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Label: Nuclear Blast / Release date 14th April 2023
Much like majority of thrash metal bands who shaped the genre in the 80’s, Overkill has been enjoying the genres revival, which occured some 15 years ago. The return of the genre in the spotlight resulted in more than just more focus on it, because most of the bands associated with it, released several rather strong releases. Truth be told big part of those bands also released several noteworthy releases during the genre’s downtime in 90’s and and majority of 00’s. Overkill has been one of those who has managed to keep the quality consistency throughout its career, regardless of the commercial state of thrash metal.
They have also been rather consistent when it comes to releasing new music, which meant maximum three years between the releases, Scorched therefore marks the longest between two albums during the course of their almost four decades long recording career.
Band’s previous album The Wings of War, saw the band put the pedal to the metal and deliver a fast and ferocious record, which worked just fine, but it did rob the listener of the variation and the diversity, which Overkill are so good at. Additionally, more of a modern approach to production did partially strip it of that signature Overkill-sound, particularly when it comes to drums. Sonically the sound is bit warmer and with Colin Richardson doing the mixing of the album it’s of course very well-balanced sounding record. Each instrument is clear in the mix and yet they work very well together.
The release of the new album has been pushed back several times, mostly due to the pandemic, but now it’s finally here, more than four years since the release of The Wings of War.
Off the bat it’s noticeable that the band is continuing with the more moderns sounding production, but there seems to be bit more of that Overkill trademark rawness to it. Well, at least comparing to its predecessor.
Album opens with the title track, which at its +6-minute running time is a very good representation of this album and the band in general. It’s ferocious, groovy, and dynamic as hell. It displays that diversity within the genre that Overkill masters so eminently.
The masterclass in trash metal that is the album opener is followed by highly energetic and more of a straightforward “Goin’ Home”, which works very well, as that very important second song. It especially works well because it’s jammed between two more complex affairs; the aforementioned title track and the first single “The Surgeon”. “Twist of the Wick” follows in a thrash infused Judas Priest manner before we get another one of highlights in form of utterly epic “Wicked Place”.
From there on, however, things slowly start declining quality wise. “Won’t Be Comin’ Back” is fine, but not really memorable Iron Maiden inspired tune and “Fever” does a solid job of implementing some psychedelic parts into Queensrÿche-esque sequences of the epic tune which slowly keeps on building to big finale.
But it’s the closing last three songs where the album loses its momentum. Songs are of course delivered eminently, but are in general forgettable and with “Bag o’ Bones” the band closes the album in a clumsy matter, miles away from where they started it some 50 minutes earlier.
Musicianship is eminent, with D. D. Verni’s bass thundering away in the overall soundscape, without it being put forward way too much. Dave Linsk’s leads are razor sharp and even manage to lift some of the weaker songs. Due to much more diverse nature of this record we also get to experience the broad talent of drummer Jason Bittner, whose recording debut with the band on the previous album didn’t showcase his musicianship to this degree.
And then there is Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, who is his old self, delivering those scratchy, yet sharp vocals with conviction. Over the years we’ve got used to his vocals, but when you think about it they are somewhat uncharacteristic for the genre, which is also one of the key elements, that make Overkill stand out.
There is vitality to Scorched, which is rather welcome after more of a bashing straight-forward nature of its predecessor. Bit more of the intensity and the overall quality which characterizes the first half of the record would serve it well and would make this, Overkill’s twentieth album, an even more enjoyable experience.