Nineteen studio albums and nearly forty years into their career, a band like New Jersey thrash stalwarts Overkill have absolutely no business sounding as fresh as they do on new album The Wings of War – Christ on a bike, I have trouble heaving my carcass out of bed every morning just to exist, but these blokes bring the noise in frankly ludicrous fashion AND exist, to the full it seems, every mother-lovin’ day of the year. What am I doing wrong? But more importantly, what are Overkill doing right?
I couldn’t begin to give you a scientific answer to that; what I will say is that, despite finding a lot to like about the band’s last four or five albums, I haven’t downright enjoyed anything they’ve produced as much as The Wings of War since 1993’s I Hear Black.
There’s a looseness evident here that hasn’t been apparent recently – a willingness to actually let the songs breathe rather than just trying to outheavy everyone else on the block for the sake of it. Hence – possibly thanks to the addition of new drummer Jason Bittner – the band occasionally groove on tracks like the excellent Bat Shit Crazy where formerly they’d have simply pummelled. Not that there’s anything wrong with pummelling of course – the band do plenty of that, never fear – but tracks like Distortion manage to give the listener lessons both in violence and a strange, wrong-headed finesse that I find very bloody appealing.
And then there’s the quite superb Welcome to the Garden State. A storming hardcore paean to the band’s homestate roots, this is quite simply the dogs bollocks. A Rollicking, chanting, headbanging, punked-up and probably puking up anthem for the ages, you’ll find it hard not to wear a boneheaded grin all over your fizzog as you chant along with Bobby ‘Blitz’ Elsworth and company. I might be from Peckham, but I’m a Jersey Boy through and through every time I slam on this track, especially the little tribute to The Boss at the end!
At just over six minutes, Distortion is the longest track here, with the band keeping the other nine short and snappy, keeping impact levels high and tedium levels virtually non-existent. I rarely get excited or worked up about old bands treading the boards these days – but right here on The Wings of War are ten reasons to get very fucking excited indeed. Top stuff, and highly recommended.
The Wings of War will be released through Nuclear Blast on February 22nd.