Album of the Week 30-2014: OverKill – White Devil Armory

Though OverKill has never released an album that was less than decent, it’s when they hit full-speed that they sound best. And for their last three albums, the average tempo has been higher than in the preceding decade, possibly aided by the joining of drummer extraordinaire Ron Lipnicki. That includes their brand new ‘White Devil Armory’, which fits the direction set out on ‘Ironbound’ and ‘The Electric Age’, although with a better production and more concise songwriting than the latter. If you, like myself, are a devoted fan of the New Jersey Thrash quintet, there’s simply a lot to enjoy here.

Regardless of what you think of the band, it’s admirable that they haven’t sacrificed any of their aggression and intensity over the three decades since their debut. In fact, in the shape of the violent, Hardcore-infused monster ‘Pig’ and the more traditionally aggressive warp speed Thrasher ‘Where There’s Smoke…’, ‘White Devil Armory’ contains two of the most brutal tracks in the history of the band. It helps that Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth’s high, raspy voice still hasn’t lost anything of its power, but the quality of bassist DD Verni’s compositions does quite a lot as well. As does the overwhelming nature of the riffing.

Of course, the Black Sabbath-isms that have characterized OverKill’s music since the early nineties are still heard throughout the album, most evidently when many songs suddenly shift atmosphere halfway through and in the slower stomper that is ‘Bitter Pill’, easily one of the best groove-laden tracks the band has done in a long time. But OverKill seems to have stretched out a little within the confines of their brand of Thrash Metal this time. The brilliant ‘Freedom Rings’, for instance, brings to mind Heathen due to its epic and slightly progressive nature and there seem to be some nods to traditional Heavy Metal in the guitar department, especially when you hear Dave Linsk’s triumphant melodic leads in the chorus to ‘Down To The Bone’, the pre-chorus to ‘Another Day To Die’ and the lead melody in the aformentioned ‘Bitter Pill’, which is reminiscent of Megadeth’s ‘The Scorpion’.

Highlighting the album, however, is the unadulterated genius that is the closing track ‘In The Name’. The song is undeniably OverKill, yet it sounds like nothing the band has ever done before. Its beginnings sound familiar despite the somewhat atypical triplet feel, but when the song hits its middle section, you’ll realize that it’s breathtaking. Images of Iron Maiden in their best days pop up due to the dramatic guitar melodies and Lipnicki shows himself as the world class drummer he is. It concludes in one of Ellsworth’s most dramatic vocal deliveries to date before moving into a section that sounds like a sinister marching song. Simply brilliant. Easily their best album closer since ‘I Rise’ or possibly even ‘Gasoline Dream’.

Each of the album’s fifty minutes is worth the effort though. The songs are great, the album sounds much better than ‘The Electric Age’ because of its more natural drum sound and the limited edition comes with two unusual, but extremely enjoyable tracks. The album left my blood on fire and that doesn’t happen too often anymore. Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth and his men have delivered another fine record of Thrash Metal with New Jersey’s Punky street attitude that anyone who enjoyed ‘Ironbound’ should acquire immediately.

Recommended tracks: ‘In The Name’, ‘Pig’, ‘Where There’s Smoke…’

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