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At the time of its release, it was easy to quantify ReliXIV as a final gasp of sorts of the groove-infected style that Overkill continued to flirt with throughout the 90s with varied success. This album gets more flak than any of Overkill's releases not named I Hear Black, mainly because it appeared to be taking two proverbial steps back after the arguable step forward that was Killbox 13. Two years later the inferior, groovier Immortalis sunk the band to new lows, making ReliXIV seem more digestible in hindsight.
This album was recorded and produced at Verni's Gear Recording Studio, so Colin Richardson's presence is sorely missed here in most areas. The under-produced nature of the record works to it's favor in one regard: the guitars. The chords are so thick and bold, whenever an open note comes along it rumbles your core. This sonic attribute is utilized well during some of the more measured, deliberate grooving sections on tracks like "Loaded Rack" and "Wheelz", which both end up being highlights. Conversely we have the more mid-paced opener "Within Your Eyes" and the requisite throwback to speed metal in "Pound of Flesh", both standing out as more enterprising from a compositional standpoint. "Bats in the Belfry" is certainly the most eclectic number here, throwing a number of disparate ideas into the stylistic mixing pot and delivering on all of Overkill's modern hallmarks. The groovy breakdown near the end is a real neck-jerker: "Come on! Hold on!"
Ellsworth spits his typical rapid-syllable lyrics at a torrid pace, but he sounds way too upfront and nasal like on Bloodletting. It isn't quite as bad as that one, but definitely a step down compared to his venomous delivery on Killbox 13. He begin introducing a bluesy inflection into his vocals starting here and while it later became irritating, it is forgivable here. Verni contributes his requisite gang shouts during some choruses, like "Keeper" and "Wheelz", maintaining consistency in performance and subject matter.
I have to make a special mention of "Wheelz", the main riff is monolithic and groovy, essentially sounding like the second coming of "New Machine" (Well, third if we count "Crystal Clear"). The short, melodic solo at the start turns heads immediately as the groove persists for the duration. I read in interviews that Linsk recorded his guitars via long-distance, as he wasn't present in New Jersey at the time. This collaborative bifurcation may be why ReliXIV has a groovy, atonal nature that hadn't been experimented with to this degree before its release. Mallare's swansong with the group is as disappointing as the majority of his tenure with Overkill. Not only do the drums sound plastic and gutted, he plays like he is barely awake.
I would also be lying if I said that all of these tracks were winners. The second half of ReliXIV pales in comparison to the first, with "Keeper" and "Play The Ace" both failing to inspire fully. "The Mark" seems equally uninteresting at first, but it has an awesome, doomy passage just past the halfway mark that hails back to the long-forgotten demo castoff "The Answer." As far as the less appealing numbers go, Ellsworth's primal delivery is intact, but the stop-start riffing patterns just don't have the wherewithal to maintain interest for the entire duration. The compositional prowess is there, but there just isn't quite enough of a fire lit under Linsk's ass to push him to up the ante over Killbox 13.
Regardless, ReliXIV is far superior to it's predecessor Immortalis and contains at least a few tracks that can hang with anything the band has released since Horrorscope. Don't let its reputation as a compete throwaway turn you off, as Overkill can write great thrash in their sleep.
Perhaps better though of as RelapseXIV, Overkill's 2005 full-length takes a step back to the problems that were plaguing many of its predecessors like Necroshine, W.F.O. or From the Underground and Below, namely the fact that it seems to divide itself between a number of merely passable old school tracks redolent of their brighter 80s years and vapid groove metal tunes that are incontrovertibly insipid to the point that, for years, I've found it difficult to even remember that this album existed in the first place. It's not the worst of their studio efforts, its aroma more tolerable than the pungent experimentation of I Hear Black or the sorry arsed Necroshine, but after the band had begun to ascend from its qualitative slumber through Bloodletting and Killbox 13, it's a rather frustrating affair which really never needed to exist.
