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Overkill reached their status of titan of thrash by the late-80’s definitely, after releasing 4 incredible albums that made a difference from the rest, finally reaching their own identity, away from tiring topics and primitive sounds of the subgenre early days. The Years Of Decay was an even more technical superior record that meant the culmination of the Gustafson years, though Blitz & co. would’ve to face the new critical decade and the drastic changes in the metal scene, their guitar virtuoso during all those years left, making things uncertain for these guys, who had the great responsibility to find a proper replacement for one of the most unique thrash musicians. For the first time, they added a 6-string section combo, Gant & Cannavino, but that wouldn’t be the only significant change for the NY thrashers. They decided to modify their sound considerably, making it current to satisfy the demands of the scene by that time.
Although they are still thrashing on a few cuts here, the powerful opening “Coma” or the casual “Thanx For Nothin’” still feature characteristic loose riffs, velocity and evident aggression, yet more refined and varied, including weightier guitar lines and slow sequences that prove greater ambition and taste. Of course, brutality is innate for these guys and it’s always there, but now the intensity and presence of the music has become an indispensable element for Overkill. Particularly, on the emotional “Nice Day…For A Funeral” low-tuned heavy riffs are incorporated to design a vivid atmosphere, along with that quieter tempo and Blitz’s lower-range vocals. So, mostly riffs aint’ that frantic, even thought truly energetic tracks like “Bare Bones” or “Infectious” could’ve fitted the nature of any of the preceding 4 records’ patterns. They add more diverse riff variations, alternative sections with once again low lines and tempo shifts that achieve admirable versatility, slow crushing passages are particularly competent. A darker atmosphere has been conceived, dense and obscure, very memorable on the wicked title-track, which is another clear proof of Blitz & co.’s determination to progressively push thrash standards away to explore distinct textures and schemes. Among that sinister climax, you can also find straighter slightly melodic compositions like the amusing The Edgar Winter Group cover or the irresistibly infectious “Blood Money” and its explicitly persistent choruses, both tunes executed with simplicity and attitude, breaking the continuity of the album but very refreshing anyway. The most notable exception of all, however, is the epic “Soulitude”, which starts like a melancholy dramatic ballad of easy chords and tortured lyrics, suddenly turning into vigorous raging heavy metal, performed with stunning passion and sentiment, very lyrical.
The sound has been modified completely, none of these titles sounds like the The Years Of Decay progressive/technical stuff at all. Overkill knew they had to introduce changes to survive during the uncertain decade, thrash would soon become unpopular and the infamous homonym Metallica CD started an insane trend of anti-thrash commercial music which had a tremendous impact on most of their peers. So they decided to increase the weight of the music with heavier rhythms and indispensable low-tuned guitar lines, not denying velocity and overwhelming aggression totally, yet putting more emphasis on distinct elements. As I mentioned, structures are rich and varied, the diversity of tempos is more notable and yeah, you can feel certain groovy essence here, becoming more and more present and defining the nature of various song sequences, though Merritt & Rob sound still kinda thrashy, generally. Horrorscope seems to be the transitory phase between these guys genuine thrash and the groovy 90’s sound, a good balance between sonic violence and sophistication is reached. And definitely, this material with all its versatility and grace is musically superior to anything the band offered before. It was inevitable that most strict die-hard fans would dislike the new direction, yet the band has wider possibilities to explore and experiment, deprived of the limitations determined by thrash standards, being able to do what they really want now without restrictions, conceiving something more original, creative and distinctive, because it seems they really found their own style - no more clichés. We all know they went too far, taking risks on the most hated I Hear Black later, but they went into next level here, surprisingly reaching the culmination surprisingly, because who could ever expect they would, without the priceless contribution of Mr. Gustafson, deprived as well of their advanced technique and complexity of preceding works?
Some fans would’ve preferred Overkill didn’t change their sound but it doesn’t seem part of their policy to make the same album twice and repeat the same ways without ambition. They refused to get stagnant and play uninventive predictable music; they were creative enough to make something different, successfully solid and reasonable because the future for thrash was getting truly uncertain. Although this never intended to be a commercial attempt, unlike other peers they didn’t change their formulas for money, the underground nature and innate aggression ain’t ignored to satisfy any greedy big record company so expect no romantic ballads, overproduced climax, exhausting catchy choruses or cheesy arrangements, these guys wouldn’t betray their roots.
Ah Horrorscope, my favorite Overkill record. I've contemplated reviewing it for the past two days, but haven't done so until now out of fear that I won't be able to express my true feelings for this album (God that sounded weird). In simple terms, this is what thrash metal should be. No album truly encapsulates thrash quite as well as this album does here. It merges both atmosphere, speed, and pushes how heavy thrash can be before it morphs itself into something else entirely. Of all the bands that weren't included in the big 4, Overkill always has been the one that I felt deserved to be in there, and this album is proof enough of why they should be a part of it.
The first thing you'll notice is that for a thrash album, the amount of atmosphere here is almost startling. Few artist have ever managed to put out an album with this much and this quality atmosphere, even though a plethora have attempted to. While it takes a back seat to the truly astonishing songs found on this album, the atmosphere created here is no small feat, and one of the things that makes this record stand out.
