OVERKILL is my favorite Thrash Metal band of all time, forever and ever amen. Over the last twenty-one years since The Killing Kind and From the Underground and Below, pound for pound they have delivered one crushing album after another, without a single clunker in the bunch. And live they are on a completely different level, making bands half their age look sorry. 2014’s White Devil Armory was an absolute monster of an album and the ensuing tour wrecked necks from here to Timbuktu and beyond. So here it is two and a half years later and these Titans of Thrash have seen fit to unleash The Grinding Wheel (February 10, Nuclear Blast Records).
I’ve had my copy for about three weeks now and I have to admit coming up with the right words for this one was a bit of a struggle at first. Not because it’s a bad album or anything, quite the opposite. The band actually throws us for a loop a few times instead of going full speed ahead like they’ve done sometimes. And the more I listen the more I’m convinced that’s a good thing. Obviously the all-out thrashers are there, like the punk-infused “Goddamn Trouble” and first single “Our Finest Hour”, but they threw some curveballs in there, too. For example, opening track “Mean Green Killing Machine” is seven and a half minutes long and it probably goes in about five different directions, which is good or bad depending on who you ask. Me, I really like it.
Unfortunately, this time around there’s a bump or two in the road. Despite the amazing guitar work of Dave Linsk and Derek “The Skull” Tailer, “Shine On” just falls flat on the chorus for me. I simply can’t get into it. The same can be said for “Let’s All Go to Hades”. Musically the verses kill, with drummer Ron Lipnicki and bassist D.D. Verni locking it down, but that hook just doesn’t do it for me at all. However, on the subject of killer riffs, “The Long Road” has them in abundance and there is an interesting groove throughout. And now we come to the latter portion of the album…
This record is almost a tale of two halves with the later songs winning out. One of my two favorites starts us off with “Come Heavy,” vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth singing his ass off on one of the bounciest grooves I think I’ve ever heard. The whole song is like one big chorus and I love it! They’ve gotta play it live on this tour. “Red White and Blue” drops the hammer down on our heads, and every beat from the rhythm section feels like machine gun fire aimed in our direction. Then at the 2:20 mark it completely shifts gears and goes into more of a mid-tempo chug, which only makes the song that much better. When thrash tunes do this, it’s always exciting. But don’t get too comfy because at 4:00 the band buries the needle for the remainder of the song. Fuck, I hope they do this one live, too!
“The Wheel” is total power and fury from start to finish, the boys feeling the fire (see what I did there?) as they beat the shit out of everyone and everything in their way. It’s an old-fashioned stomp job and you’ll feel some lumps afterward for sure. Closer and title track “The Grinding Wheel” is the other runaway favorite on the disc. Clocking in at 7:56 this is one of their trademark epics that all their albums are known to have. I always look forward to these with great excitement, and this song didn’t let me down for a second. It has a killer hook, some sinister chanted vocals, evil riffs for days, and an overall badass attitude. Bonus track “Emerald” is a groove-fest with some great dual harmonized leads ripping shit up, and I can’t believe it wasn’t included on all pressings of the disc. Whatever you do, buy this track!!
At the end of the day OVERKILL came in and did what they always do; thrash, fuck shit up, and kick some ass. And while not all the tracks are home runs this time around, The Grinding Wheel is still a great fucking record that you should buy ASAP. Hell, out of ten I only wasn’t feeling two, so that’s definitely one for the win column. I also can’t wait to hear some of these songs live at the opening night of the tour in Philly, and closing night in Sayreville, NJ, that’s for damn sure!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “The Grinding Wheel”, “Come Heavy”, “Red White and Blue”, “The Wheel”, “Mean Green Killing Machine”, “Emerald”