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

Abattoir – Vicious Attack (Combat 1985)

This record’s sort of a gem, at lest side A is, the B-side is a forgettable collection of mediocrity. I picked this up at flea market, mainly to fill up the 5 for the price of 3 bargain dealy thing. I’ve listened to this record every now again, and the main draw is the first tracks off of the A-side; Screams From the Grave and Vicious Attack (Maniac). These two tracks are bursts of energy and scream-along greates. Vicious Attack (Maniac) is a great car song as well, at least if you want to drive fast. I have the speeding ticket to prove its effectiveness.

Both these songs are a cross of thrash and speed metal, they don’t have quite the edge of 1985 Slayer, Megadeth or Metallica, but they are fast, heavy and filled to the rim with riffs and headbanging goodness. Side-A is completed by the easily forgotten The Enemy and a ripping cover of Ace of Spades, dutyfully and lovingly done.

The B-side starts off with a warning of a lowering of the bar; The Living and the Dead. The riff is half assed, at best.  Stronger Than Evil is ok, it’s passable and unremarkable. Don’t Walk Alone is a classic skipper-track, with awful comic book style lyrics. Game of Death is the strongest track of the B-side. The riffs are better, the lyrics aren’t horrible and the energy is back.

All in all it’s not the best record, not the worst. It’s totally understandable why this band sort of faded away in the fog of time. One of the most annoying things about this record is the fact that it’s not available through Spotify, google play or Itunes. It was however re-released on cd and vinyl by Century Media a while back.

Recommended tracks: Screams from the Grave, Vicious Attack (Maniac), Ace of Spades

Rating: 2,5 / 5

Sepultura – Machine Messiah (Nuclear Blast – 2017)

Sepultura is one of those bands that never really interested me. I saw them live back in 04 or 05, opening for Motörhead. Being really impressed by the show, I went out and bought a couple of records; Roots, Beneath the Remains and Chaos A. D. I soon tired of all of them, Beneath the Remains held up a little longer then the rest

They have been on my radar, and I have listened to most of their releases in one form or another, most of them not really cutting it. I hated A-lex, it was just horrible from start to finish, and the Dante record I just didn’t understand.

 

Anyhoo, one day I was checking out new releases on my chosen streaming service and Phantom Self came on and I loved it straight away. It was an instant reaction. The riff is just super heavy and groovy, the vocals are distinct and catchy. I had to check out the rest of the album, when one of the songs was this great.

The album starts off strong; the title track is a slow moody number. It reminds me of Beneath the Silth off of Machine Heads Bloodstone & Diamonds or maybe Planet Caravan. I am the Enemy is a super heavy song, but kind of predictable; fast paced complete with the scream along chorus are known for. Iceberg Dances is the kind of track that grabs a hold of you and doesn’t let go. Great song!

 

Sadly, the next four songs don’t cut it for me. They’re predictable and sound a bit by numbers. They’re so formulaic that they turn annoying.

The final track is a good finish. Cyber God is punishing and grueling and extraordinary heavy. With a full on headbanging beat, this must be a great live track, it just has to.

 

I’m not going to join a Sepultura fanclub after this release, it brought them higher on my mountain of metal bands to listen to. But the four song, or the middle part of the album, just … bleh

 

Recommended tracks: Machine Messiah, Cyber God, Phantom Self

Rating: 3 / 5

 

Kreator – Gods of Violence (Nuclear Blast 2017)

Yet another of the great surviving thrash bands seems to have grown stale. Kreator had a major relaunch of their sound with the release of Violent Revolution in 2001, this sound and style was perfected with the release of Enemy of God in 2005. Every release since then has been made from the same blueprint. Some songs have been excellent, some songs sound too much like previous releases and some songs seem tired. Slowly, but certainly, the lack of originality becomes apparent and the music seems stale and unimaginative.

Enemy of God is one of my desert island records and I’m glad that they stuck to this style of songwriting, but I would still like to see some experimentation and development of sound and songwriting. Gods of Violence contains loads of kick ass tracks; Totalitarian Terror, Hail to the Hordes, World War Now or Lions with Eagle Wings to name my favorites. Oh, the title track is also excellent.

The building blocks of Kreator’s sound that I particularly like are the furiousity of Milles vocals, the technicality of the guitar work; here I should point out Samis excellent soloing and sense of melody. The drumming of Ventor is also a trademark of the band. All of these are present on every single track, but for some reason this album doesn’t sit right with me.

When it comes to it, I think the similarities with previous releases is the thing that I can’t get passed. In a way it doesn’t feel like a new release, I have heard these songs before with slightly different lyrics or arrangements. BUT I  LIKE THE SONGS.

In all honesty this release drives me insane, I like it and it tires me. I recommend: Gods of Violence, Totalitarian Terror and Hail to the Hordes

Rating: 2 of 5 for lack of originality, 4 of 5 for the headbandingness of the tracks, 3,5 of 5 in total?

Witchery – In His Infernal Majesty’s Service (Century Media 2016)

This release snuck by me, I didn’t know about it until looking up Witchery on Spotify to listen Ashes to Ashes. I thought this band was over and done, with Axenrot now a full time member of Opeth and different singers coming and going. I’m kind of glad they didn’t stick to Legion on the mike, his voice wasn’t right for the sound. This new guy, Angus Norder, is much more on line with Tony Kampner. The mesh of the black metal vocals with thrashy riffs was always one of the key elements in Witchery’s sound, and I’m glad they found a new guy who can pull it off.