And as I just mentioned, the songs here are just astonishing. Overkill are usually associated with thrash metal, there are many times that Overkill leaves thrash metal here, most notably the slow, sluggishness found on the title track, it's pure sludge. The title track, "Coma", and "New Machine" all make my top 10 Overkill songs, and the rest aren't too far behind. The album is never short on quality, and the variation of tempo is a real treat. If you need diversity in tracks, by metal standards this album isn't too bad, not too bad at all.
Up to this point, Overkill never had great lyrics. They weren't meant to really, that wasn't who they were. But, with bands like Anthrax and Nuclear Assault on the scene, people really started to appreciate intelligent lyrics. Many fans were scared concerning the departure of Bobby Gustafson, who was a key songwriter. Fortunately these fears were quickly forgotten, due to the better lyrics, larger sonic palate, and boosted composition complexity. Most of the lyrics here have better flow to them, and are overall simply better written. While they never wrote songs about politics like Nuclear Assault, they didn't need to, nor should they have. It simply wasn't who Overkill was, and the lyrics are a great fit to the music. Over all, this is just simply a more mature Overkill, and the lyrics are a great display of this.
It's really a shame that this was released in 1991. Because of this, the album was released just as much of the "alternative" music fan base was turning to grunge, meaning Overkill's crowning achievement went unheard except by the Overkill devout, and because the following Overkill albums were quite weak, they never appealed to grunge fans who may have wanted something heavier.
Heard or not, this is a great album, no way around it. No matter what kind of metal fan you are, you're doing yourself a great disservice if you've never listened through it at least once. Bobby's voice as usual takes some getting used to, but once you do get used to him, you'll start to love him, and if you're like me think of him as one of the best metal vocalist out there, who is still going strong in his 50's. This is a great album and it's one you really, really should own.
Most great albums are judged by how much influence they've exercised over subsequent offerings by other bands, but this standard becomes quite dicey when a great album comes in just before the end of an era where a completely different road is taken. These are the releases that are heralded mostly for being powerful works unto themselves, though often times they tend to set a precedent by which the same band will tend to refer back to when the tempest of change rears its ugly head. Thus is the story of Overkill's near universally praised and, rightfully so, 5th studio offering "Horrorscope", an album that came to define most of what would happen on further excursions into the dark and dreary world of 90s thrash metal, one that would prove to be less of a liability for these New Yorkers in terms of quality output when set alongside fellow thrashers Anthrax and all the important names in the Bay Area.
Occurring in the recent aftermath of longtime guitarist Bobby Gustafson jumping ship, this album takes a surprising route by keeping a general stylistic consistency with previous albums, but also taking great care not to sound like a collection of recycled ideas from "The Years Of Decay". The entry of Gant and Cannavino to the fold leaves the band with a denser atmosphere which tends to exploit the dueling soloist approach in a manner slightly reminiscent of those heard on "Rust In Peace", but scaled back significantly in scope. But the biggest change heard on here, and one that would prove to continually impact the band's sound up until "Ironbound" is the higher prominence of the bass in the mix, to the point of introducing something along the lines of a Peter Steele meets Joey Demaio sound, though not quite as flashy as the latter or effects drenched as the former.
It is often pointed out that atmosphere plays a heavy part in the shaping of this album's sound, but it should be noted that the usage of creepy quiet intros and interludes is only slightly greater than what occurred on "The Years Of Decay", and that the bulk of this album is on the upper echelon of the scale of early 90s thrash bludgeoning. The intro to the opening bruiser "Coma" fits the name of the song quite well with a haunting clean guitar line that reminds heavily of a number of atmospheric intros out of the Testament and early Annihilator model, though what follows is more akin to a upper mid-paced nightmare world with a riff set powerful enough to ruin even the astral projection of a spinal column. "Bare Bones" takes it a step further with a "Halloween" inspired piano intro followed by something very similar to the beginning of Helloween's song by the same name, but soon finds itself in ripping high tempo territory with a riff set massive enough to rival "Time Does Not Heal".
Having said all of this, most of the songs on here have a clearer separation of style and tend to embody a lot of the elements found on the two previous albums. Most of them come in the form of either outright fast and furious cruisers after the mold of Metallica's "Dyer's Eve", such as the riff monster "Live Young, Die Free" (which has a chorus riff that sounds very similar to the one that Iced Earth used soon after on the title song of "Night Of The Stormrider"), or slightly more moderated punchers like "Infectious" and "Blood Money", each one serving as templates of a familiar formula that would recur on a number of songs from "W.F.O." up till and including "Killbox 13". At the same time, the doom metal trudging of the title song with its Type O Negative sounding bass intro (2 years before the seminal "Bloody Kisses" was released no less) can't help but dredge up recent memories of "Skullcrusher", while the closing ballad "Solitude" lives up to the name in terms of its sadness and fatalism, and definitely reminds of the previous album's equally somber title song.
It's impossible to fully comprehend the significance of this album without making at least a short reference to the elephant in the room that often causes people to dismiss much of the thrash metal that came out post-1990, namely the groove metal craze that was kicked off by Metallica and Pantera. Like all new styles, the albums that first pushed the idea tend to be better than what follows, but in contrast to the output of many bands at this point, save a few holdouts like Evildead, Cyclone Temple and a few others, this doesn't really contain anything resembling either "The Black Album" or "Cowboys From Hell". It is a fully faithful stylistic rendition of the late 80s character of the style, and a lasting testament to the jarring nature of the stylistic transition that took place on "I Hear Black". And yet, at the same time, this album has come to define Overkill's sound since the close of the 80s, even in the case of their latest 2 albums "Ironbound" and "The Electric Age". This is not quite Overkill's finest hour in all respects, but it can be seen as an archetype, for what it's worth.
