Their twenty fourteen album, White Devil Armory
, was a very good product. There was a lot of brutal guitar work and harsh thrashing involved. Then their twenty seventeen CD, The Grinding Wheel
rocked out pretty good. There was plenty of dynamic thrashing, but there were also some punk influences involved, a couple of which were corny. This recent release, The Wings of War
, comes in a digipack trifold package. The album art depicts an overview of five devilish horned skulls viewing a picture of Charlie, who is their mascot. On the backside, there is a current black and white photo of the band. Open up the two flaps and remove the disc and the artwork doesn’t show anything remarkable. The booklet exhibits the lyrics, the black and white photo of each band member and a dark image of the band posing on the back page. After eleven years of service and performing on five albums, drummer Ron Lipnicki has quit the band. He had missed a European tour in twenty seventeen due to a family emergency. So his position has been replaced by a highly sought recruit.
The Wings of War
commences with The Last Man Standing
, a steady bass note ensues for ten seconds and an industrial style guitar rhythm joins in. The drummer pounds his way in and soon there is some violent riff shifting as the tempo increases. The vocalist frantically sings out his lines. “They’re lining up in columns, they’re lining up in pairs!” “They’re lining up around the globe, they line up everywhere!” Then soon the lead guitarist wails out a blistering hot high note solo, followed by rapid drum beats with cross over patterns. The velocity of the composition increases even further, with intense thrashing and rhythmic bass chops. Vocalist Bobby Blitz has been with Overkill
for thirty nine years. Next
week on May fifth is his birthday and he will become sixty years of age. The vocals sound like they were recorded at a low fi and that doesn’t enhance his high notes. With a powerful and commanding personality, he can project a high note for a few seconds. He mixes it up with melodic lilts between the midrange and higher notes.
As is customary, Overkill
fields two guitarists and they’ve both performed on at least eight albums since the early two thousands. They almost constantly provide fast paced thrashing and grinding, with impressive riff shifting and extraordinary shredding with sadistic overtones in the later tracks. The lead guitarist often picks and rips out the higher notes to add an extra dimension of ambience. Some of the guitar solos are so flamboyant and artistic that they recall the skill of Richie Blackmore. The fourth song, Bat Shit
Crazy, jumps right out with a brutal thrash rhythm. It churns forth with heavy bass notes and pounding drum beats. Then the composition alternates to another rhythm and drives forth at a faster tempo. The vocalist sings with a solemn and sobering demeanor. “Everybody out on the wing, gone bat shit crazy.” “Everybody don’t know a thing, about sense anymore.” The music soon shifts gears to an ugly thrash cadence, with strong bass lines. Then there is a short mellow interlude that is abruptly interrupted with a wild high note guitar solo.
The eighth track, Where Few Dare
to Walk, starts with a mysterious guitar ditty. Then after forty seconds, it breaks forth with a wicked thrash melody. It’s played at a medium tempo, with powerful bass notes and strong drum beats. The bassist shifts to ornamental plucking, then the ambience shifts to a mysterious atmosphere. The vocalist gently sings in tune with a lilt similar to the classic Metallica
song, The Thing that Should not Be. “Cross
your ‘t’s and dot your ‘i’s, take note when the raven flies. “And
always keep one eye on the fool.” Then the guitarists slice and dice with an artistic flair, as the drummer pounds away with occasional drum rolls. About halfway in the band resumes the ominous thrash melody. “Call them out on their shit, demand they listen when you talk.” “Wear them down, bit by bit and go where few men dare to walk.” The founding member, Carlo ‘DD’ Verni, released a thrash heavy solo album last fall. Barricade
sounded somewhat gritty and a bit cheesy, comparable to Hell
Yeah. The bassist often chugs along at a fast pace and sounds uniform in structure to the guitar music. He picks up catchy rhythms that coincide with inflammatory guitar solos and backs up some rhythms with discordant undertones. Sometimes he digs down deeper to offer raw textures or ornamental plucking rhythms. The bass music is usually more noticeable in the slower interludes.
The new drummer is Jason
Bittner, who is forty years old and is best known for his extensive work with Shadows Fall
. Previously he was a member of Flotsam And Jetsam
and performed on their twenty sixteen self titled album. In the booklet, he thanks Flotsam And Jetsam
and their crew. Jason
is a hyperactive drummer with a lot of pizzazz. There is a lot of exciting rapid movement. From time to time there are fancy blast beats and high velocity cross over beat tone patterns. He combines plenty of quick drum rolls into his repertoire. The last number, Hole
in My Soul, starts with a bizarre guitar hook and then it breaks out with a choppy thrash rhythm. The drums are beaten with hard strikes and the guitarists evolve to a more chaotic pattern. Bobby emphatically sings and screams out his lines. “Rode a million miles to shed my skin, I can’t say much about the state I’m in!” “There was a million trials by fire to win!” About halfway in there is a dramatic interlude, but the tempo doesn’t slow down, as the bassist bellows out a clamorous series of midrange notes. Then the speed picks up a couple of notches, with some brutal thrashing, as the drummer beats out flurries of decorative tone patterns.
So this album is entitled The Wings of War
, without a title track. The lyrics of the first five songs could be construed as relating to airborne soldiers, who are facing death. The remaining five tracks are mostly about being a tough and mean bad ass. The Wings of War
seems to have been recorded at a slightly lower level of fidelity than their recent releases were. And
so this CD sounds more like an eighties era cassette tape. The compositions usually thrash and grind, with violent melodies and ominous undertones. The textures are somewhat reminiscent of Horrorscope
, but not necessarily matching that classic release. But if The Wings of War
was released twenty five years ago, it would have also been a headbanging classic. The lead guitarist adds an extra layer of ambience with his high note activities, which seems to be something new for an Overkill
album. The new drummer is an excellent fit for this band. Jason
seemed to outperform Lipnicki on this current outing. But he definitely matched his performance on The White Devil Armory
. One of their recent trends is to have at least one cheesy composition mixed into their track lists. This time it was Welcome to the Garden
State. The Wings of War
was slightly better than The Grinding Wheel
. But The White Devil Armory
was a notch better than both of these albums.