Danzig – Black Laden Crown (Evilive Records 2017)

After the weak sounding covers record Skeletons I didn’t get my hopes up for this release. The sound is in the same sort of low fi Glenn has been doing ever since 7:77 I Luciferi. The songs are doomy and gloomy, mostly slow to mid tempo pieces.

 

Let’s pause a minute to consider the cover art, wow how awful is this cover? Danzig cover art has been a huge part of what has drawn me to the music, especially the Giger drawing of How the Gods Kill, not to mention the classic skull logo or the medieval look of Circle of Snakes. This time around he has chosen to go for the esthetics of his Verotic comic books. I get that he is big into the comic book world, but this cover is too much on the cartoony side for me personally, bit of a disappointment.

 

The sound is very similar to the Deth Red Saboath album. Lyrically this album is better crafted, maybe not as accessible as earlier, but with better quality… quality might not be the right word…shit… they seem less childish and more of a comprehensive body of work.

 

The guitar is heavily overdriven, I’m thinking a thick fuzz sound, Victor likes himself some natural harmonics, so much so that it sort of gets annoying. The riffs themselves are dark, and heavy, reminiscent of Circle of Snakes and 4p. The high, squeaky fills gets a bit much, for my taste. The drums are once again handled by Joey Castillo, who was the from about 95 up through the touring cycle for I, Luciferi in 03. I can’t really say he makes much of an impact on the album. Drums are hollow-sounding and bass-laden, like they’ve been on every danzig-record since the turn of the century. I guess Glenn played the bass and keyboards himself.

 

The opener, which also happens to be the title track, is a sort of half breed between his past half instrumental openers, like Unendlich or Wotans Procession and earlier heavy numbers; like Thirteen or Angel Blake. It’s a slow, but heavy number. Best of all, it has this classic, easy-to-follow Danzig vocal melody. A truly wicked start to the new disc. Eyes Ripping Fire is not a great song, it’s lacking in power and gets dull and seems to drag out, even though it’s only like four minutes long.

 

Devil on Hwy 9, the teaser and the single, isn’t a very good either. The chorus is nice and infectious, but the main riff is just boring and Victor is slightly too active with his fills. I’m sure this will be killer live though, it just falls flat in a studio version.

 

I’ve listened to this album a bunch of times now, and it doesn’t really stick. It kind of falls flat. I get what he’s trying to do with production but when you know that with today’s technology untrained kids can make great sounding stuff in their bedrooms, this low-fi shit doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t sound retro, it doesn’t sound evil, it just sounds half assed.

 

Being a Danzig-fan is hard around the release of new music, because of Danzigs press rounds, he’s now getting to sound like more of a nutcase than Mustaine and that says a bit. Jeebuz man, Glenn says some crazy shit.

 

Let’s end this with: Established Danzig fan? Yes: Get the record, it’s what you expect and want, but with crap production. No: Go to the first four records for some bluesy stuff, record 5 and 6 for some industrial darkness, 7 and 8 for some truly dark, yet somehow popy, music, wait with Black Laden Crown and Deth Red Sabaoth.

 

Recommended tracks: Devil on Hwy 9, Skulls & Daisies

 

Rating: 3 / 5

Overkill – Necroshine (Steamhammer 1999)

Necroshine was the album that got me into Overkill, and it’s the record I measure all other Overkill releases up against. I was aware of the band for many years, never listening to them. I don’t remember exactly how I got a hold of this record, but I loved it from the first snarling of the opening title track: Groovy and heavy, with thoroughly heavy bottom and screeching vocals on top. I still love the track.

My December introduced me to the sing-along chorus side of Overkill. A simple little vocal line, followed by some ooo-ing, that sticks in your brain, and a midtempo, sludgy riff that grooves, builds and pushes ever onwards. Let Us Pray is another groovy, midtempo, heavy tune, with all the greatness of the first two tracks, plus some Sabbath-esque riffing. Stone Cold Jesus is as infectious as the plague and when I hear it, it stays with me for quite some time; great riff, great melodies and amazing arrangement.

There are a few songs that don’t quite measure up; Forked Tongue Kiss, Revelation and I am Fear are somewhat lesser compositions. They all lack that little extra tinge that makes remarkable. Revelation  might be the weakest song Overkill released since the forgettable I Hear Black in ’93.

Black Line is more of an upbeat song then the rest of the record. Lyrically the record is kind of dark and, at times, kind of creepy. Black Line has a bit humor to the lyrics, combine that with a moody but up beat riff and you get a good listening experience.