When I first got into the band it was the sing along silliness and banality of the lyrics in combination with the crushing guitars of Patrick Jensen and Richard Corpse that drew me in. The riffs are simple, but a near perfect combination of banality and blistering, always on the edge of the cliché. The big guitars are definitely present on this album. Stylistically this album is quite close Symphony for the Devil, their prime release from 2001.

The songs that immediately got stuck in my brain were Nosferatu, The Burning of Salem and Lavey-athan. These three all have the power and the headbanging qualities I want from Witchery; big powerful riffs, easy and catchy melodies. All of these were immediately stuck in my brain, and all three will feature in my great all time, go-to playlist.

Gilded Fangs is an extremed paced little ditty, short and sweet. Empty Tombs has really grown on me; it has that certain combination of heaviness and differing tempos. It got a slow, chugging part and a faster, thrashier part and the main riff is more of a mid paced kind of thing.  In Warm Blood is mid paced throughout. The vocal melody is great, with a creepy feel, especially the way he says “blood”, tickles my funny bone.  Feed the Gun is classic Witchery, a great riff builds and pulls, while the vocals inspire listener participating.

As always Sharlee D’Angelo has a thick and gritty bass. He never craves the spotlight, but is always clear and present. Excellent! New drummer Christofer Barkensjö does an excellent job and has a style that fits the band in a major way.

It’s quite hard to pick out the best track; the overall quality of the music is top notch throughout. If I had to choose, In Warm Blood and The Burning of Salem might have a slight edge over the others.

Rating: 4,5 / 5

Metallica – Hardwired … to Self-Destruct (Blackened 2016)

Metallica, ah Metallica, the band I fanatically followed as a teenager, and that has stayed with me through my entire life. The band I’ve have seen live every time they visit my part of the world. I defended St. Anger, I worshipped Death Magnetic, tried to ignore Lulu, listened exclusively to Lords of Summer for about a month, this Metallica, the Metallica of the 21st century, has finally released a new album.

The press proclaimed a return to form, just like they did with St. Anger and Death Magnetic, but their back catalogue is untouchable. I don’t want a return to glory days, to the sound of the black album, justice or puppets. I want Metallica to evolve, find inspiration where they may and produce music that makes me happy, tapping my feet, ravaging my air guitar and pounding pretend drums.

Hardwired … to self destruct is not everything I wanted, but I’m still glad it exists. But for the love music, why the double album? That’s just too much music man, it will get unfocused. Every double studio album in the history of recorded music has this issue. The filler material gets too much and too prominent on a double album, there might be a few bands that have been able pull it off, Pink Floyd comes to mind. What about a warning sticker: “This album may contain up to, or above, 50 % filler material.”

Confusen is the obvious filler song. Everything about this song, except for the main riff, screams filler. The lyrics are sub par, the melody on the chorus is under James’ dignity as writer. Dream No More  has a half assed feel about it, something lacking. Maybe it’s the way James sings, with long drawn out syllables, I don’t know.  Here Comes Revenge also has a few weak melodic moments, but is saved by some strong riffs.

Hardwired was the first teaser off of the album, so as I’m writing this it’s the song I know the best, and yes of course I’ve learnt to play the riff, why do you ask? This song proves that Metallica can still play fast. The savagery of this song is what this band used to be all about, are they able to keep this up?

Of course not, but they manage a plenty of intensity and fury, although the speed is a bit slower. Atlas, Rise! is built on the same template as a lot of epics songs of the past, One, Welcome Home etc. It builds and builds, brings in new riffs when needed or alters the melody slightly to give a new feel. It’s just great. Halo on Fire is the same way, but might harken more to Fade to Black as it has a bit of a softer edge.

Murder One  is kind of a strange tune. The Motörhead theme is apparent with the couplet; born to loose / live to win. When I heard about this song, I thought it would be a fest of speed and spitting lyrics. Instead it got James singing in a style unusual for him. I like this song.  Now that We’re Dead has a vocal melody that sticks in my brain.

ManUNkind is another strange song. On first listen I thought about the Load/Reload era. But it doesn’t really sound like it. I’m thinking it has to do with the kind of arrangement. Am I Savage? is a rather bland number, except for the guitar leads, finally Kirk shines a bit. The lyrics are very typical Hetfield lyrics. Which to me feels familiar and nice, and this familiarity is also found in the drum fills.

I like that they put a fast song at the end of the record; it’s just the way a Metallica record is supposed to end. Spit out the Bone has three great riffs and a good solo, and some blasting bass parts. Trujillo is audible throughout the record, but doesn’t really take much space. The sound is driven by the guitar riff and vocals.

This kind of feel like James’ record, the vocals take up a lot of space in the soundscape. The riffs are ever present, and a much bigger part of the songs than on Death Magnetic. Kirk has his solos, but they seem a bit predictable at this time. I wish he would find the inspiration he had on Load/Reload where he experimented with sounds and styles and scales.

The record sound great and am I’m glad they put less focus on the loudness this time around. The mix is good, personally I would have preferred a more rumbling and a tad louder bass, but this is Metallica after all and I’m kind of used to the bass being low.

 

Recommended tracks: Halo on Fire, Hardwired, Atlas, Rise! Spit Out the Bone, Now that We’re Dead, Moth Into Flame

 

Rating:  4/5

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