Album of the Week 41-2012: OverKill – Killbox 13

New Jersey Thrashers OverKill became my favorite band almost instantly when I first heard them around about 15 years ago. Since then, I have indulged in every new album they released, but the album with the longest lasting value for me seems to be ‘Killbox 13’, along with ‘Ironbound’. First of all, ‘Killbox’ is probably the best produced album – courtesy of Colin Richardson – and due to the massive amount of variation present on the record, the dynamics give the album an indispensable revisiting quality. And that’s not just because of the dynamic, the songs are extremely well written as well.

Especially the guitars by Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer are much more meaty and powerful than on any other album here. The guitar sound is massive, but also clear. In addition, I don’t know what crawled up Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth’s ass during these sessions, but he delivers the vocal performance of a lifetime here. In itself, it’s already a legacy of his sheer quality as a singer that he has retained that rough-edged, shrill scream for over 30 years, but something here just made him rise above himself. His voice on ‘Killbox 13’ sums up the compositions and the band’s performance quite well: inspired and powerful.

If there is one influence that really stands out on this album, it’s Black Sabbath. That’s not to say that this is earth shattering Doom (although it does contain such a song in the shape of the brutal ‘Crystal Clear’), but the song structures are quite reminiscent of the godfathers of Metal. Especially the way many songs transform into something completely new and exciting somewhere halfway through – look no further than the pounding opener ‘Devil By The Tail’ for the first example – is something shared with Sabbath.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the entire album is that good. A lot of Metal records these days are frontloaded with the good stuff and as a result collapse somewhere in the middle. Even OverKill has fallen into that trap in the past. On ‘Killbox 13’, there are great songs in the beginning (the AC/DC-gone-Metal track ‘Damned’, the unconventionally passionate epic ‘No Lights’), in the middle (the laid-back, almost lazy and experimental ‘Until I Die’, the killer ‘The One’ and the aforementioned monster ‘Crystal Clear’) and finishes with three incredible pieces of ripping Thrash; the Maiden-esque ‘Struck Down’ (featuring a stellar DD Verni), the surprisingly swinging ‘Unholy’ and the downright incredible, mindblowing closer ‘I Rise’.

The seven deadly sins theme – although rage seems ro be rightfully over-represented – gives the album some kind of consistency, but the truth is that even without that common thread, this would have been one of the better titles in OverKill’s extensive discography. Easily their best post ‘W.F.O.’ release, only to be rivaled in that matter by ‘Irounbound’ 8 years later. Every song on here has something of a quality that makes your blood boil and your adrenalin rise through the roof and let’s face it: wasn’t that what Thrash Metal was supposed to do in the first place?

Recommended tracks: ‘I Rise’, ‘Struck Down’, ‘Crystal Clear’, ‘Devil By The Tail’, ‘Until I Die’

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