Thrash metal has always been a topic that provokes much dispute. Many claim it peaked in the mid 80's, whereas some would say it was the late 80's and even as far as 1990, with releases such as Rust In Peace and Seasons In The Abyss and Cowboys From Hell. Following this, for the most part thrash fell off the radar and crashed and burnt. History has told us that thrash was gone following 1990. Just one year later, Overkill made their reply, and it was as follows- "History can suck a chode", for in 1991 they released an absolute titan of an album entitled Horrorscope.
Horrorscope is a fifty three minute long release that packs in eleven fantastic songs that showcase a huge range of speeds and are all downright fun. Overkill have always been a band with their own signature sound, mainly characterized by Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth roaring his lungs out in his signature high pitched shrieking voice. This album came directly off the back of the masterclass of thrash metal that was The Years Of Decay, and many a band would crumble under the pressure of trying to follow on from an album such as that. Overkill said "fuck pressure", and released their highest selling release, not to mention one of their best albums to date. This is thrash metal as good as you could ask for.
As soon as you listen to this record and hear that beautifully melodic introduction to Coma you would be forgiven for thinking that Overkill has released something a little different for once. Where is the crushing opening that was found in The Years Of Decay? In it's place Overkill has delivered a seventy two second intro, but then suddenly in comes the speed. From here on out it is a riff fest of a song with some fast paced riffing and even a little groove found towards the middle of the song, with a much slower paced riff before the solo comes in and sounds amazing. The guitar work from Merritt Grant and Rob Cannavino is almost flawless on this release, with them throwing in a huge variety of riffs throughout that never fail to keep the listener entertained. There are fast riffs that launch forward full speed ahead, slower riffs that absolutely crush all in their path, and solos that shred your face off. The outro to Coma in particularly shows off the addition of a groove styling to the album.
Infectious is a lightning fast thrasher that stands out as one of the best on the album with some crazily well written riffs, but the best song on the album is Bare Bones. This starts off with a beautifully melodic piece of keyboard work that could not have worked better among the crushing guitar work that comes in alongside it. This is a song that has a lot of variety in its riff set when it picks up, and one of Bobby's best vocal performances on the album. This album shows off an even more powerful Bobby Blitz, who uses a slightly lower style of singing instead of the juvenile shrieking that carried songs such as Elimination off of The Years Of Decay. The drumming is the most complex performance of any Overkill album out of the ones that had been released before this, with some crazy double bass work found on songs like Bare Bones, and a nice performance also found on Nice Day... For A Funeral.
The only real problem that can be found with this album is that the production on it is rather bad when compared to The Years Of Decay. The bass drum is far too loud in the mix, and the snare has a horrible tone to it, and the level of crunch on the guitars makes them sound repetitive at times. Bobby's voice is also a little too loud in the mix to the point that he is overbearing among the other instruments. Aside from this, however, this is a fantastic release, and is Overkill putting two fingers up to everyone who claimed thrash was dead after 1990. Listen to Bare Bones for an indication as to how this album sounds, and then buy it and love it.
Originally written for SputnikMusic
So long 1980's, hello 90's. As the world of heavy metal slowly but surely folded in on itself, a few bands escaped into the new decade relatively unscathed, like Judas Priest with "Painkiller" or Megadeth with "Rust In Peace". East Coast outfit Overkill made it look pretty easy too, especially after an accomplishment like "Years Of Decay" and the unfortunate dismissal of guitarist Bobby Gustafson. Even still, never a band to stop at anything, Overkill took to the new decade like it was any other, and let loose their 5th studio album "Horrorscope". While this one has a number of forgettable tracks like its two predecessors, the stronger stuff keeps the album floating overall.
The production always kind of rubbed me the wrong way on here. Bobby Blitz's vocals are mixed too low in my opinion, and the bass isn't as noticeable as it could be either. The guitars are fine however, but the drumming can be quite a bit too loud too often. What is it with that Sid Falck anyway? Did he just not like not having his drumming noticed? I mean, his work on here is the best yet, with loads of fast, very precise hammering and amazingly quick kick-drumming, but I mean really! DD Verni's bass is more understated like I said, but higher than the usual metal record; his work is almost always appreciated and adds some nice layers the the overall sound. Bobby Blitz still kills, practically carrying the album like often does with his screaming, raspy charisma, though on here he adds a sense of mood and dread to his voice and utilizes actual singing quite a bit. Replacing Mr Gustafson is the duo of Rob Cannavino and Merritt Gant. Even these two guitarists together can't replace the immense soloing and memorable riffwork of Bobby; as such though their guitarisms are considerably more simple, their work doesn't change the overall sound of the music and it's still readily recognizable as Overkill.