As I hear it, the problem with ReliXIV is that it really lacks ideas, most of the songs seemingly constructed out of the band's 90s riffing patterns, slightly altered. This was a problem with thrash metal in general in the prior decade, the band's simply ran out of inspiration to create fresh, progressive guitar blueprints that could carry the genre forward without needing to reduce it to a lowest common denominator platform of tough guy grooves for a moshing, hardcore influenced crowd who largely couldn't have given a shit about the content of metal as opposed to its inherent lifestyle. Just laying down palm muted processions of notes doesn't cut it, and a good number of cuts here like "Within Your Eyes" or "Loaded Rack", while well meaning and loyal to the band's origins, toss away their potential on boring guitars that don't really seem to involve much effort or technical skill, just predictable chords. What's more, though, even Bobby Blitz himself seems to have been leeched of all his own charisma, and few if any of his lines through the album cling to the brain like so many he has spat in the past...
Structurally, there is some solid production involved with the album, nice and meaty guitars rocking along with largely mid-paced Exodus palette. The chords are bold, there will occasionally be a thicker groove (intro to "Love", for example) or even a slower, tremolo picked piece. I wouldn't claim that this album had an excess of variation, though, because the songs seem to primarily hinge on slower, boring butt thrash like "Wheelz" or the mid-paced attempts to invoke the band's ritualistic enemy. Tunes like "The Mark" bring out some classic 70s metal riff sequences on top of the concrete drumming of Tim Mallere, but every card this album pulls out of its deck contributes to a losing hand. The grooves in "Play the Ace", for example are wholly generic bar-core slop that tons of groups were writing during the Pantera dominated 90s, and "Love" is such a shit tune that the quality of its riffing surpasses even the superfluous poignancy of its simplified title. The only song that dares pick up the energy to an appropriate level is "A Pound of Flesh" with its Slayer like speed metal velocity, but it too suffers form a dearth of creativity in the riffs.
It's hardly a terrible or particularly offensive album, just lackluster in all respects. Even the boring Travis Smith cover seemed played out and redundant (as with the previous record), Chaly relegated once more to the status of a gargoyle icon against a pretty uninteresting backdrop. I suppose ReliXIV could be said to sound professional enough, but ultimately it's just another supporting brick in the band's discography to keep them active and touring, and there are no classics here that belong in their set lists for fans to pine over. It's also one of those rare Overkill outings where the vocals are nearly as dull as the guitars. Not a good starting place if you find yourself new and interested in the bands, and I couldn't recommend to anyone save a fan of the most banal groove/thrash dated a decade before its release.
Overkill caused a tiny bit of controversy amongst their fans with the release of this album, mostly because they appeared to be reverting back to the half-thrash style that they briefly took on during their “I Hear Black” days. Truth be told, this does have some similarities to that album. The riff set has been pretty well simplified, there is a fair share of 2 chord grooves that come in and out, and things have been slowed down a bit. A good analogy might be to compare this to the style that Machine Head exhibited on “The Blackening”, though I’d argue this comes off less half assed and boring than that actual album.
Truth be told, of all the various thrash bands who took on this style, Overkill handles it better than most and manages to keep things thrashing enough to actually live up to the half-thrash label. The music changes up fairly frequently, lead guitar work has not been ejected in favor of making the scene, and the overall atmosphere of rotten evil remains mostly intact. Likewise, Blitz doesn’t bother with any Anselmo/Flynn pseudo-tough guy bullshit, he sticks to what he knows, and that is singing gravely and sleazy the way a vile psycho would, rather than some homeboy off the streets who thinks Slipknot ist krieg.
Naturally this isn’t anywhere near the same caliber as most of what these guys have delivered to us on the silver, winged skull’s platter, but there is very little going on here that’s really terrible. Songs like “Love” and “Keeper” really hang on to some of those 3 and 4 note mini-riffs and chugging, upper tempo grooves just a little too long before they start cooking, but this comes off as more of a faster version of Heavy Metal than an actual crossover into “Far Beyond Driven” land. Others like “Loaded Rack” sound a bit like something you’d hear off “The Black Album” with maybe a tad bit of later Machine Head dissonance and higher end noise, but a superior vocal performance basically keeps everything together.
