“Nobody opens their favorite beer and wonders what it will taste like.” So sayeth the bio that came with my advance copy of White Devil Armory, the new album from OVERKILL. And I can think of NOTHING more apropos to describe not only this band, but the record itself. OVERKILL are a thrash metal institution, and the older I’ve gotten the more they have become my go-to band when I need some killer thrash in my life. You know exactly what you’re getting: no-bullshit fucking METAL! And as vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth and I discussed in an interview last year, I think since 1996’s The Killing Kind this band can do virtually no wrong, with their best work coming in the second half of their career. Albums like Necroshine and From the Underground and Below first proved that and recent records like Ironbound only cement the point further. So with all that said, does White Devil Armory measure up?
The answer is simple: YIS!! And then some! After the intro “XDM” it’s all hands on deck for ten blistering, bruising, and pummeling tracks, starting with “Armorist”, Ron Lipnicki’s double-kick drums leading the charge and Blitz sounding every bit as pissed off and venomous as he did 30 years ago. How the hell the man can still sing like this is beyond me; I just thank the Gods he can! After the two-minute mark the song stops on a dime with bassist D.D. Verni setting the change in tempo before it settles back into its groove. “Down to the Bone” has one of the most infectious gang-yelled choruses on the whole record and once again Lipnicki gets a bit of a workout alongside the thick n’rich guitar work of Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer. This unit has been together for a long time and the way these guys play off each other both live and in the studio is something else.
One of my favorite riffs starts off “PIG” and this is one of the best vocal deliveries not only of the album but of Blitz’s career. I also cannot get enough of “Bitter Pill”. It moves along like a hunter on the trail of its wounded prey, taking its time because you’re on a bad leg and it’s coming for you. There’s a certain smugness about it, too, which appeals to a prick like me on many different levels. And if you’re looking for a track that’ll make you want to smash windows and kick down doors, then look no further than “Where There’s Smoke”. It’s OVERKILL doing what they do best, and that’s wreck your neck, son! There’s a very moody bass riff to start “Freedom Rings” the album’s longest track at nearly seven minutes, and out of the buildup comes another angry monster hell-bent on destroying everything in its path.
One thing about OVERKILL: even when a song starts out in conventional thrash territory it sure doesn’t stay there for very long. “Another Day to Die” might be the closest thing to it on the album, but it still slithers off in a few different directions. My other favorite no question is “King of the Rat Bastards”. It is 100% attitude and just SCREAMS to be played live on this upcoming tour. A killer chorus and more neck-snapping riffage make up “It’s All Yours”; actually the whole band gets to flex a bit here and the guitar solo is easily the best one I’ve heard in years on an OVERKILL record. Closing things out is “In the Name” a heroic metal march that takes us home flying the flag of victory, Blitz singing the cadence.
With this album OVERKILL prove once again that after 30 years they haven’t lost a single step. In fact, they seem to have gained a few. This is arguably their best work since Necroshine, and yeah, you can quote me on that. White Devil Armory drops July 22 via eOne Music. Best when played LOUD!!
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM