The Lowdown: New Jersey’s premiere thrash metal outfit Overkill don’t mess with their sound much. Like a prehistoric crocodile, they’re evolutionarily perfect in every era because they only do a handful of things but do so with tactical precision. They thrash, they bash, then they exit without a fuss. It’s no surprise, then, that their 19th album, The Wings of War is 50 minutes of pure mosh without any bells or whistles.
The Good: Overkill hit a late-career high in 2010 with the release of Ironbound, a modern thrash metal record that still packed vintage punch. It’s so good that the band’s been more-or-less rewriting it for a decade since, and The Wings of War is no different. The band does away with the excesses of more well-known thrash bands in exchange for a nasty punk-rock attitude which fans have come to adore, and which gives the band some crossover appeal. Vocalist Bobby Blitz lays the attitude on thicker this time around, and bassist D.D. Verni has written shorter songs to match, making The Wings of War — slightly! — more exciting than the last two Overkill albums, The Grinding Wheel and White Devil Armory.
The Bad: With that increase in aggression comes a loss in subtlety. Verni and Blitz often add Black Sabbath-like doom metal bits into the middle of their songs, which makes Overkill more dynamic then the average biker thrash band. There’s almost no slow or bluesy bits on The Wings of War, though. Sometimes Blitz tries to add some subtlety to his performance, but in general he’s better off just snarling about what a scoundrel he is — the more melodic and philosophical “Head of a Pin” is the weakest song on the record for that reason.
The Verdict: The Wings of War continues Overkill’s nearly decade-long winning streak, and further cements their reputation among those in the know as one of the most consistent bands in metal. The downside of consistency is that Overkill’s individual albums become anonymous inside of their discography. It’s easy to recommend The Wings of War, but difficult to recommend it over a number of Overkill’s other albums. New fans ought to begin with Ironbound or The Years of Decay before checking this new record out, but longtime fans will find even more reason to believe in Mr. Blitz.
Essential Tracks: “Last Man Standing”, “Bat Shit Crazy”, “Welcome to the Garden State”, “Hole in My Soul”