Overkill – The Killing Kind (1996)
Freshly coked up with members of Anvil and Liege Lord in their nostrils… Overkill releases The Killing Kind! Public opinion seems torn on this one – it either proves Overkill is better at the “groove”/hardcore inflected styles of metal of the mid-90s than average, or that those styles are worthless, depending on who you ask. But honestly, it’s not a major stylistic departure for this band, at least in context of their previous works. The previous two albums might shed some light on this since they’re notorious for introducing a lot of the changes further explored here, but I’ve never listened to them, so you can take solace in the fact that the review of this album won’t be a review of those two.
Still, since I’ve listened to a few albums by Overkill, comparative methods come in handy occasionally. On a songwriting level, The Killing Kind shares many of the velocities, structures, and instrumental techniques of its predecessors. It also has the benefit of a nice production, at least by mid-90s standards; compared to what I know of Overkill’s previous discography it’s simultaneously cleaner and more abrasive. The guitars and drums receive the lion’s share of the mix (how original!), although D. D. Verni’s basslines get some workouts, especially in the instrumental “Feeding Frenzy”, which even features some brief blastbeats. Even the occasional ballad isn’t out of place; there are antecedents even on Overkill’s 1980s work. Maybe some people thought this was a return to form or something when it first came out?
I’d have to be a fool to make these comparisons without at least giving some insight into Overkill’s signature sound. One of the big keys here is that Overkill seemingly relies on oldschool/’classic’ punk rock tropes (Ramones, the Damned, etc) more than a lot of other speed/thrash bands. The riffwriting’s usually more elaborate than that, but Overkill is neither particularly fast or complex, although they occasionally toss out a few lengthy songs. If that sounds familiar, keep in mind that Overkill was one of the founding voices in their genre, and that their formulas have been aped a million times. In terms of capturing market share, Overkill has at least two trump cards – a series of skilled guitarists with plenty of swagger in their playstyle, and main vocalist Bobby Ellsworth, whose screeches and snarls are distinctive enough that I can’t immediately think of anyone similar. A few seconds’ introspection reminded me of Marcel Schmier from Destruction, but Schmier doesn’t break out into sung melodies like the Blitz, in my experience.
My feelings about Overkill, along with most of the other semi-accessible pop thrash names of their era, are kind of complicated, but The Killing Kind earns points for upgrading the aesthetics of Overkill’s relatively consistent sound. Then again, Ironbound fourteen years later did that even better and even convinced me to see the band in concert. Good times.
Highlights: “God-Like”, “Certifiable”, “Let Me Shut That For You”, “Bold Face Pagan Stomp”