The sense of mood notable on "The Years of Decay" is even greater on here; this probably one the group's most atmosphere-driven albums their discography. Unfortunately the amount of songs on here that don't click is even greater too. You'd think we'd expect better from Overkill at this point. We've got "New Machine", which is sort of a boring, groovish, generic song with nothing too special going for it. The odd 'Bare Bones" is more aggressive but equally unmemorable, and hampered further by a weak chorus and a really odd intro permeated by a piano riff. "Blood Money" is another speeder, but again fails to do much for me personally thanks again to an uninteresting chorus and not-so-special riffage. I'm sure I might get some flack for this, but I don't really like "Live Young, Die Free" either. Yeah, aside from a pretty good solo, it just passes without very memorable riffs or even that great of a Bobby Blitz performance.
Well, what does the great Metal_Jaw think is SOOO special on this album then, hmmm? Well, opener "Coma" is pretty wicked, a thrashy speeder accompanied by a spooky intro, a searing, evil guitar solo and some of Blitz's more unhinged vocal work. The groovish, heavy speeder "Thanx For Nothing" is quite cool as well, though the solo goes on a bit too long. The title track is a classic, bludgeoning its way into the listener's puny mortal psyche with its brutal, mid-paced mosh riffs and a number of moody little solos and breaks. Also of note is "Infectious", a neat number that mixes speed metal and mid-paced aesthetics to make a pretty cool-sounding song, though leaning a bit more towards the latter. The tense, evil "Nice Day...For A Funeral" is decent enough, but leads via an atmospheric segway into the closer "Soulitude", an utterly fantastic thrash ballad and probably one of the group's most underrated songs.
Overall, "Horrorscope" is hampered down somewhat by the new guys, an iffy production and a few throwaway songs. At the end of the day though it still is one of the band's better efforts; there are some pretty strong, classic cuts on here (namely the title track, "Coma" and "Soulitude"), and of course Blitz and DD never stop rocking. Enjoy "Horrorscope" for what it is; it's also often considered to be the group's last solid album for a long while at this point in time. After this one, Overkill began to slip away, as a number of good bands at this time did, into the much-despised alternative metal camp: they went to groove...
The loss of Gustafson could have easily sounded the death knell for Overkill, as he wrote the majority of the classic The Years of Decay and embodied a large chunk of their creative unit. The band scrambled and improvised, recruiting Gustafson's guitar tech, Rob Cannavino along with seemingly unknown Merritt Gant from Faith or Fear. This beefed up the band's lineup with two unique, skilled guitarists; a coup that Verni was attempting to pull on Gustafson for some time before his departure. Despite well-placed uncertainty, after all of the smoke cleared, we were given Overkill's greatest album: Horrorscope.
Verni claims that starting on this album he writes all of the music with minimal input from the rest of the lineup. This obviously wasn't the case when Gustafson was present, and a drastic shift in the band's sound is obviously reflected here. The riffing style on Horrorscope is slower than on any of its elder siblings, but it takes advantage of this more deliberate, atypical approach with a number of groovy, crushing bulldozer-like cuts in "New Machine", "Nice Day...For a Funeral", and the title track. Overkill would later receive mixed opinions toward their infusion of groove elements, but it comes off as novel here. That's not to say that there is a lack of speed, as the opener "Coma" and "Live Young, Die Free" exhibit a blistering riff set, especially the section right after the solo on the latter. The remaining songs, save for the atmospheric, mid-paced closer "Soulitude" embody a best-of-both-worlds approach, fusing absolutely crushing riffs with Ellsworth's manic inflection.
The vocals are second only to the riffs in quality, as this is without a doubt Ellsworth's best vocal performance of all time, with Taking Over being a very close second. He totally drops his earlier operatic intonation for a gritty, dark performance that beats out even The Years of Decay in memorability. His approach is most impressively showcased on the mid-paced classic "New Machine", as Ellsworth roars "Nailed to the cross by just words, crucifixion complete!" with the chugging, ascending main riff leaving destruction in its wake behind him. The song gathers some speed about halfway through with the requisite thrash break, embodying all of Horrorscope's best qualities condensed into one single track. The only real deviation in Ellsworth's delivery is on the emotional closer "Soulitude", in which his inflection cleans up a bit as per the song's atmosphere. This track deserves its own special mention, as the doomy bass riff that makes up the bulk of the track is just incredible, especially the way the previous track "Nice Day...For a Funeral" fades into it. The best solos are also present here, making it the definitive closer to a near-flawless album. Think of it as Overkill's "Fade to Black," which makes sense as it follows a rather similar progression along with much of the appeal.
Falck's swansong with the group is also by far his best performance. Terry Date brings the best out of the Overkill formula with an unbelievably dry, snappy drum mix that adds to the neck-jerking mayhem even more. I'm not one to gush often, but this has to be the best produced drum performance I have ever heard on a thrash album. There are quick tom rolls and more surging double-bass than on any of the group's earlier material, giving the rhythm section a stronger backbone than ever. Verni's popping, clangy bass isn't as prominent as usual, but still present enough to add to the dark atmosphere being conveyed here. I feel that if the bass was too prominent it would take the spotlight away from the six-string theatrics, which in this case would be a shame.
Every track on here is a classic save for two. "Bare Bones" has never sat quite right with me. The overlong piano intro already puts added pressure on the track to deliver, but it ends up sounding like a dumping ground for the ideas that couldn't or wouldn't fit elsewhere. "Frankenstein" is a cool, well done cover but feels unnecessary on the whole and ends up interrupting Horrorscope's amazing second half. I'm not even kidding, the last half of this album save for "Frankenstein" is Overkill's finest hour.
