Thursday, March 04, 2010

Overkill's Ironbound CD review

In tribute to their native New Jersey, Overkill have unleashed their 16th studio album, Ironbound, which takes its name from an industrial neighborhood in the city of Newark.

Ironbound has been called a "thrash metal masterpiece" in promotional materials. But that's probably more hyperbole than anything -- in the end, what you have is really just another solid, if occasionally above average, album from the Garden State metal veterans.

With Ironbound, frontman Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth & Co. have delivered a record steeped in thrash history -- both the history of the band itself and the history of the genre as a whole.

Need proof?

• "Killing for a Living" opens with a D.D. Verni bass line that has shades of the late Cliff Burton's haunting, impressionistic "Damage, Inc." intro.
• The disc's first single, "Bring Me the Night," is built on a riff that clearly borrows from Diamond Head's "Helpless."
• The blood-pumping build up of "The Green and Black" around 2:35 is actually a case of Overkill plagiarizing themselves. Listen to the ascending riff madness of "Charlie Get Your Gun" off 2007's Immortalis from about 1:55 as a comparison and see if you don't agree.

This is not to say that Overkill -- rounded out by relative newbies drummer Ron Lipnicki and guitarists Derek Tailer and Dave Linsk -- sound tired or unimaginative on Ironbound. In fact, the core songwriting team of Blitz and Verni sounds more invigorated than most guys in their early 50s could ever hope to be.

But it's important to note the historical context for their latest music, especially as Overkill gain younger fans who may not be aware of the legacy this band has.

"Give a Little" is one of the most interesting tracks on Ironbound, and it offers a hodge-podge of a few different elements from the band's 1989 classic The Years of Decay. Its bitter lyrical tone calls to mind "Elimination", while the slow build-up section nicks the breakdown riff from "E.vil N.ever D.ies." But the track's truly standout moment comes during the pin-drop quiet breakdown at 3:40 when you can hear unique, almost bluesy timbres in Blitz's throat.

If you think you know the entire spectrum of this legendary screamer's voice, well, think again.

"Bring Me the Night," Ironbound's first single, is absolutely riveting and relentless go-for-the-throat thrash. One of its main riffs also happens to be a near carbon copy of the aforementioned Diamond Head track. Listen to Metallica's cover of "Helpless" to hear for yourself.

This, ultimately, is all a testament to Overkill's continuing tradition of fine metal craftsmanship. Any good album should hit on some familiar sonic touchstones and use them as a departure point to explore new horizons. And that's exactly what Ironbound does.