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White Devil Armory

Nuclear Blast (2014)
Rating: 8.5/10

When you’re a kid in the 1980s and listening to thrash bands like New Jersey’s Overkill, you never expect that around three decades later they’ll still be around burning your ears.

Overkill is one of those criminally underrated metal bands you just have to applaud as each album gets pushed out. Forget the so-called “Big Four” – that died of death when grunge took over and Metallica released ‘Enter Sandman’. The real “Big Four” it could be argued contains a bunch of bands that have rarely altered over the years but always maintained a level of weight and above all, integrity.

If I was forced to create such a category then it would probably include Testament and Exodus, but then again we also have the German trio of Kreator, Destruction and Sodom to think about. Either way, Overkill would always be there; thrash metal music in its purest form.

If you flick through the Overkill discography there’s not a duff album in sight; in fact, there’s not even an average one. Whether it’s Taking Over (1987), Under The Influence (1988) or the more recent Ironbound (2010) and The Electric Age (2012), one thing you can always rely on is that Overkill is a beast that delivers when it comes to the crunch.

And so with the release of their 17th studio album I’m pleased so say that once again Overkill is that predictable monster we all know and love, and by predictable I mean that it’s fast, furious, heavy and passionate. Eleven pummelling tracks bolstered by D.D. Verni’s apocalyptic bass lines, hardened by Derek “The Skull” Tailer’s grinding rhythms and of course led by that enigmatic sneer of Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, who has the ultimate thrash pipes. Alongside this trio we cannot forget the crushing percussion of Ron Lipnicki and the sizzling leads of Dave Linsk, whose solos burrow into the flesh hide of sound and pierce the eardrums in clinical fashion.

Yep, we know what to expect with Overkill, but boy do we lap it up when the whirlwind comes around again. Rather than run from the phenomena it’s important that we plunge heads first into such an avalanche of thrash metal and become one with the juddering bass lines that dominate ‘Armorist’. We must also prepare for the white knuckle ride that is ‘Down To The Bone’, meanwhile, which may, if you’re not careful, remove the flesh from your body and leave you a jabbering wreck.

Overkill is a friend that will never let you down, formed like a well-worn yet unstoppable tank that has charged through all manner of weather conditions and inner battles. Scarred it may be, but its stubborn stance has made it an unbeatable force. All the angst that has built since The Electric Age can now be spewed forth as a tide of clattering drums, crunching riffs and that distinctive gravel voice.

Without Overkill the thrash metal scene just wouldn’t be the same; this is a band that has stuck to its guns, never buckled to trend and stayed true to its fans. So what better way to reward the thrashing masses than to batter the hell out of them with the likes of the savage, chugging ‘Bitter Pill’, the slow building menace of ‘Freedom Rings’, and the jerking, funked-up groove of ‘It’s All Yours’.

It’s an album where I find myself struggling to pick out a standout track, because due to the consistent nature of the band’s material every thrash anthem is a veritable feast for the ears. But as well as those aforementioned cranium clatterers, one cannot ignore the destructive nature of ‘Pig’ or the jarring assault that is ‘King Of The Rat Bastards’ with its dirty rock ’n’ roll entry to the hall of flame and Ellsworth’s melodic variations mixed with his usual grit. The big guns keep on firing, and the six-minute slamming ‘In The Name’ with its reverberating bass pretty much puts pay to what’s left of the ears.

White Devil Armory drips sweat, gives blood and more than anything else satisfies even the most thrash-thirsty of metal fans. Overkill have given everything once again and you just can’t ask for any more than that, and I’m sure we’ll be ground down to dust by the next slab they’ve probably got waiting in the wings.

Neil Arnold