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Overkill's tenth release, Necroshine, came at a precarious time within the ranks of the band. Ellsworth had recently been diagnosed with cancer, and honestly didn't know if he would be around for the group's eleventh opus. Out of the three Overkill releases that were dropped in the latter half of the 90's, Necroshine features the most intriguing experimentation, ultimately boasting less of the band's classic identity than even the much-maligned I Hear Black.
To compare this album to it's immediate successor, Bloodletting, Necroshine ends up being more memorable due to Blitz's impressive vocal assault this time around. Throughout the 90's he continued to experiment with what I like to call his Horrorscope inflection, with varying results throughout the decade. Regardless, I feel that he finally hit the proverbial nail on the head here, with a thrilling disparity between a deep (for Blitz), gravely approach and his trademark shrieking highs. The title track features a great example of the two styles coexisting, adding a much needed point of reference as far as following the music. The guitars grow old rather quickly on this album due to a laughably bland riff set. Comeau & Marino's swansong is disappointing on many levels, as the band failed to utilize Joe's powerful voice to it's full potential here, on top of some of the most banal riffs in Overkill's entire discography. The leads are nearly equally unimpressive, with little staying power or memorability despite making very few appearances, only making their presence felt near the end of "Black Line".
Knee-jerk reaction is to forgive many of Necroshine's shortcomings due to the stagnant metal scene into which it was released. Maybe I'm just not feeling D.D. Verni's writing here, as an earlier record with a similar approach was quite unique and memorable: 1996's The Killing Kind. The chugging riffs seem to mindlessly follow the drum patterns, rarely breaking into anything even bordering on clinical thrash posturing. The almighty groove remained a cornerstone of the band's sound at this point. This results in the decent opener, which, like many Overkill openers, feels roughly two minutes too long; eerily similar to "Thunderhead" from Bloodletting. Still, the monolithic groove and awesome vocals from Blitz keep this one's head above the water. I also enjoyed Bobby's vocal melodies on "My December", and the duet with his sister on "Revelation". On the less impressive end of the spectrum we have the vapid closer "Dead Man" and the earbleed-inducing chorus of "80 Cycles", which may be the worst cut here.
The rest of the tracks fall into the same pitfalls as Bloodletting, lack of memorability results in a shapeless, nebulous mass of filler that accounts for roughly two-thirds of Necroshine. A special mention goes to "Stone Cold Jesus", for opening with nearly as much attitude as "Bold Face Pagan Stomp", but imploding in upon itself in short order, yet another disappointment.
One area Necroshine excels in is in sheer production. The guitars have a massive presence, and a nice equilibrium is reached with Verni's powerful, popping bass lines. Tim Mallare doesn't impress much yet again, even though his kit sounds as great as ever. Bobby's voice isn't as painfully up-front or nasal as it would become on subsequent LPs, so this may be the best produced release until Ironbound eleven years later.
As a final note, I feel I have to address Travis Smith's artwork. It seems that most people hate it, but I love the atmosphere and skeletal version of Chaly he created. Such a shame the music doesn't follow suit, as it would seem the band had nowhere to go but up after From The Underground and Below, but oh how wrong we all were.
While the 1990s (particularly after 1995) could be likened to a thrash metal recession, culminating in a host of uninspired semi-thrash albums that were more concerned with groove and stomp than neck-ruining mayhem, there were a few decent offerings to come out of the older mainstays who perservered through said decade. Overkill is an obvious choice in this regard, as they've always had a consistently wicked and powerful character to their sound regardless to the tempo or complexity factor, and while their 1999 offering "Necroshine" isn't quite the album that will make an old school thrasher explode in his pants, it definitely provides some solid material for those valuing a good combination of aggression and attitude.
This album marks the end of Jon Comeau's tenure with Overkill (he ended up getting a lead vocal gig with Annihilator for a decent 2 album run), and is also the album that his contributions are the least noteworthy. Given that Blitz has always been more of a nasal-drenched hag of a screamer than a husky baritone shouter, Comeau's versatile range definitely gave this album and its two predecessors the necessary lower-end vocal credentials to fit in with Machine Head and Pantera. It's a bit scaled back here and relegated to the background as Blitz's sleasy mutterings dominate the fold, resulting in a sound that is still quite groovy, but actually a hair closer to the gradual move back towards a more thrashing character that would continue for the next couple of albums and climax on "Killbox 13".
Things start off on a bit of an odd note, as the first couple of songs are actually the most overtly groove-oriented and scaled back in character. Both "Necroshine" and "My December" are nestled comfortably in mid-tempo land, sporting riff sets that are quite basic and reminiscent of a rock-style with too much guitar distortion for rock radio. At times things take on a bluesy character, particularly conjuring up some melodic material that wouldn't be out of place on a 70s Sabbath album, though Blitz takes the lead rather than following the guitars. At times things get a bit too groovy and start to get contrived, as with the redundant clunker "80 Cycles", but interestingly enough most of the mid-tempo material is actually fairly intricate, with the absolute highlight being "Stone Cold Jesus" with a bass intro reminiscent of Cliff Burton and a catchy, driving character to it that's almost along the lines of an 80s heavy metal hit with a darker character.
