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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Overkill

Killbox 13

Review by Mike Korn

Whenever Overkill releases a new album, the public is bombarded by a series of clichés such as "Overkill avoids all trends with their tried and true metal", "Overkill is the Motorhead of American bands" and "Overkill follows their own path". Clichés they may be, but there is really truth in all of them. Rumbling along tank-like since the early 80's, the band has delivered its chunky thrash with nary a nod to whatever the prevailing fashion at the time is. "Killbox 13" proves no different.

Nothing here is going to disappoint anybody into past Overkill albums, but the band is perilously close to uncreative monotony with their formulaic material. Only a massively energetic performance can keep a band out of the formula trap...and fortunately, Overkill does deliver that. You can generally tell when a band is really into the material they are performing and "Killbox 13" has that feeling in spades. These guys really love what they do. Vocalist "Blitz" Ellsworth has never sounded better with his snotty vocals, so distinct and unique. The addition of a second guitarist Derek Tailer has injected even more thunder into the Overkill sound and the superb thick production of Colin Richardson ensures that this is the heaviest sounding disc the boys have ever put forth.

Highlights here would include the supremely catchy "Damned", sure to be a live favorite, and the raging thrash assaults of "Struck Down" and "Unholy", both hailing back to the earliest days of the band. The rest of the material is solidly heavy but not surprising in the least; with "The One" being probably the ultimate generic Overkill song. Though I could wish for more innovation from these veterans, you can't deny their prowess as a metal band or their devotion to pure powerful thrash. "Killbox 13" is yet another satisfying journey into their punishing sonic domain.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Devil By the Tail
It's immediately apparent that Colin Richardson has given the band the thickest, heaviest sound of their career. Every note has the force of a sledgehammer. It's super-crunchy, groovy metal in the vein of many Overkill opening numbers and as such is pretty typical but also pretty headbangable.
Damned
This is surely one of the catchiest tunes the band has ever penned. It's got a rolling, more rock and roll hook to it that's just plain groovy! It kind of reminds of their old track "Thanx for Nothing" but has its own feel. It's definitely a great track!
No Lights
Starting out in a slower, more deliberate fashion, this is a heavy tune that is classic mid-paced Overkill. Melody plays more of a role and there's some wild wah-wah guitar from Dave Linsk. The pace picks up significantly in the middle of the track.
The One
This is about as bland as Overkill gets. The track is fast and heavy, but there's a feeling of going through the motions here and none of the riffing really grabs you that hard.
Crystal Clear
The opening to this one almost had me thinking this was a Down album. The introductory riffs are extremely thick and bluesy, with a vaguely Sabbath feel to them. Then Blitz's sneering vocals come in, and the track becomes a heavy-duty chugger that reminds me a bit of the band's "I Hear Black" album. It goes on a little bit too long.
The Sound of Dying
This is a nippy little number that surges right along. Again, the only real drawback is how familiar it is.
Until I Die
This is a track that throws an awful lot at the listener. It has a moody, semi-ballad feel, there's some twin guitar harmonies and then things heavy up into a standard Overkill "chug" riff. It further heats up with some speedy cranking and then returns to the original feel. It's certainly the most complex song on the disc.
Struck Down
Here's a track that harkens back to Overkill's thrashy past...and I love it! This could have come right off their first albums with its blazing "spidery" main riff and powerful chorus. I love the staccato picking and old school guitar solo in the middle. It's a great song for lovers of classic Overkill.
Unholy
Simply put, this is one of the very best tracks Overkill has ever laid down. It's another high velocity screamer, and something about the opening riffs almost reminds me of black metal! This is the kind of tune that made thrash metal such a force back in the day. It's just a killer example of riff-mongering at its best!
I Rise
This is a very powerful tune in its own right, but after the twin blast of "Struck Down" and "Unholy", it had a lot to live up to. It doesn't quite reach the pinnacle of the aforementioned cut, but it doesn't disappoint either. It's a scorching burst of thrash accentuated by Tim Mallare's pounding double bass drumming. It's a good finish to another solid Overkill release.
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