While many agree with me, I can still find more that consider The Years of Decay the band's best work. My rebuttal? Next time THINK before you SPEAK. Thanks for nothin'.
As I was preparing these past few weeks to forge through my Overkill CD collection chronologically, it dawned on me that The Years of Decay was some sort of psychic cut-off point, and that its successor Horrorscope was the first of the band's studio full-lengths that I really struggled to remember, a trait that effectively mirrors the quality of the songwriting here. It's not that this is a 'bad' effort, by any means, but apart from the flaming orange mutation of the logo and the Edgar Winter cover ("Frankenstein"), this has always struck me as a painfully average thrash record which fails to provide the incendiary architecture of the band's biggest hits. Granted, I felt that they were on a steady if slight decline for the few records leading to this from Taking Over, but even then there were songs like "Elimination" and "Hello the Gutter" which stood out. When asked to name an equivocal piece on Horrorscope, I'm afraid I draw blanks, even after revisiting the album several times...
It may or may not have something to do with the fact that this is the first post-Gustafson Overkill album, the band's formative and formidable axeman having left the group in 1990 due to tension in the ranks (there are various sides to the story). Apparently D.D. Verni and Bobby Ellsworth had been pining for years to bulk up to two guitar players, so here was their opportunity, recruiting Rob Cannavino and Merritt Gant, two guys that seemed to have visualized out of thin air, but fit Overkill's modus operandi accordingly with taut and blistering rhythm and lead techniques. In fact, the one aspect in which I feel Horrorscope does actually dominate its predecessor is in the sheer production, which for me seems a little less over polished while retaining the punch and modernity the band were teasing with Years. Quite probably the byproduct of working with Terry Date this time out instead of Alex Perialas. The drums still feel aggressive, snappy and clean, Falck matching his prior performances, but the vocals, bass and guitar seem to be better unified into one pulverizing whole, and the album benefits from its explosive balance.
Unfortunately, so many of the songs here fail to provoke the same violent and impish nature of their forebears from Taking Over and Feel the Fire. The style here is still largely speed/thrash, with a few passing nods to the doom they had flirted with on "The Answer" or "Skullkrusher", so they deserve some credit for keeping it real when even Metallica was starting to shift climates with The Black Album, but this doesn't necessarily translate into quality riffs and vocal lines, both of which are absent from the majority of Horrorscope. It might just be that I'm not feeling D.D. Verni's writing. Both the production and business of the guitar riffs in songs like "Blood Money" felt somewhat similar to Pantera's seminal Cowboys from Hell. The obviously horror influenced intros a song like "Bare Bones" (with the piano) felt like bland John Carpenter worship, while the clean guitar that leads off the album on "Coma" reminds me of Anthrax for some reason.
The band wasn't lacking for pure headbanging frills here. "Blood Money", "Thanks for Nothing" and "New Machine" all scratch that itch to some extent, while tunes like "Nice Day...for a Funeral" or the escalating power ballad "Soulitude" have slower, moodier moments which maintain the level of variation from The Years of Decay. But nothing sticks. The vocal lines don't seem nearly as scathing or interestingly pitched as on prior efforts, and the leads all zip into one ear and out another faster than I can remember them. I thought the "Frankenstein" cover was burning and robust enough to do the original service, but then it's little more than a metal injection to an already rocking song, and thus the aggression doesn't even feel all that dialed up even with the chugging mid-paced thrash break that arrives after the first groove sequence.
All told, it's hard not to feel my old 'curse of 1991' pervade this album as it did for many others that seem to be universally well-regarded but personally uninteresting, like Arise, Human or Blessed Are the Sick, all of which likewise hailed from bands whose prior output I had loved. A curious phenomena which I've gone back to debunk and examine for decades, only to end up reinforcing my underwhelmed reaction. There's nothing inherently terrible about Horroscope, it's a competent and dynamic enough successor to The Years of Decay, but it seems further molded towards mediocrity, and there just aren't any exciting rhythm guitars or chorus bits that inspire the violence inside me as "Rotten to the Core", "Fatal if Swallowed" or "Electro-Violence" always have. Yes, it's 'mature', and well produced, but neither is necessarily a mandate where it concerns myself and Overkill.
Let's get right down to business. This album is an excellent headbangin' 80's thrasher. There really isn't much too fancy to speak off on this album. The tunes are all catchy and heavy. Try as you might to not bob your head, you WILL jam out while listening to this album. This album has all the right pieces, and is undeniably a great album, they're is just a few things that hold it back from that five star excellence, but they only hold it back ever so gently.
First, the good; or should I say great? The vocals on this album are outstanding. Bobby Blitz delvers the highs, the lows, and everything in between. Every word is belted out with his trademark rasp in a way that says, 'hey Souza, you are a fucking pretender.' It just EXUDES heavy metal attitude. But while Blitz can bring the fire on thrashier songs like Infectious, Thanx for Nothin', or New Machine, he can also bring a softer, more chilling edge on songs like Horrorscope or Soulitude. Though the lyrics on this album aren't exactly Plato's Symposium, they have that type of angst that really fits the album, as well as Bobby Blitz's vocal style.
