Written by Alex Stojanovic
Last Man Standing
Believe In The Fight
Head Of A Pin
Bad Shit Crazy
A Mother's Prayer
Welcome To The Garden State
Where Few Dare To Walk
Out On The Road-Kill
Hole In My Soul
Release Date: February 22, 2019
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth - Lead vocals / D.D. Verni - Bass & backing vocals / Dave Linsk - Lead guitars & backing vocals
Derek "The Skull" Tailer - Rhythm guitars & backing vocals / Jason Bittner - Drums
Every time there's a lineup change in any band, it puts some worry into fans, but as many of you know, Bittner is a high-caliber drummer, so you have nothing to worry about. With Overkill, you know exactly what you're getting, and with Bittner being a veteran in the business, he always manages to deliver the goods on every record he plays on. One of the more noticeable differences with this album, compared to the last few albums, is the production. The albums from Ironbound up to The Grinding Wheel all had a very sharp, very piercing production quality. Nothing wrong with that at all, but The Wings Of War features a tone that is still very clean and punishing, but it sounds a bit more raw.
The album starts off with "Last Man Standing". Beginning with a pretty industrial sounding intro, and it slowly builds up into a full-throttle thrash attack, followed by the signature high-pitched vocals from the one and only Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth. The track as a whole is a good indicator of what's to come. The drum intro in "Believe In The Fight" is undoubtedly earth-shattering, and it launches into a pummeling thrash groove. However, my favourite part of this track is the gang-vocal section in the middle. As expected, there are a couple of song titles that lean towards the silly side. For example, "Bat Shit Crazy". Despite the odd title, it's another round of pure punk-inspired metal, and it features a pretty cool, haunting sounding middle section with clean single notes on the guitar and some eerie background vocals.
"Welcome To The Garden State" begins with an audio clip taken from The Sopranos, and it sees the band paying homage to their home state of New Jersey, as it features the band calling it "the best damn place in the USA" in the chorus. I will fully admit right now that over the last few records, the leads have started becoming less compelling, and they feel as if they weren't thought out. It feels like Dave Linsk didn't put a lot of thought into the leads and just played something random off the cuff and stuck it into the song without really thinking about it. I'm not denying his abilities at all, he's a fantastic player, but his leads on some of the recent records have started to lack memorability and lead towards mediocre.
With Overkill being one of the more punk inspired bands of the original thrash movement, they never strayed away from their core thrash sound, but they did sneak in some other elements into their music over the years. The songwriting is very economical, and the riffs are very straightforward. With very little to no experimentation to be found, except for a couple of slower intros and middle sections, it tends to get a little tedious, especially during the second half of the record. Blitz's vocals have always been an acquired taste for many. For me, I kind of remain neutral on his vocals. I used to be all about his vocals, but my stance on them has changed a little bit. His high-octane shrieks are still in tact, and they still pierce like scissors through the ferocious riffs from Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer, but he has limited variation in his range, and as a result, he has both good and not so good moments.
Overall, The Wings Of War doesn't contain nearly as many memorable moments as some of the previous records do. I'm a guy that likes to be surprised every once in a while, but with knowing what to expect from Overkill, things can become pretty predictable. However, the energy is there, the production quality is exceptional, and if you're a long-time fan, you'll love this album. There's a reason why Overkill are considered the Motorhead of thrash. 40 years on, and they're still firing on all cylinders. It's just that The Wings Of War didn't live up to the hype that I hoped it would. I'll always love them, and I look forward to seeing them live again.
Highs: "Last Man Standing" and "Believe In The Fight". Jason Bittner's drumming is top-notch.
Lows: Dave Linsk's leads have started becoming less memorable on the last few records. Not nearly as many memorable moments as on the last few records.
Final Rating: 6/10