In fact, almost the entire album takes the route of being catchy; sing along Anthrax brand thrash of the later 80s with a good amount of groove incorporated in. In this capacity, Blitz is really given an opportunity to shine as a vocalist, something which he’s always done, but here it’s just a bit more noticeable because the riffs aren’t as impressive. Some songs like “Wheelz” and “Play The Ace” get a little repetitive and boring, but a competent vocal delivery and a quality guitar tone can make the difference between a “Volume 8 – The Threat Is Real” and a “ReliXIV”, and there is a big difference if you listen to both albums all the way through.
There are a couple of songs on here that could be measured against the older Overkill standard, which is one of ugly, stinking thrash metal done in the most masterful way possible. “A Pound Of Flesh” has a main riff that’s basically a hyper-speed version of the verse riff to “Fear His Name”, while the entire song just cooks like nobody’s business. “Bats In The Belfry” starts out a bit groovy, but stays solid and catchy throughout and really takes off at the end, particularly Blitz’s wicked witch vocal wails. The best song on here “Within Your Eyes” has a pretty elaborate structure that actually rivals “Overkill III (Under The Influence)” in terms of memorable ideas, tension buildup, and all out riff assault.
I’d argue that this is Overkill’s 2nd weakest album, being perhaps just a tiny bit better than “I Hear Black”, which was still moderately good. It’s not something that I’d call an essential pickup, especially if you are just introducing yourself to the band, but it is a fun listen if you’ve got the time to spend and if you wonder if there is such a thing as a good album that mixes thrash and groove. Unlike most of their contemporaries, this outfit has yet to make any sort of ultimate plunge into mediocrity or all out sucking. They just don’t seem to know the meaning of the word failure.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 1, 2009.
I remember hearing great things about this band when I started listening to metal about a couple years ago. Well since I was a cheap bastard back then, I attempted to pirate every album I could find from these guys. Sadly this was the only one I could find from them and when I had achieved it I wasn't too interested at the time. Now I took a listen to it recently and realized that this album isn't as bad as everyone thinks it is.
First off I want to point out that this album is not another "I HEAR BLACK" album brought to you by these geniuses who formed the genre we know today as thrash metal. I will admit it has weaknesses such as the lack of energy in their guitar work and the use of riff recyclery. If this was another "I HEAR BLACK" album, then I would have given it a rating preferably around a high 50 or low 60.
As for the album itself, this is basically what you would get if you mixed Overkill with a somewhat early 90's Pantera (when they were considered somewhat thrashy). It’s a very enjoyable album while consisting a majority use of groove in their songs. So one would think that, “Hey if you say this is an enjoyable album, then why did you give it a 77?” Well it’s all in what kind of music these guys have presented, most tracks are a hit while others just plain suck ass.
The opener “Within Your Eyes” is a trademark talking about the demon Overkill itself. It just crushes from beginning to end from the epic opening, to the chorus that makes one just want to shout it out in public (if you’re crazy like me). The solo is pretty forgetful in the song but nonetheless it is the absolute highlight of the album since it is pretty much the thrashiest song. Then we head in a different direction with more of the groove sound. “Love” is up next with its bouncy groove-like opener. It’s a cool song but I don’t really like the parts where the guitars drop and the vocals take place, it’s pretty much a Pantera staple right there. Up next is “Loaded Rack”, “Domination strapped across my back!” which continues on with the groove. It’s a very good track but the highlight is basically the chorus. “Bats In The Belfry” is probably the second best song album featuring an amazing solo. It continues to build up and speed up until it explodes! We then head back to a thrashing mood with “A Pound of Flesh”. Yes indeed it is very fast and thrashy which shows a great amount of energy. Blitz being a nut job just shrieking, “Higher! Go higher!” it’s almost complete except after the second chorus where this dumb half-thrash riff comes in and is repeated for a good amount of time before the speed comes back into play. “Keeper” is just average to me, nothing bad but nothing effective at all to me. However it passes with me in the fact that it doesn’t sound like shit. Now it’s “Wheelz”! Man this song is a bulldozer with the crawling verses like, “Will you give me hope, will you give me light? You have to keep me rolling!” I have this song stuck inside of me permanently, from the verses to the riffs and it also has a great solo as well.