Dead Man has a massive groove and together with 80 Cycles, are the two strongest tracks on the entire record. The blend of groove, Sabbath-eque riffing pressed together in a thrash soundscape and a sing-along sensibility, you get some great metal. The shifting tempos seem natural and spices up the songs. Absolutely amazing tracks!

The record has a definitive 90s feel to it. The sound and focus on groove, and the fact that most of the songs from this thrash band is midtempo, are all clear evidence of the 90s. If you like(d) this sound and the grooves of Machine Hear or Pantera, give Overkill 90s releases a spin.

Recommended tracks: 80 Cycles, Dead Man, Stone Cold Jesus, Necroshine, My December

Rating: 4,5 / 5

Overkill – The Grinding Wheel (Nuclear Blast 2017)

Overkill continue to release consistent quality records. The Grinding Wheel is a solid piece of thrash metal and, in my humble opinion, it has a slight edge over other surviving 80s outfits. The Grinding Wheel is an overall stronger record than For All Kings, Dystopia, Repentless, Hardwired … to Selfdestruct, Under Attack  and Gods of Violence. The only one of my old heroes to come close to Overkill these days are Death Angel, in terms of new music.

All the hallmarks of Overkill are pushed to the front on this record. Blitz is screeching and screaming, Linsk and Tailer sound great, cohesive and blistering; pushing out riff after riff of headbanging / foot tapping intensity. DD is both rumbling and keeping the wall of sound solidly grounded. Lipnicki is solid on the kit. Everything sounds great!

Overkill sound like they’ve got an abundance of energy, where Metallica sound uninspired and Megadeth tired, Slayer bored. Overkill seem to still have the fire burning and some real, honest anger left in their hearts. I could have wished for a bit more diversity and experimentation. Overkill is balancing on the edge becoming their own parody. Just like Kreator, the lack of experimentation is apparent. I feel White Devil Armory had more variation in sound and style, as this record is in your face throughout.

As for the songs, I’m totally into Red, White and Blue as it combines groov, a bit of silliness, gang vocals, thrashing speed and blistering guitars. Overkills energy owes a lot to punk of the late seventies and that inspiration flows to the surface on high energy songs like The Mean  Green Killing Machine and Our Finest Hour.

The main issue with this release is the lack of room to breath or the time to think. But then again, I kind of like that.

 

Recommended tracks: Red White and Blue, Our Finest Hour, Lets all Go to Hades

Rating: 3,5 / 5

Overkill – Coverkill (Steamhammer 1999)

I’ve been looking around for this record for quite some time, but it’s not that available in my frigid corner of the world, so I buckled under and bought the damn thing on Itunes. I’m completionist, if it’s an artist I really like, I need to own the entire discography (excepting some compilations, live recordings, singles etc.) or my life will be pointless and sad (ocd?). This hole in my Overkill collection has bothered me for years. And completion feels oh so very sweet.

I’ve talked about my fascination for cover albums when handling Danzigs latest travesty of a record. I downloaded these songs at work, with a slow, slooooow connection, which gave me plenty of time to check out the track list. Three Sabbath covers, wow, a Deep Purple track, Priest, Motörhead, Ramones, Kiss and Tull. Good stuff! But, wait, what’s this? ManOwar? Really? I’m never drunk enough to listen to ManOwar any more. I was in my youth, but now? I’m old fart… man.

I suppose it’s natural to open with the tune they took their name from. The Motörhead classic sound ferocious in the Overkills interpretation. I kind of wish they’d included a studio version, not a live version, oh well. Two of three Sabbath covers sound decent. Never Say Die has never been a personal favorite of mine, I rarely listen to that record at all. Megadeth has also done a cover of this song, but I think Overkill has the edge on this one. Changes I don’t like, Blitz doesn’t really have the voice for ballads, just like Ozzy. The bass really bothers me, it sounds half assed. DD’s bass is bouldering, as always, but it doesn’t fit this particular song. Cornucopia has never made an impact on me, neither the original nor this cover version, so I won’t linger on this tune.

Deuce is just a killer. I find the original Kiss song a bit on slow side. Overkill has sped it up and given it some power, which is totally what this song deserves. This one is just nice. I enjoyed the Ramones cover as well. I had a Ramones period in high school, when I listened to every track I could get my hands on, but this track … I don’t think it ever came my way. I’m not familiar with The Dead Boys, I like this song, but I have no idea how the original sounds. I think maybe they should have picked a different Purple tune, but that’s just me.

