Overkill- The Grinding Wheel
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: February 10, 2017
Overkill is one of thrash metal’s most relentless and resilient bands, and the group’s 18th studio album, The Grinding Wheel, is a prime example of how they keep trudging forward in a genre that continues to change and morph every few years. Overkill releases a new record like clockwork about every two years, as they have done since the 1985 release of their debut album, Feel the Fire. The New Jersey-based quintet has seen something of a resurgence this decade, since the release of 2010’s brilliant Ironbound album, which was followed in 2012 with The Electric Age, and 2014’s White Devil Armory. Where White Devil Armory was a more thrash-centric effort, The Grinding Wheel pays homage to the band’s classic metal roots through a modern lens.
Overkill have long been the masters of crushing and energetic opening tracks, and they have done it again with “Mean Green Killing Machine.” Drummer Ron Lipnicki gets it going with his thundering toms, before bassist D.D. Verni and guitarist Derek Tailer bring in the chunky rhythms. The intro builds until lead guitarist Dave Linsk and vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth join the fray.
“Goddamn Trouble” rolls in with punch and swagger. There’s plenty of swing and propulsive energy here with a bit of high-octane Southern groove. This is followed by the album’s first single, “Our Finest Hour” which has more of a traditional thrashy Overkill feel to it. Conversely, “Shine On” delivers a more chugging riff and has a more modern sensibility to it. There is a persistent vibe to the song’s rhythm, and Lipnicki is absolutely powering this beast forward. To some degree, it’s a new animal for Overkill’s sonic arsenal.
“The Long Road” opens with a grandiose feel and with a winding solo intro from Linsk. The military feel of the drums recalls something of Iron Maiden and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. It is perhaps the busiest track on the record. After the intro it gets into more of a pummeling juggernaut-like groove.
The second half of the album begins with the almost demonic vibe of “Let’s All Go to Hades” that makes a left hand turn into a wall of bouncy, punkish riffery: A perfect pit-song that finds Bobby Blitz in his element. This is another song that has some of that NWOBHM feel in the fretwork. This is followed by the funk-and-roll bluster of “Come Heavy” with its mid-tempo, rumbling groove.
“Red, White and Blue” reclaims the up-tempo, throat-punch brutality that Overkill is known for, offering a hardcore edge to record. The chanted chorus and swirling chaos of the song makes it another pit-ready standard. The driving stamina continues on “The Wheel,” which gets back into the band’s thrashier signature with a ruthless ferocity, muscular riffs, and unrelenting rhythms.
The record closes out with the title track, “The Grinding Wheel.” The song title is somewhat poetic as the track has a slower, grinding feel to it that has a dramatic yet schizophrenic vibe to it.
With The Grinding Wheel, Overkill continues to refine and define its signature sound. They have once again delivered an album that is infused with adrenaline and thrash attitude, while also taking the band in different directions, both retro and contemporary. Overkill know how to come out swinging, but also how to bob and weave; keeping the listener off guard for the knock out, bone-bruising knuckle-duster. The Grinding Wheel has more diversity than their previous two efforts, and is all the more memorable for it.