“Another year, another Overkill album” may read to some like an backhanded compliment, but it’s the best way to sum up ‘The Grinding Wheel.’
While they haven’t descended into Kreator territory (writing songs to appeal to teenagers / mainstream metal fans), their recent run of albums have featured a slick, digital sounding production, highlighting the mundane, formulaic song writing on show.
And ‘The Grinding Wheel’ is no exception.
For an example, listen to the opener ‘Mean Green Killing Machine.’
That must be the most polite drum into from a metal band ever. Drums, as well as keeping the rhythm, are meant to be loud, pounding and tribal. This is the furthest thing from all of those traits.
The riff is suitably chunky and D.D Verni’s bass is suitably prominent in the mix. It builds for around twenty seconds, and at no point do you feel an ounce of excitement or fury. By the numbers, mechanical, basic. These are more accurate terms to describe the feelings that you experience listening to this.
As the song progresses, we get various shifts in tempo and mood, and all of them just feel cut and pasted via ProTools. Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth gives it his all, lending a sense of purpose to proceedings. But even he can’t distract the listener from how dull this song is.
And that’s only the opener.
‘Goddamn Trouble’ (which has the most juvenile music video imaginable) is more of the same.
If it was Phil Campbell playing the riff on a later period Motorhead album, it would probably be half decent. Here, it’s the most sanitised sounding metal riff. Not a bad solo, however. Not life affirming or terrible. Just…well…not bad.
The opening stop/start riff to ‘Our Finest Hour’ (oh the irony) bears a passing resemblance to ‘Seeing Red’ by Minor Threat. No bad thing in my book, but the track descends into a bland soup of nothingness, with the exception of Blitz making a good go of the lyrics.
In fact, Blitz is really the best asset the LP has. He sings with conviction and passion, but it’s not enough to disguise the mediocrity on show here.
There are obviously more tracks, but if you’ve been following my train of thought, you can probably guess I didn’t find any other songs worth writing about.
Of course, I understand that thrash is generally a young man’s game, and I also understand that Overkill have touring commitments, so they need to be regularly putting out “product” (I feel sick typing that) in order to justify going on tour.
But there’s clearly been little effort to come up with something memorable.
Take Motorhead for example: they put out albums relentlessly. But there was never any thing that sounded remotely phoned in. They still gave it their all up until ‘Bad Magic’, and had one or two tracks where they did something a little different. As a result, their back catalogue stands tall.
You can’t really say that about the recent Overkill LP’s. When was the last time you played ‘Killbox 13′ or ‘Ironbound’? Or anything post ‘Horrorscope’?
It’s important to remember that there’s a younger demographic (boke) who will listen to this record alongside recent works by Anthrax, Megadeth, Sepultura and Kreator and think that these old legends are still producing brilliant albums.
Just like Motorhead, Sabbath and the Ramones. The crux is that, because of the amount of back catalogue stuff available, they’re too young to tell the difference between “solid” and “phoned in.”
I can guarantee you, if I had heard ‘The Grinding Wheel’ at the age of 18, I’d undoubtedly think it was a solid, modern thrash album. Maybe if I was in my 40’s and had no interest in metal apart from the bands I’d grown up with, the songs would sound mighty in the setlist.
However, I’m not.
Play ‘Feel the Fire’ after this album is finished. The difference is night and day.
1.5 / 5 – Christopher Owens ::: 05/02/17