The guitars here form the backbone to the album, as well as the backbone to the reason you may shatter your backbone. Throughout the album, Gant and Cannavino deliver the grooves that make you want to mosh. The production is fantastic and it all sounds really clear. Throw in a few face melter solos, frequent enough to satiate your lust for shred, but not overdone so as to cheapen their value to the music, and you have yourself an album of excellent thrash guitar work.
The effect of the vocals and guitars being so powerful on this album, is a less noticeable drum and bass. Though don't overlook them altogether. They keep this album together, holding the rhythms and grooves in places where the guitars are just too busy. Bass is a little bit too quiet as well, but overall better then a lot of albums. The drums sound clear and heavy, no wet cardboard sound. All in all, not exactly mind blowing but great drum and bass support for the headlining guitars.
Some tracks I want to mention; Coma is an awesome opener, starting with a sweet and soft intro, leading up to the explosion that is the rest of the album. The following track, Infectious, is one of those songs that gets stuck in your head, and you end up walking around the grocery store muttering to yourself that you're a 'war time killer'. After that, we have a little bit of the same thing going on, and you end up shouting LIAAAAAAAAAR to yourself, straight of of Blood Money. My favorite song off of this is Soulitude, wit some off the best vocals I've heard, and such tender guiter melody, it makes it an epic closer.
The issue is all the other songs have minor things to them that hampers them from being great songs. Perhaps one riff goes on for too long, or the chorus is a little bit too much. Its hard to explain. Though every song on this album is a good, most of the ones past Blood Money have at least one point where I think to myself, just move on to the next track. The problems are all pretty minor, and this album is still fantastic.
So for great thrash that blends excellent vocals with grooving guitar, i give Overkill's Horrorscope an 88 out of 100 or a 4 out of 5
Well, the 90's wasn't really known for thrash metal and Overkill were never the most popular of bands. The only widely known 90's thrash metal classic is, of course, Megadeth's "Rust In Peace". There were other great efforts as well from lesser known bands that never got the attention they deserved and are not really acknowledged as classics. Overkill aren't the most obscure of bands either. Outside the 'Big 4', they're probably one of the most popular.
Overkill had some catching up to do after a pretty slow start as their first 3 albums were a little behind the times. Their first attempt to modernize their sound began with "The Years of Decay", which is very much influenced by Metallica's "Ride the Lightning" and "Master of Puppets". The rhythm section was tighter, the riffs were less frantic with more emphasis on melody and lyrics. Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth even changed his vocal approach to a more suitable style. "Horrorscope" is a continuation of that trend.
The highlight of this album for me personally is the rhythm guitar playing. The riffs are fast, tight, and quite groovy. I wouldn't call this an old school thrasher. It's the post-1986 kind, if you know what I mean. Overkill aren't really the most talented of bands. The drummer is great, but won't really blow you away. Neither will the numerous guitar solos on this album; they aren't really inspiring. If there was one thing that was truly holding Overkill back from the big leagues, it's the lyrics. Honestly, I don't care and nobody ever did, but it's hard to give a damn about them. They do make up for it with attitude and loyalty though, which are both pretty remarkable qualities.
The album starts off with "Coma", the opener that's an absolutely killer track. The riffing is tight and hard-hitting. Overkill were always a hard-hitting band, but "Coma" shows a more mature, proficient side to them. Bobby's vocals also have a massive presence here, thankfully. Even though the lyrics are quite irrelevant most of the time, they're campy fun, plus the choruses and gang shouts are pretty cool. "Infectious", "Blood Money" and "Thanx For Nothin'" all have pretty fast and heavy grooves coupled with intense mid-paced, headbang-friendly mid-sections.
"Bare Bones" has a more sinister sounding intro to kick things off, serving as a change of pace from the relentless grooving of the previous three tracks. After the intro ends, it's time for some simple, pounding thrash rhythms and the guitar solo of this song is one of the better ones, having a longer lasting effect than most other songs here. "Horrorscope" emerges with some bad ass sounding heavy thrash metal riffs almost out of nowhere. There's not much in terms of variety, but I really like it. It's dark, menacing, and heavy as hell.
"New Machine" is a great song: mid-paced thrash at its best Love the great start-stop riffs that gallop forward. The thrash break at the 2 minute mark is absolutely epic and kinda reminds me of "Creeping Death". "Frankenstein" is a cool instrumental, but I think was a bit unnecessary, succeeding in doing nothing with no purpose really. "Live Young, Die Free" is the best damn thrasher on the entire album. Tthe chorus and pre-chorus parts really kill.
We finally get to the final two songs, "Nice Day" and "Soulitude", which aren't nearly as thrashy. They're more in the vein of traditional heavy metal with some thrash/doom moments and is also quite a lot more melodic. I think these two songs really add a lot to this album's strength. "Soulitude" is actually a metal ballad and they pull it off! A lot of bands fail to be convincing. As this album draws to a close, you do feel a sense of 'completeness', the hallmark of any great heavy metal album.
"Horrorscope" is one of my favorite thrash metal albums of all time. I don't even listen to metal as much these days, but this album is just too damn strong to ignore. Overkill are up there with the best, at least this album is.
How I wondered (and feared) if the band could regain consciousness and at least consolidate after the departure of main songwriter Bobby Gustafson. He wasn’t simply an employee, he wrote the bulk of their stuff. So in fact with such a change in line-up it wouldn’t be surprising if the band would start sounding too differently. And yes, they did sound different, but not too much. Not too much yet, that is. Their real identity crisis came two years later. On Horrorscope the band just continued doing what they were used to do but they couldn’t help shifting slightly.
