Album review: OVERKILL – The Atlantic Years 1986-1994

OVERKILL - The Atlantic Years 1986-1994

BMG [Release date 29.10.21]

New Jersey band Overkill, named after the Motorhead album/song, formed in 1980 and were part of the early US thrash scene. Nineteen studio albums, three live and three EPs later, there’s quite a legacy there. There have been a number of line-up changes, with vocalist Bobby Elisworth and bassist DD Verni the constant members.

Overkill’s roots are in punk tinged New Wave Of British Heavy Metal which gives them a slightly unique edge to their sound. Although Overkill never quite made the premier league (think the Big Four), they have always been up there, influential and popular.

The band originally signed to Megaforce for their debut Feel The Fire, released in 1985, and its moderate success led to a deal with Atlantic, which is where this box set comes in. And the first thing you notice is just how lovely the box looks and feels, as do the individual CDs in card sleeves inside. Sadly though, no booklet.

The first album here, and the band’s second, is 1987’s Taking Over. And it’s worth it just for the bombastic opener Deny The Cross. It’s a fantastic number, great solo too, and also a hint of period US metal like Hammer’s Rule. The tracks are pretty fast and intense. Wrecking Crew has a hint of hardcore, overall a good album.

Following tours with Testament, MOD and Nuclear Assault, Overkill released Under The Influence in 1988. From the openers Shred and Never Say Never you know it’s a good album, solid, confident, but it doesn’t quite grab you by the throat. Still, very, very enjoyable.

Released the following year, The Years Of Decay is the album that peaked my interest the most, being slightly progressive. Longer songs that don’t get boring, opener Time To Kill runs to over 6 minutes and has some slower chunky moments (a nod to Sabbath). And the two tracks at over 8 minutes I really enjoyed. This album was apparently an influence on the groove metal scene.

A very solid (and successful) album is the following, 1991’s Horrorscope. The production is good with a fuller sound than the earlier albums, and 11 punchy songs, it deserves a place in any play list. The expanded two guitar line-up had a profound effect to the positive. Great cover of Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein too.

1993’s I Hear Black nodded back to the stoner of Black Sabbath, dark bluesy doom while keeping the upbeat and high vocals. Evidence that Overkill were continuing to experiment without deviating too much from their thrash roots.

Overkill’s last album for Atlantic was 1994’s WFO (Wide Fucking Open), which was both self produced and a return to their thrashier roots, so it was less experimental. The heavy bass lines are reminiscent of early Anthrax. There’s a very 90s feel, but cracking thrash all the same.

The music here is classic Overkill and there’s some great thrash music to enjoy. Shame the debut couldn’t be included. And although this is a lovely package, in look, feel and sound, there is no

booklet and the albums have no extras. Excellent but also a missed opportunity, which knocks off a mark from an otherwise very worthy set. ***1/2

Review by Joe Geesin


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