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For a while this question of “what colors comprise the heavy metal rainbow?” has been pestering me. Perhaps it’s a sign that I listen to too much Dio, or perhaps it could be chalked up to an occasional pondering of how Vikings would get from Earth to Odin, but regardless the question still remains. I’m confident that, based on my research into the lyrical pursuits of professor Ronnie James that this illusive rainbow only comes out in the dark, but beyond this his studies seemed only interested with the metaphorical applications of this phenomenon, as such is the labors of poets. But recently Overkill decided to take a more scientific approach to the question, and uncovered a threefold color scheme of green, black and red through their thrash metal microscope.
“Ironbound”, the colossal 16th opus of pure tempered steel out of this New York thrash mainstay, presents the illusive heavy metal rainbow on an iron canvass fit for its nature. The tableau is, in itself, somewhat inconsistent only in the sense that there are patches of rust amidst its luster, but manifesting not as an actual flaw but rather a much needed accent of older influences that have been largely absent on their past several offerings. Occasionally this comes in the form of obvious nods to old school Metallica and Megadeth, while at others things break more towards Overkill’s slightly groovier character, but always hitting upon the best elements of both worlds. This is an album that is literally chock full of enough riffs to hold its own against the more extreme examples of the late 80s Bay Area scene, but elects for a more orthodox song structure that is more befitting a pre-1987 adherent to the genre.
As to the specific colors of the rainbow, the dominant colors are the pitch black and deathly pale green that has often been displayed on their album covers. While lyrically this is largely a dual venture in singing the praises of the individual and his empowerment in relation to others within the metal scene when he finds his proper place, the music is pure necrotic filth, much in the same fashion as a zombie fresh out of the grave, but with the sprinting abilities more commonly attributed to wolves. There is no beating around the bush in this regard either, as this uncompromising fury of crunch, sleaze and aggression just leaps out at the listener from the very onslaught.
The first 3 songs essentially set the tone for the entire album, drawing heavily from the past and only a little bit from the post-1992 era of the style. The principle influence is that of “The Years Of Decay”, which this album essentially functions as a 21st anniversary to, albeit with even more speed and fury. “The Green And Black” bears some similarity to “Time To Kill”, complete with an extended intro and build up, though the song is a tiny bit creepier and bass heavy. In fact, D.D. has more presence as a bassist on here than any other Overkill album. “Ironbound” ups the ante in the speed department, as well as in catchiness, throwing in an unforgettable gang chorus to lead vocalist interchange that hits the ears with the fury of a thousand sledgehammers. Both of these songs are wide in scope and consist of extended breakdown sections, sometimes slowing down to a punishing groove stomp, while at others reverting to the creepy quietness heard on the softer parts heard on “The Years Of Decay”. The 3rd part of this wicked trilogy “Bring Me The Night” bucks the breakdown trend in favor of an all speed, all the time, rush of punishing brevity. Signature riffs that bear heavy similarities to “Hit The Lights” and “Disposable Heroes” mesh perfectly with Blitz’s wicked witch wails, resulting in a song that should be on any self-respecting thrash maniac’s play list.
For the most part, the remaining songs tend to exhibit the frenzied character of the beginning 3. “Endless War” has more of a galloping tendency to it and a heavy amount of Dave Mustaine influences, but still puts speed and riffs ahead of groove. “Give A Little” is a bit more of a sing along number and a little bit slower, not to mention featuring a brief section where Blitz turns off the sleaze and almost sounds like a soft rock singer, but the aggression is still at the fore. But amongst a lot of the slower songs there is also an appearance of the red lining on the otherwise all green and black rainbow, manifesting musically as that groovier, “I’m gonna kick your face in” attitude more associated with Overkill’s late 90s material. “The Head And Heart” is the most noteworthy example of this, slamming down a minimalist set of power chords in a “Symphony Of Destruction” manner, and flowing like a standard structured song. One might chalk it up to an occasional reference to the bloodied corpse of the victim amidst an otherwise consistent tale of thrashing zombies and necrotic flesh.
It has been a long time coming, but the band that arguably first pioneered this style has solved the riddle of the heavy metal rainbow first prophesized by the almighty Dio, and along with it offered us yet another fit of sheer thrashing brilliance. There isn’t a single dull moment to be found, though many will find themselves repeating the first 3 songs over and over for their surprising level of comparability to the glory days of the 80s. It’s a dark ride, a fit of subterranean brilliance, and a wonderfully decrepit musical rendering of this band’s primary colors. It’s the sort of rainbow organization that can literally push its own sense of greatness and diversity, but without all the racism, gayness, or corporate shakedowns normally associated with some other rainbow push groups. In short, get this now, or prepare to be torn apart by a legion of green and black ghouls.