Well all the good stuff has been mentioned, now for the feces that makes this album deserve a 77. “The Mark 2:14” is completely forgettable to me. It’s filler and nothing more. “Play the Ace” is the best of the feces, probably because they take the first few notes from a riff already played by “Wheelz” and remove the last few notes from that song and make it into a half-thrash disaster. (Pantera anyone?) Finally the last track, “Old School” presents some bizarre ideas that are meaningless. How is this song a tribute to old Overkill? If they wanted to make a tribute they would have made a song similar in sound to their debut, “FEEL THE FIRE”.
So there you have it, there are a few outstanding tracks on this album, a few above average ones, and three tracks that are practically complete feces. It’s an album to buy if you’re an Overkill fan. If you’re just starting with this band, go buy classics like, “THE YEARS OF DECAY”.
Overkill has done a lot of very cool things in their career. Their last few albums have not only shown the world how modern thrash should sound, but each one has been a solid album with great songwriting and great concepts. Needless to say, I was excited about ReliXIV. Now that I have listened to it…I’m not excited anymore.
ReliXIV is a lackluster album. The entire album feels as though the band half-assed writing the songs and then went into the studio to record them as quickly as possible. There is almost no emotion to the album and most of the music feels as though it’s simply the blueprint of what Overkill does. And when a band starts to follow its own blueprint that’s when the material becomes stale.
The guitars aren’t as tight as on previous albums and this dirty, bogged down feel prevents the music from building a lot of momentum. The riffs seem very simple for the likes of Overkill and they don’t try anything too risky. Not that risk is essential for a good album – but never was a great album written by being the same. The solos feel just as uninspired, even though we all know that Overkill’s guitar players have been efficient at creating great solos. These guys used to really shred but now most of it feels “been there, done that.”
The bass is a little heavy on ReliXIV (although that isn’t such a big deal in the long run) and the bass lines are well varied and have a distinct feature to them and it always does. It still isn’t as bad as W.F.O.’s bass. I still have nightmares where the bass stalks me in the shadows. The drums do well to keep the kinetic energy of the album up but overall fail do to the slower nature of the album. The album is simply underwritten for the talents that Overkill possesses. Even in the drums section it feels as though he is being held back from really letting loose on the kit.
Bobby Blitz is still as charismatic as ever on ReliXIV. His voice is the one thing that still reminds me the album is an Overkill album. He doesn’t do a whole lot different here, vocally, as he has done in the past. Which is good – but it doesn’t help the album a lot as a whole piece. This allows some songs to have a little more melody and to be slightly catchier but without the music to help him he feels like a candle in the window.
As a lasting impression, ReliXIV left me feeling saddened and depressed. What has happened to Overkill? They have had their ups and downs but they were really on a roll. Hopefully this is a one album slump for the band and they pick up the pace with their next release. The album did end on a plus note with the track “Old School” that felt really old school. The energy was up on that song and hopefully that energy from that last song is carried over to the next album.
Overkill needs to let it rip with the next album instead of holding back.
Songs to check out: Within Your Eyes, Bats in the Belfry, Old School.
In 2005 Overkill released another solid metal album, RelixIV. Blitz is sounding good, DD is still clanking away in style.. either you love those guys and they never let you down or you just don't get it and they're not for you. Mallare's near-constant double bass is good for some songs, but it gets way too much use. The guitarists are weak tea. Overkill guitarists have gotten steadily worse from the beginning, in my opinion, but Linsk and Tailer are just so repetitive and boring. When you listen to Pantera, Darrell Abbott's style is obvious and memorable. Suicidal Tendencies with Rocky George and Mike Clark, great riffs and solos and pure style. The rhythym guitar riffs of Dave Mustaine or James Hetfield, the anthem-defining riffs of classic guys like Tony Iommi or Ritchie Blackmore, all of those bands have guitarists that you recognize for their skill and style. I know I'm listing some of the best ever, but Overkill is in that tier. They invented thrash, for fuck's sake, they should have a decent shredder on lead and complex, knuckle-twisting rhythym riffs. Listening to Wrecking Everything: Live makes it very clear just how piss poor the current guys are compared to Gustafson or even Gant and Cannavino.