All of that being said, Overkill always does best when they kick up the tempo and kick ass with those size 22 steel-tipped boots that guarantee a tail-bone fracture. This only occurs on a couple songs and it usually occurs after a fairly long period of build up, but when it hits, skulls being pulverized into dust is the end result. Though much of "Let Us Prey" hangs on a slow-going groove riff that is remarkably similar to the one heard on Rainbow's "Stargazer", the middle section slays the vertabrae with the best of them and is heavily reminiscent of those bone-crunching upper mid-tempo riffs heard out of late 80s Exodus. But the only consistent speeder, and it's only moderately above the mid-tempo mark is "Forked Tongue Kiss", smashing heads with a vengeance largely comparable to the faster work that would be heard on "Bloodletting" and loading up on the gang vocals something fierce (arguably the only moment on here where Comeau's presence reaches its full potential).
This is not classic Overkill in the vain of "Horrorscope" or its recent successors "Ironbound" and "The Electric Age", and it makes zero attempts at being so. Don't expect anything fancy, in fact, expect the guitar solos to be few and far between and the riffs to not venture far beyond what was largely commonplace at this juncture in American groove metal. But do expect a well-organized, heavy hitting album that will suffice for anyone looking for punishment below 180 clicks on the metronome. The album cover looks really lame, the image of the flying skull is at its visually weakest, but Overkill manages to keep their head above water here, and musically pull off an album that is a clear improvement from the mixed bag otherwise known as "From The Underground And Below".
I don't hate that Overkill attempted to complement their thrash roots by weaving in and out of groove territory throughout the 90s (and beyond), I just hate that they did it with such a bland and laughable riff set, a flaw that plagues Necroshine for about 90% of its content and reduces it to rubble when placed even against its lackluster neighbors in their catalog. This is an album of ideas, sure, but poorly implemented ideas which, for the most part, result in little more than vapid shovelware. It might not represent the bottom of the trough in the New Yorkers' discography, but it's close enough to muss up I Hear Black's hair. Even the cover is weak, one of Travis Smith's less striking images, a skeletal Chaly re- envisioned into some relatively cluttered collage.
The best component of the album would be its production, which was handled by the band's friend Andy Katz, who also worked with D.D. Verni's other project The Bronx Casket Co. for a few albums. It's sleek, it's clean, it's got punch where necessary, and even if Overkill was not exactly a spotlight act in the late 90s, it mirrors the prowess of bigger bands: mainstream enough for a radio pop/rock audience, but still attuned for the heavy variation of the riffs. I also found that Bobby Blitz wrote some interesting harmonies and vocal lines, he was toiling with different rhythmic patterns that rarely felt lifted from the older records, often humming or singing a melody to throw off the listener. He even brought in his sister Mary to do a few backups, though they felt strangely atonal and unnecessary. The lyrics are a clear step up from a few of the albums leading to this, but there's still a sense that he's often attempting to squeeze words to create quirky, phonetic repetition with a bit of a burly blues inspiration. That said, I would hardly call any of Necroshine's chorus sequences essential or memorable, they simply seem more thought out than the rest of the instruments...
And that is where this album really falls flat for me: the guitar progressions. There are a few pure thrashers tucked into the folds, like "Revelation", but these are no more than passable. The individual rhythm and vocal lines are simply not that sticky or interesting, stock thrash which wouldn't even have earned the right of a B side during the Taking Over era. "I Am Fear" has a fraction more spunk to it, but at the same time it's pretty much predictable groove/thrash you'd expect out of Pantera or their ilk. Then there are tunes like the awful "My December", in which no amount of Blitz' charm can salvage such a banal and pedestrian slew of 2-3 note groove riffs. "Necroshine" is also suspect with its intensely generic grooves that almost make Korn or Roots era Sepultura seem complex in comparison. The incredibly dull, bass-driven doom grooves of "80 Cycles" which is about as fun as shearing corn, and despite the cleaner opening atmosphere of "Let Us Prey", it too lapses into a creative coma replete with connect-the-dots mid-paced thrash riffs that can't have taken Overkill more than 20 seconds to write.
It's sad to me that the catchiest thing on here is probably the pseudo punk anthem "Black Line", if only for the interplay of the vocal melodies with the very basic muted picking sequences, and even that doesn't have a quarter of the charisma of "Hello from the Gutter". What's even sadder is that, where so many of the group's contemporaries got called on their mistakes in the 90s, like Slayer or Megadeth, Necroshine seems to have been handed a 'free pass', when it's nearly as lame. Again, it was not a sore spot for me that the band were broadening their sound so much as they were writing such uninspired material, and this remains one of their worst albums in memory, the ringed residue of many a beer-sweat marring the surface of its inevitable function.
