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Expectations for Overkill were not high after the release of RelixIV, an album that I actually was quite fond of myself. Most fans considered it a bit of a relapse after the band appeared to finally find an acceptable modern sound which sat well with both old and new fans in Killbox 13. Two years later the New Jersey / New Yorkers brought us their fifteenth opus, Immortalis. Many lauded this release as a prodigious return to the band's thrashy roots, an honor which retroactively belongs to the far superior Ironbound. In my opinion, Immortalis fails on virtually all fronts, and may be the least appealing Overkill release of all time, with less of an identity than even I Hear Black.
Just like Bloodletting, this album suffers from a heinous lack of memorability. So many of these tracks are complete throwaways, with nothing even bordering on good riffs or surprise elements. Many of these tracks are defined by a largely mid-paced approach infused with more of a hard-rock and bluesy influence in the guitar and vocal departments. There are occasional thrash breaks, most notably in the opener and fifth installment of the "Overkill" saga, but not nearly enough to satiate the average Overkill fan. This mid-paced approach requires a memorable vocal performance to keep the ordeal interesting, and Bobby Blitz can always be relied on for a great, sleazy vocal onslaught. Even his worst is enough to keep some of the slower cuts above water. In my review for Killbox 13 I noted that while Blitz perfected his lower-register, gravely inflection on said album, I wasn't a fan of the way he tinkered with his approach later on. Immortalis is a good example, as some of these bluesy lines come off as forced and insincere. I wish he would return to the operatic approach from the Taking Over days, although I suppose he just isn't capable of such a performance anymore.
The production just sucks. In contrast to RelixIV which was also self-produced and featured an awesome, gritty guitar sound with bold chords and a natural drum mix, Immortalis' guitars come off as gutted and weak. It almost sounds like too much mid-range, which doesn't mix well at all with Ron Lipnicki's triggered kit. The bass performance is shockingly soulless, especially coming from the great DD Verni. Despite the obligatory bass breaks and volume boosts in strategic spots, the bass is inaudible, an unusual choice for Overkill, a band known for adopting the bass as a main catalyst in the overall mix. Blitz is mixed fairly well, however, and isn't so uncomfortably up-front as he has been in recent albums. Lipnicki is the highlight here, a massive improvement over Tim Mallare, who failed to impress much at all during his twelve-year tenure with the group.
With so little going for it, Immortalis seals it's fate by featuring boring songwriting. In rare cases, the mid-paced approach works in cuts such as "Hellish Pride", which has a good amount of balls due to a potent main riff. "Skull and Bones" does feature some good riffs as well, but is atom-bombed by the unwise inclusion of harsh vocals, courtesy of Randy Blythe. The song isn't nearly as bad as people make it out to be, it simply falls in line with the majority of the tracks here, being insipid and not worthy of the Overkill name. "Head On" has some more passable riffs, but an unusually painful vocal performance by Blitz continues the long line of disappointments here. I am not a fan of the Linsk / Tailer duo, and this album features their lackluster riff craft at its worst. Even the solos fail to inspire, which was one of the highlights of RelixIV, the supposed inferior album of the two.
Immortalis isn't worth even a passing glance, a statement I never expected to include in an Overkill review. Even the much-maligned I Hear Black at least had a consistent atmosphere and one or two memorable tracks; a feat which isn't replicated here. What is perhaps most mind blowing about the whole affair is how so many individuals claim this as a great "thrash comeback", when in fact it is the worst of the groove period of Overkill's discography. Straight to the bargain bin it goes.