That said, it's obviously the guitars in this album that I have a problem with. Within Your Eyes is a badass song, but it took me a few listens to really get into it. I've warmed up to Love a little bit, but it's still weak. Loaded Rack is pure filler. Bats in the Belfry works, it's immediately accessible, but after a while it wears thin. Pound of Flesh is the best track, as many have said. Great fucking song. Keeper is decent, very forgettable. The guitars do the Zakk Wylde 'look at me I'm playing guitar' whine, which is never good. Wheelz has a great groove, if you are into that sort of thing. Great driving music, and not because of the stupid song title. The Mark is good but somewhat forgettable as well. Play the Ace is another strong track, though it feels wrong to have a song about poker when there's a huge poker fad raging across the world. Doesn't matter how long the guys have been into it, it's a fad now and Overkill doesn't do fads. Old School is fun, but like most Overkill fans I'd prefer a real thrash album to a quick mention of the lineup that played thrash. Eddie Trunk making it onto an Overkill album is a nice touch, though. The guy may look like the star wars geek from your neighbor's basement, but he was there with the hot water and towels when thrash was born. Breech. V-secton.
Alot of fans seemed to have been alienated when Overkill switch from full ahead thrash to groove metal, but I on the other hand think that this album is the pinnacle of what they've been shooting for. Sure, Killbox 13 had awesome tracks like Devil by the Tail, but this album is full of tracks that you don't get tired of hearing. And what's more, the vocals are very unique (some people don't like them, but once you get used to them they're really good). The guitar solos are pretty sweet too, for being groove metal.
Anyway, the album opens with Within Your Eyes, which is ingenious. The first part of the song is all atmospheric and dark sounding, and then the guitar kicks in and plays this groove riff. Then the vocals come in, and you are thrown into this great groove song that you want to headbang along to. This track is very easy to simply bob your head along to as well, which makes it rather nice as well. A simple beat to follow that sounds really cool (we'll call it the evil 4/4). The guitar solo is very short and shreddy, but it fits well.
Then comes the track Love, which has more great groove guitar riffs. The guitar tone is excellent, and the guitar drops down really low when the vocals come in and it makes for this really cool effect, and then the screaming vocals come in and the guitar turns back up. Whomever did the backing vocals on this song did a damn good job, coupled with Bobby "Blitz" Elsworth's amazing screaming it makes this track a winner. Here we unfortunately have a solo that is kind of generic and like the one off the last track.
After that is Loaded Rack. Which contains some hilarious lyrics such as "All I want is a loaded rack. Domination strapped across my back". The two guitars playing with one punching in over the other is great on this track, and the drumming is top notch. Same type of guitar solo as before, sadly.
Then comes a hilarious track, Bats in the Belfrey. Yet again, the lyrical greatness is apparent. This has some of the best guitar playing on the album, a more melodic intro solo and great singing really pull this track together. Plus, any song that starts by singing "Satan" is a winner. So "Bats... in a Belfrey" indeed. The riff changes in this song are great, and a great head nodder as well.
Then comes A Pound of Flesh, which is for all intents and purposes a thrash song, and indeed it is good. The drumming is fast, and the guitar is tearin' up the riff. The singing is nice and fast to accompany the rest. The guitar solo is Zakk Wylde style shred again, sadly. But, it is short and sweet, nevertheless.
After that is Keeper, which is a nice track with a Candlemass style doomy intro... But then after a pick scrape and a slide followed by some trills, the song busts into pinch harmonic squeals that get really annoying. But then a great yell comes forth, and a groove riff kicks up and you can start to nod your head again. This riff is too simplistic though, it just seems like a repeated low E chug with nu-metal style syncopation.
Then comes Wheelz, the best groove track on here. If this song was any faster, it could almost be HammerFall if you threw in the proper open strings and timing. The intro solo is melodic, for a change, and that's very good. The vocals yet again are good. The random chorus of guys saying (marginally singing) "Wheels!" is a nice touch though.
