Overkill - _Immortalis_
(Bodog Music, 2007)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (
Probably the most frequent criticism of Overkill post-_Horrorscope_ is the abandonment of sheer, unadulterated thrash in favor of a more groove-oriented approach. Yet, at this point, the NYC quintet has been plying this hybrid style for even longer than the thrash old school fans are so nostalgic for, so here in 2007 we have to ask ourselves whether this is any longer a valid critique. I'd argue to the contrary, but that doesn't necessarily get the boys off the hot seat just yet.For what it's worth, most fans have given the band the benefit of the doubt over the years, and even if they're not vying for Record of the Year honors, they've still tended to get pretty solid reviews and consistent sales. That said, 2005's _ReliXIV_ was generally considered one of their lesser efforts, mining the same vein of groove-injected thrash but failing to come up with much by way of memorable material.This problem has been partially resolved, although it's still difficult to shake the impression that Overkill have painted themselves into a corner and largely run out of ideas, a notion that would have been anathema but for the last few years. Like all artists that make music rather than art, this band have been guilty since day one of stocking their albums with a fair (but not excessive) amount of filler; in the past, this practice was forgiveable on account of the inclusion of a handful of new classics with every record that fans could expect to keep in regular rotation for years to come. And truthfully even the filler was perfectly agreeable if you dug the Overkill sound.The problem with a record like _Immortalis_ -- and its predecessor -- is that it lacks any of those "new classics" and instead treads water with agreeable filler from start to finish. It's difficult to even mention stand out tracks, since nearly all of them have their equal share of pros and cons, but probably the most high profile tune on the album is gonna be "Skull and Bones", and that due to the duet with Lamb of God's Randall Blythe. I'm not sure that even sounds like a great idea on paper, and in execution it's not quite an abomination, the song itself being agreeable enough (there's that word again), but Blythe's sandpaper rasp clashes jarringly with Bobby Ellsworth's more expressive howl.The other notable track is the grooveless thrash of "Overkill V", a less grating nod to the band's past than "Old School", which analogously closed out _ReliXIV_. Elsewhere, when the boys aren't content to settle for merely average, they fail to ignite at all with thrash-free clunkers like "Walk Through Fire" and "Charlie Get Your Gun". Balanced precariously between demands for '80s era material and an increasingly grudging acceptance of their groovier approach, one senses changes afoot in the Overkill camp. Time will tell, and they have given us a solid two decades, so in this guy's eyes -- and ears -- asking for a bit more patience isn't at all out of line. After hearing fellow "dinosaurs" Exodus resurrect themselves a few years back in stunning fashion, I'm not ready to cash these boys in just yet.
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