After putting out two inconsistent and uninspiring albums, Overkill finally manage to get their shit together. Now this album, isn't quite a return to thrash form as a majority of the songs on here are groove metal, but they finally manage to put out a groove album that isn't dull and boring. Another thing to notice on this album is that is that it has a much more dark and evil style to it. On this album, Overkill not only manage to succesfully modernize their sound here, but their actually starting to develope and evolve more as a band.
It's pretty hard to pick out any stand out tracks here considering that it's more consistent, but the title track, Revelation, and Forked Tongue Kiss have to be my favorite songs on here. All three of these songs manage to have the right balance of thrash and groove along with some nice ass riffs and drumming. 80 Cycles is probably the worst song on here, but even this song is pretty decent.
If you're into a mix of thrash and groove with a more dark approach, then get this album, as it's defiantly worth your money. I bought this album as a double-pack along with From The Underground And Below. If you can find it, get the double-pack so you don't have to worry about paying to much money for either album. However, I would recommend getting the classic albums first. Especially, if you're a first time listener.
With this album Overkill helps keep thrash alive after their 7 year or so slump. They proove with this album that a popular thrash band from the United States in the 80's can still make great albums. Merits of this album such as great consitency, moments of greatness, loads of attitude, and it being the heaviest Overkill album up to the point of this album(1999), make this the perfect come back album.
There a few clear highpoints of this album, like the great opening track Necroshine and Fear His Name. Songs like Black Line and 80 Cycles offer something Overkill hasn't done before, or hasn't done in depth before. With all this variety though the album is amazingly consitent with its new sound. Each song on this album is good, while some are much better than others, like the ones I mentioned. The band repeatidly makes track after track good or great in the style and structure of the album. The structure is the new Overkill sound, which is heavier and combines the speed of Horrorscope. The vocal change is noticable, Blitz sings much more raspy or harsh than the earlier Overkill records (Feel the Fire to Horrorscope).
The highpoint of this album is the great opening track Necroshine. After the progressive/ambient intro to the song, the song pulls you right into headbanging with a great thrashy riff thats pretty heavy for Overkill. The guitars on this album are very catchy and memorable, as is the chorus. Its stays in your head and never looses its appeal. Blitz sings with more attitude on this album than Mr. T telling a fat kid to do a pull up. The lyrics have attitude and Blitz delivers them with authority and confidence. This raspy harsher vocals fit this new Overkill style well. Tim Mallare prooves his worth as a drummer on this song and album. His drums can get very fast at times, are always heavy and loud, and work well with the rest of the music, being in rhythym with the rest of the band. The other song worth mentioning is done in a similiar style to Necroshine, but just a bit faster, is I am Fear. This is one of the more faster songs on the album, and it packs the most punch. Its consistent from begeinning to end, the guitar and drums are a bit choppy witch helps the vocals on this song. The vocals here are done in short fast bursts, but with little space between each phrase. The speed of these burst phrases almost gives it a rhythym. Its just a unique vocal style for Overkill and they do it well. The lyrics of this song rule to, its mostly about hurting some dude severly, and when Overkill sings about destruction and violence its always good. The last song that needs mention is Black Line. Its very different for Overkill, mainly because at some points its gets really happy sounding. Kinda like an 80's thrash song meets and 80's hair metal song. There is a cheery foward looking chorus and some amusing whistling. This is more of a Novelty song for Overkill, but its still good enough to make it more memorable than a Novelty song. These three songs are the highpoints of the album.
This is probally (of Overkills new records with their new sound) on par with Killbox 13. Its heavy and fast( with very few slow melodic parts like on Dead Man), full of consistency from Necroshine to Dead Man. If your a fan of their older stuff this is definatly different, but recognizably Overkill. The bass makes a big presence on this record as opposed to their others. D.D seems like he wanted to make the bass more than just to play along with the guitar, but give it its own spotlight on a few songs. There are no bad songs on this album, all are good. If all the songs reached the level of Necroshine, this would be Overkills best album. Other than that its an amazing album. Overkill prooves that U.S Thrash bands from the 80's can still keep thrash alive and not sell out.
Here on this album, we can see a darker side to Overkill developing. The riffs are heavier than the previous album, and the songwriting takes on a more menacing tone, that is definitely a welcome thing.
The songs here are for the most part pretty strong, though sometimes pretty similar sounding. Necroshine, the opening track, is pretty damn great - it moves along at efficient speed, bludgeoning all that stand in its way in the vein of New Machine or Horrorscope. My December is a bit weaker, but overall still quite good. Most of the songs on here are in this vein: Let us Prey, Eighty Cycles, and Revelation are also pretty similar. Overall decent and enjoyable stuff, though. If you like one, you'll like 'em all.
The song that definitely stands out is Black Line, which has the catchiest verses since Where it Hurts. This is probably the best song on here, though it's also the least morbid, oddly enough. It's a fun song that has its moments of thrash, and a killer set of solos, oh and that random needle-scream moment in the verses. Subtle, yet triumphant.
Overall, this is an average album by Overkill standards - they really don't go too badly wrong, and this one is worth picking up even though it's no Years of Decay.