White Devil Armory is the seventeenth studio album from thrash legends, Overkill. It’s hard to believe that the band has been able to release this many albums and remain as consistent as they have. Of all the thrash bands out there, Overkill is one of the few whose sound has really never wavered over the years and their latest release is no exception. This is fast, no nonsense old school thrash metal.
It is definitely a welcome sound at a time when most contemporary thrash bands are mixing in a lot of elements of extreme metal or experimenting with progressive time signatures. I loved hearing Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth’s high pitched vocals with their off kilter rasp. This is a vocal style that is lost on the newer generation of thrash bands. Then there is the other side of the coin, where bands like Metallica and Megadeth are much closer to hard rock these days having left much of their thrash roots behind. It’s nice to see bands like Exodus, Slayer and Overkill who still bring a very traditional 80’s style thrash sound to the table.
Staying true to a signature sound for close to thirty years can certainly be a double edged sword though. It no doubt keeps the core fan base happy. However for others, things start to feel like they’ve been done before. Unfortunately this is what happened in certain spots on White Devil Armory. When I heard the songs “Down to the Bone”, “Another Day to Die”, “It’s all Yours” and “In the Name”, I found myself asking “Haven’t I heard this before?”. I hadn’t but to me these songs were really generic, by the book thrash tracks. There was no oomph and nothing to really set them apart from the pack. They are not bad songs by any stretch of the imagination and fans of old school Overkill will surely love them. To me they felt just a bit boring.
The band did try to change things up slightly by adding some groovier tracks to the mix to keep things fresh. In some case, like on the song “PIG”, it worked tremendously well. This song was super heavy with great vocals from Ellsworth and a nice, neat guitar solo. Others, like “Bitter Pill” and “It’s all Yours” were just too slow and didn’t fit with the rest of the record. I commend their effort to try something a bit different on a couple occasions, but the experiment just didn’t work.
The best songs on the album were the ones that had the best mix of old school thrash, ripping guitar riffs and highly featured bass lines. D.D. Verni is at the top of his game on White Devil Armory so whenever his bass work is near the forefront, it makes for the best possible listening experiences. “Armorist”, “PIG”, “Freedom Rings”, “Where There’s Smoke” and “King of the Rat Bastards” are where everything comes together almost perfectly.
After a short intro, “Armorist” kicks the album into high gear with rapid fire riffs, great bass work, a chaotic thrash solo and a nice classic repeated chorus. “PIG” comes a few songs later bringing some heavy grooves and more of an updated sound. “Where There’s Smoke” is typical Overkill, but it’s done in way that feels new. It’s a heavy bass driven song with an excellent solo. “Freedom Rings” opens with a spectacular bass line that flows into an awesome main riffs with great lead guitars. This track also shows off some of Ellsworth’s best vocal work on the album. Lastly “King of the Rat Bastards” has solid guitar harmonization and a catchy chorus giving it a great NWOBHM feel that reminded me a lot of Grim Reaper.
I do love it when bands stick with what they know best. This is the reason that I usually love everything that bands like Slayer, Amon Amarth and The Black Dahlia Murder puts out. I know I am probably going to get something that I will enjoy time and time again. They are consistent and that is certainly important. However these bands have far less material than Overkill does and Slayer had a few years of ill fated experimentation that makes you appreciate their formula now more than ever. When a signature sound remains this consistent over seventeen albums and a catalog of over 170 songs, things start to feel a bit generic. I just wanted to hear something slightly different. It didn’t need to be anything drastic. Just something to give the album a little bit of originality. Overkill attempted it with the few slower groove tunes I discussed, but it just didn’t really work. Based on how much I liked “King of the Rat Bastards”, more guitar harmonization probably would have been a better place to experiment a bit more.
On a positive note, the music is well written, Ellsworth’s vocals are top notch as always and there is an excellent mix of guitar solos ranging from the chaotic to the extremely neat. For what it’s worth I did thoroughly enjoy a good chunk of the album. It is well worth checking out if you are looking for some classic straightforward thrash in what has become a world over-saturated with death thrash, neo-thrash and groove metal.
White Devil Armory will be released on July 22, 2014. Let us know your thoughts on the album in our comments section.