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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Overkill

Immortalis

Review by Mike Korn

Overkill is the most consistent band in American heavy metal...by far. That goes without saying anymore, as the band has found the secret to releasing incredibly heavy and entertaining albums on a near clockwork basis. It never sounds like "work" when these guys play and that's a large part of their success. Nevertheless, it seems that about fourth album or so, the band releases an exceptional record that goes above and beyond even their usual very high level of product.

Immortalis is the latest such knockout from the Jersey Boys,  The wicked version of their pet flying skull  Chalie which adorns the cover gives a good clue to the ferocious metal on the inside. The band have come up with some of their best ever tunes here and the record is notably angrier and heavier than recent stuff like RelixIV (which was by no means a bad album). Their super-charismatic singer Blitz unleashes his most agonizing screams ever on this record and seems to add more variety to his approach. Perhaps his recent participation in his second band, The Cursed, helped with that. At any rate, it's amazing that these guys can stay so energized and focused after they've been in the game so long. I'd put them ahead of even Motorhead in that category of "successful longevity" now.

It doesn't look like Overkill will ever get the huge success they so richly deserve, but we, the fortunate few, who know of their prowess can enjoy outstanding records like Immortalis for years to come!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Devils in the Mist
Following a slow, chunky build-up with plenty of bass action from D. D. Verni, this soon erupts into a scorching thrasher that could have easily been on W.F.O. or Horrorscope. New drummer Ron Lipnicki is sounding jacked up and ready to go. I really like the production on this album...crisp and analog, giving equal weight to every instrument. There's more real hot soloing from Dave Linsk. I think by now Linsk has muscled his way up to Blitz and D.D.'s level as a cornerstone of Overkill. He's the best guitarist this band has ever had.
What It Takes

There's a bouncy, almost happy feel to this massive cruncher, which is one of my favorites on the disc. Mixing pure thrash with some mid-paced muscle, this is super catchy in the vein of old classics like "Thanx For Nothing,” - love that chorus! This has got to kill live. It has great goofy lyrics, too.

Skull and Bones
Here the veterans team up with one of the strongest voices from the New Wave of American Heavy Metal to nail the screws down tight. Blitz does a great duet here with the gravel-crushing D. Randall Blythe from Lamb of God. The contrast between Blitz's nasal sneer and the grinding growls of Blythe is outstanding. The track itself doesn't let up on intensity at all and keeps the hammer down for its entire length.
Shadow of A Doubt
By now, the typical Overkill album would be slowing down, but not on Immortalis. This is a fast-paced chugger that again reminds me of older material like Years of Decay or Horrorscope. I really like the saucier tone to the vocals here. Blitz is really stretching himself. This cut has an ominous, nervous feeling to it that the lyrics do nothing to dispel: "Listen to your spirit scream/Wring your soul out and it's clean/Well beyond the shadow of a doubt/Kiss your purity goodbye.”
Hellish Pride
Now here's the slower, groovier side of Overkill. As a bluesy, catchy riff grinds away, Blitz's snarling vocals relate a tale of menace. The chorus is slow and sleazy and the vocals have an entirely different sound. This is a good cut but it drags just a little bit and I might have trimmed it by a minute or so. "Sweet Jesus in the Midnight Sun!"
Walk Through Fire
Is it Overkill or is it AC/DC? You might be asking yourself that after hearing the pure Bon Scott era riff that kicks this off. The outright mimicry soon comes to an end, giving way to an upbeat rocker where AC/DC elements are mixed with traditional Overkill. Not a thrasher, this is better described as a headbanging oldschool metal track to get the old neck muscles limbered up!
Head On
For a change of pace, this starts with some soothing low-key guitar ambience. But, this being an Overkill album, you know that's not going to last! The bulk of the tune is another mid-tempo groover that's enjoyable but one of the lesser tracks on show here.
Chalie, Get Your Gun

For those not in the know, Chalie is the nickname of the evil flying skull that's appeared on virtually every Overkill album cover. This song is a great gritty tune hailing back to the band's glory days. The guitar sound here has maximum crunch and Blitz outdoes himself again on vocals. The tune picks up in speed and intensity as it goes along, exploding into a blazing thrash monster and featuring a sweet Dave Linsk solo. It’s great stuff!

Hell Is
This one's got a little bit of everything and winds up as the album's most complex tune. It kicks off with a slow, bluesy feel that gives way to a kind of tumbling, staccato riff. From there, the chorus speeds up to full-blown thrash with Blitz relating these lyrics "Hell is for the not like them/All fired up and ready for the Promised Land/Hell is for the other man/All fired up, doing the best he can.” There's a cool call-and-response break in the middle and yet another heart-wrenching scream. This is quite a neat little tune that requires more than one listen to fully appreciate.
Overkill V...The Brand
The saga of "Overkill" has been unfolding since the band's first album, but this is the first installment in the multi-record story in quite a few years. Like the rest, it starts with ominous, simple bass tones from D.D. Verni. This is the band at their darkest and heaviest, with a pronounced Black Sabbath feel to the music. In fact, this harkens back to Feel The Fire, the first Overkill LP, and the grinding riffs in the mid-section are the closest this band has ever gotten to death metal. "Away,away, no time to stay/The union it still stands/Willingness, donation/We all display the brand!"
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