Opener ‘Coma’ set me straight. I could start breathing again. Overkill still sounded like Overkill. The darker but thrashy vibe from The Years Of decay was still there. Good opening song with a superb chorus! The title track ‘Horrorscope’ once again showed the band’s love for doom metal just like they did on Skullcrusher but this song is shorter, compact and to the point. Great atmosphere.
The line-up change becomes most obvious on the most energetic songs on the album, ‘Blood Money’ and ‘Thanx for Nothing'. These are groovy yet fast thrash metal riffs Gustafson couldn’t have written. They got ‘crossover’ all over them yet played like this with Blitz’ voice all over they’re thrash enough for Overkill. They’re catchy and enjoyable, two highlights on the album!
The album was good. As a whole it didn’t come close to their best eighties works but it certainly had enough good songs to save the day. However from day one I did miss the compositional ingenuity of “Years Of Decay”, filled with changes in pace, key. Apart from a few individually ingenious songs, the band mostly went back to their “Under the Influence” days in terms of simple song structures. A slight devolution which makes this album a bit more lightweight compared to its predecessor and less mature.
I was a little confused when first hearing this album. You would expect that as a band makes more albums they would be more developed and have better production. Well, this album is great, but compared to its preceding album, The Years of Decay, it kind of sucks. The overall sound is a little less developed and clear, the solos and riffs are much weaker, and the bass does not pound like it did before. However this album is redeemed as it has good energy, powerful (but not too powerful) riffs, and consistent drumming. The bass isn’t too audible, but has some moments where it plays by itself and sounds cool.
I guess with the loss of Bobby Gustafson the guitar playing in Overkill got simpler. The solos still kick ass, but are a little more awkward and out of place. There is usually only one per song whereas before they were at every corner ready to pop out and hit you in the face. The riffs don’t have as much range and always follow the same pattern. However they fit very well with the drums. They are a little thrashier and less technical than Years of Decay riffs. It is the kind of guitar playing that is fun to play yourself as a pose to listening to. They set more of a feel than a mood.
What the heck happened to the bass? It really is simple and just plays the riffs along with the guitars, and is less audible. However in some songs it has little fills that take over and sound really cool, and has a really cool intro in Horrorscope. It has no solos and rarely do you hear it get pounded out into little cool solos. The tone is also less crunchy and clear.
The drums are pretty good on this album. Most songs start with a drum fill that is catchy and creative. Then throughout the songs they are bouncy and have good backbeats, and stay constant with the beats and changes.
A very redeeming quality of this album is the vocals. Most angry and less poetic lyrics are pretty annoying, but these lyrics are pretty cool. Bobby has a very interesting voice, and it sounds very expressive. A good example is the song New Machine, the vocals just rest on top of the riffs in a very clever fashion, and Bobby knows how to build up intensity and meet changes correctly.
The best three songs in my opinion are New Machine, Thanx for nothin, Live Young, Die Free. All are very high energy songs and Live Young, Die Free has a cool solo. New Machine is just a good headbang song with an intense groove, and thanx for nothin is catchy and upbeat.
Overall this album still has the awesome Overkill sound, but the guitar playing is less creative, and the production is for some reason worse than previous releases. Still, it is a worthy album and a must have for Overkill fans.
Whether or not Overkill were instrumental in the birth of thrash metal I leave up to the reader but I will say one thing. Overkill were one of the best thrash bands at the time because they were able to consistently create top notch thrash material without comprimising integrity or disinteresting their fanbase with unoriginal material. Horrorscope is no exception of course I would be willing to say it was their shining moment. The guitar riffs are thrashing and pounding your ass into the ground with full force, the vocals are ferocious yet not overly while the rhythm section provides a solid foundation(shocking).
Coma starts with a hypnotizing acoustic section which only strengthens the anticipation for the initial thrash onslaught. Which turns out to be a wet dream for anyone ponders the ways of thrash. Bobby Blitz's vocals are introduced are somewhat of an acquired taste and although gruff at times he does it in a fashion that makes it more listenable than many death-thrash acts. Infectious starts with a guitar riff that will get your head banging in no time. Overkill prove once again in this song that they can alternate from relentless thrash riffage to mid-paced heavy metal material and not coming off sounding like Master of Puppets kiddy thrash. The vocals are solid while the guitar solo's shred without any regard for anything that even slightly resembles what is good and holy. The way thrash should be! Blood Money is ripping from the get go and sports possibly one of the most memorable vocal performances of the album. The piano intro(with sabbath background riff) to Bare Bones is another notable inclusion to this album.
It might not be as dark as Black Sabbath but its pretty damn close. Being experts they are, proceed to pick up the pace and start raising instrumental hell and vocal chaos soon after. Moshing muted rhythm guitar goodness, excellent lead guitar I'll let you be the judge. Horrorscope is very aptly named as this sounds much more heavy-sludge metal based but has some really crunchy, heavy as hell riffage. Easily one of the darker tracks of the album. Live Young Die Free is a thrash classic and one of the few fast thrashers on the last half of the album.