This entire album has the same feel as Metallicas Garage Inc. in that the production is not as slick and or precise as the studio albums containing original material. I guess that they’re looking for that garage sound, that feeling of the days when they first started. It’s not the best selection of covers I’ve heard, but certainly not the worst. Overkill had a typical groove metal sound in the late nineties, evident on this record, and it really doesn’t fit well with a few of the chosen tracks on this record.

This isn’t the big whole in my collection I thought it would be. It’s a nice little reminder that Overkill used to be a coverband, but also that they’ve moved on.

Recommended tracks: Overkill, Deuce

Rating 3/5

Overkill – Taking Over (Atlantic 1987)

Taking Over is often hailed as Overkills best release, their Physical Graffiti so to speak. Until very recently this was the only hole in my Overkill collection. I’d heard most songs before from live records or podcasts or you know… somewhere, and looking at the track listing, I never really felt the need to procure this album. It had none of my “go to” Overkill tracks. From live records, setlists and youtube videos I know there is a few live staples and fan favorites on here.

 

Deny the Cross is a great opener, it’s fast, has a classic guitar riff and a catchy sing-along chorus. What it lacks on the studio album is a pounding, rough rhythm section continuously pushing the song forward, if you go to Youtube or a live recording you can hear what DDs bass really sound like and it’s just a big big shame the overall sound of this record is so poorly done that the bass and drums sound like crap.

Wrecking Crew is a title that the band has used, or alluded to, a lot during their career. I’m not a big fan of this cut. It’s too long and doesn’t go anywhere. On the other hand, I’m really into Fear His Name. It’s a good pointer to where the band would go in the future. Fatal If Swallowed has that catchiness typical of Overkill. With better production, this track would have been a speed metal classic. It really should be, all the ingredients are there, I’m not sure why it’s not.

 

The b-side is kind of a lett down, it’s lacking those great choruses and catchy melodies found on the a-side. The best tracks are In Union We Stand and Overkill II.

In Union We Stand is a Manowaresque anthem type song. It’s not my favorite type of metal, but it has a certain appeal, in an inner neanderthal kind of way. You know chest pounding, in a power stance with a war cry on your lips. Overkill II (The Nightmare Continues) is the continuation of the last track of the debut Feel the Fire. It’s is a mid-paced, but kind of progressive, almost doomy at times, blend of different metal genres. It’s just great  and fist pounding.

 

There are few things I really don’t like on Taking Over. First of all, the production sucks. Like most of Atlantic’s metal releases from the eighties, this sounds very low budget, with almost no bottom at all. The sound is thin, almost tinny. The guitars aren’t squealing, they’re whining. The drums sound worse than my bedroom recordings from my early teen years and the bass is almost not present at all. Come on fellows, lets clean this up and release a remastered version. I’d buy it.

The second thing is the incredibly bad cover art. It just screams “I’m from the eighties”. With today’s technology it looks just bad, unforgivingly poorly done. But taken into consideration that this was released in 87, I guess it’s OK.
Recommended tracks: Deny the Cross, Fear His Name, Fatal if Swallowed, Overkill II

Overkill -Feel the Fire (Steamhammer 1998 re-issue)

In most cases, bands that has been around as long as Overkill will have a major following claiming that the early material is as by far the best or legendary or classic. I’ve not really encountered that with Overkill. It seems to me that the overall quality of their material has been consistent over the years. The style and sound may have changed over the years, but the songwriting is so solid, all the way from the mid eighties until today, thirty years later.

 

This debut record has a lot of classic Overkill songs on it. My favorite tracks are Rotten to the Core, Hammerhead, Overkill and Blood and Iron, in that order.

 

Rotten to the Core has that Overkill signature fun chorus that must be hellafun in a live setting. The guitar riff is not great, but the song comes together in great way, even if every isolated part by itself is not that great.

 

Hammerhead might be the thrashiest song of the album and the most east coast typical thrash song. It has the punch, the pace and the lyrical content typical of a debut album. Overkill turned into a series of songs. The first of the series offers the chugg-riff also found in several of the sequels. Lyrically this is not their best, but the vocal melody has all the right bounces and tops, and is just unbelievably catchy.

 

I have the re-issue, and for a re-issue the sound is weak. I would love for them to remaster or at least freshen up the sound a bit. To be honest, the sound is pretty shitty, but I suppose if the early Anthrax records are your guiding stars, your sound is going to be crap. It’s thin, almost no bass, neither from the guitar or from DD. The drums sounds like pots and pans. Music this good deserves better production. But I guess this is the way of low budget debut albums.
Recommended downloads: Rotten to the Core, Hammerhead, Overkill