Mist,” Immortalis immediately roots itself with familiar sonic elements like the vicious snarl of frontman Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth and the sonically destructive bass rumblings of D.D. Verni. “Hell Is” shifts gears between slow, sludgy Black Sabbath-like passages and frenetic thrashing that has all the fury of an epileptic seizure. “Charlie Get Your Gun,” meanwhile, is the disc’s pinnacle of frenzy; guitarists Derek Tailer and Dave Linsk shred so dynamically that drummer Ron Lipnicki can barely keep up with their percussive, atonal attack. It’s this kind of organized chaos that’s at the heart of Overkill’s sound.
The sole moment of mainstream concession comes during “Walk Through Fire,” which features a driving AC/DC-like rhythm and sleek, streamlined production reminiscent of Metallica’s Black Album. The sound puts this cut more in the hard rock category than the metal one. But after 50 minutes of skull-rattling din, you need a diversion like this!
Younger fans of metal will appreciate Lamb of God singer Randy Blythe’s guest appearance on “Skull & Bones.” Yes, Blythe’s presence validates Overkill in the eyes of a new audience. But with the strength of Immortalis, Blitz & Co.’s talents are never even in question. Overkill’s music never goes out of style because it was never in style…and that’s just the way their fans like it.
By Theodore Thimou