I would recommend this to practically anyone looking to thrash metal as well as people who are new to Overkill. This is as good of a place to start as any. This might not be at the same level as Bonded By Blood among very few others but still remains one of the top thrash albums and arguably a staple for the entire genre. Essential buy for thrashers.
Favorites : Coma, Bare Bones, Live young Die Free
Perhaps the most consistent thrash band up to the point of this album, Overkill delivers more great thrash, with their trade mark sound. This sound is difinitivly Overkill, but at times much faster, and a bit heavier. I would say its overall a faster Overkill album, but Feel the Fire has it beat, since on a few tracks there are slow parts, and Horrorscope is a pretty slow song. But at certain times I was blown away that Overkill could play so fast, like on Coma and Infectious. The drumming is much faster on this album than on The Years Of Decay, the guitars are heavier, and top the speed of the guitars of The Years Of Decay. Blitz's vocal style is much the same....since this point his vocals stopped changing. Before this album, Feel the Fire to Taking Over albums mostly, Blitz sang a bit cleaner. By the time of Horrorscope Blitz developed his trademark raspy vocal style that is still with him today. I personally like it better than the cleaner way he sang before, it give his vocals more attitude and intesity, it helps his screams have more energy too.
This album has a consistent sound, but a bunch of different things can be found here. Songs with a groove feeling to them like Horrorscope, faster songs like Infectious and Coma, and a cover song. There are three songs worth mentioning on this album that make it stand out and showcases all that it offers. Those songs are Coma, Horrorscope, and Soulitude. These songs all stick with the Horrorscope album feel and sound, but do it in three interesting ways.
Coma showcases the typical unchanged vocals since The Years Of Decay of Blitz. As usual they are full of attitude, and delivered in a straight forward way. Vocally he doesn't do much thats interesting, but it still sounds great like always for Overkill. Whats the catch for this song is its the fastest Overkill's done up to this point I think. The guitars provide great thrash riffs with really fast speed for Overkill. They don't even slow that much when Blitz sings, just a bit, but they still remain fast. Its nice to see Overkill play with speed, something they hadn't focused on since Feel The Fire.
I can say the same on Horrorscope as I did for Coma for the vocals, and I will. They are delivered in the same attitude filled way Blitz always does, except with a bit more rhythym to match the sound of the guitars. With that said, the unique for Overkill part of this songs is the speed and thrash groove style the song is done in. The guitars have alot of rhythym and sound very thrashy. Its a flowing guitar riff throughout the song that doesn't change much but doesn't manage to get boring. Blitz managas to match the rhythm of the guitars with is vocals adding to the thrash groove feel it has. This is a unique song for Overkill that is easy to get into the rhythym for the listener, very enjoyable and memorable.
Soulitude starts off slow in the style of the song The Years of Decay, but talk about a song full of energy. This is my favorite song on the album just for the non stop amazing vocal work by Blitz and the non stop intensity/energy of this song prodived by its epic/progressive nature. Its not progressive like prog metal, but the song just keeps getting more and more intense and goes out with a bang. The intensity and energy just leads right up to the end of the song and ends with it. The impressive vocal work by Blitz and the way the song progresses give it the intesity and energy it explodes with. He sings with a ton of passion, it sounds at times like he is so passionate about what he is singing that it makes him scream like he can't control it. I can imagine that if Overkill played this song live Blitz's face would be doing spasms because he sings so intesnly.
This album overall has a bunch of memorable moments, like the Frankenstein cover is a fun song, making it memorable next to the seriousness nature of Overkill and this album. Infectious and Bare Bones have memorable and catchy chorus' and lyrics. The songs I mentioned with all the other memorable moments makes this album almost as good as The Years Of Decay and Feel The Fire. Its a bit different sound of what Overkill did up to this point, but still in their pure raw thrash sound. I give them credit for making a thrash album in the 90's the doesn't suck couphmetallicaslayercouph. If you like their stuff up to this point, Horrorscope is for you.
This is what some consider Overkill's finest hour. While not quite as good as Years of Decay, it is definitely quite excellent. The changes in lineup (Bobby G. leaves, and Rob and Merritt come in) don't much alter the general style of the band - there are still monster thrash riffs and nice solos everywhere.
The album opens up with Coma, which is a ripping thrash number that is not at all unexpected by Overkill's standards. The album moves along at this speed through Infectious, Blood Money, and Thanks for Nothing, before pausing a bit for an intro to Bare Bones. After this, the song is faster and choppier than the first four, but in the same vein.
The title track is slowed down a bit - more bludgeoning than ripping, especially the middle part, where the New York style "mosh riff" is taken to its most insane extreme: about 84 beats per minute, every beat rings like a nail, through the head... now I can see .....
oh dear I must've started quoting from the song. Must be memorable, huh?
Next up is New Machine, which is also kinda midpaced, and then Frankenstein, which is a bit of an instrumental number. It's originally done by Edgar Winter or Johnny Winter, and at this point I cannot be bothered to remember which one - it's made into a nice thrash piece.
Then, Live Young Die Free. The best song on here. Similar to the first four, but better - more memorable chorus, nice solo, one of the greatest Overkill songs ever.
The last two songs, Nice Day for a Funeral, and Soulitude, pretty much go together as one - a bludgeoning doomish riff-fest leading into a balladic part then a faster, more melodic segment. Very nicely executed, and a great way to finish the album.
This album is definitely worth getting - Overkill can hardly do wrong.