The Mark 2:14 is next, and the vocals are the best for this track. It's a deeper sounding speaking type of singing, and the guitar riff sounds very complex behind this and the drumming flows really well. And not only that, the riff changeups are often, unlike most songs that contain the same type of riff throughout the whole song.
Play the Ace is next, and it sounds like the Wheelz riff with the last three notes taken off and a muted string "chucka" sound substitued in... But this doesn't detract too much, because this song is also very good like Wheelz. The vocals are very decent on this song, but I think that if you swapped this track and Wheelz in where they were placed on the album, it would've been arranged better.
The album ends with an upbeat track called Old School, which was completely unexpected when I first listened to it. But the vocals and the guitar do their usual Overkill groove thing, so no complaints here. I still believe Wheelz should've ended the album, but I like how this song mentions the band by name. The chorus lines are really kinda weird, it's like a beer hall song or something, but it's not bad - in fact on the contrary; it's quite hilarious! The cussing in this song is also hilarious, and talking about mosh pits.
Oh, and they also got Eddie Truck sampled on the last track, which is an automatic +5 points. And really, the guitar playing on this album is all top notch, even though alot of the guitar solos sound like they could go anywhere on the album (there are some exceptions), but they are alot less wankery than say a Zakk Wylde solo would be. They do at least fit the song. But the simple groove that this album maintains is amazing. I dare anybody to listen to this album at a decent volume and not stamp their foot or nod their head or headbang from time to time. Or just to type to the rhythm of the album. It's great background or foreground music, and it never seems to get old, making it a must have Overkill album in my book.
what is the world coming to??? This is worse than I Hear Black. Here is hoping that, like that one was an aberration, so is this one, and we don't have to speak of this one anymore because the next one will be Killbox Fifteen.
and the worst is, this starts off so fucking promising, too... with Within Your Eyes (no one knows how the cold wind blows... until it's in their eyes!!) being such a fucking monster that it has made every Overkill mix CD I've made... yep, within the top 80 minutes of Da Kill, any way you slice it, whether I'm focusing on Coma or Deathrider or Black Line or The Sound of Dying or The Nightmare Continues, this one comes up as an "add".
The rest all come up as "subtracts". Fuck almighty, what happened here? I'm cringing here... really, grabbing this one by the hand, putting it around my throat - go on, squeeze, I dare ya - no Overkill to this point has needed such cajoling? Perhaps Chaly's dead??
The groove stuff - because we know Overkill has incorporated more and more groove into their sound recently... Love would be passable if the chorus weren't so big and dumb and RE! SPECT! WALK! except even worse... Bats in the Belfry gets fucking fast and fucking good in the end, but it sure takes its damn sweet time getting there.
Perhaps Chaly's dead?? I mean look at The Mark, which someone compared once to Black Sabbath... perhaps Iommi's dead too, then??
It ain't awful... I mean for a Pantera album it would be decent... but none of the songs, except the first, are perfect. Wheels has such a rocking, crawling-heavy bulldozer eat-em-all-alive verse structure (will ya give me hope, give me light??), but the chorus sounds like it sprouted a square wheel... ya knew I'd do the same thing for you, Blitz, what the fuck have you done to me?? Same with Keeper - who purchased the industrial-size shipment of wrenches, and threw them all into the machinery at scattered intervals?
then, the final insult, just a slap in the face, to put the last song on there... Bobby G, Rat Skates, DD and Blitz... this is their least old-school sounding album ever - and the song itself ain't a bad idea, in context it's just one last fucking slap - the whore that gives you the clap *and* steals your ATM card.
Killbox 15. Jesus, this is Iggy. Can we work out a deal?
"Here's to the Old-School, didn't matter if you looked cool. We drank some beers and broke some heads; we never gave a shit. Climbed every mountain, stormed every city; they said that this would never last, we never gave a fuck!"(‘Old School’ – Overkill ‘RELIXIV’2005)
Be absolutely proud that this style of music is being produced in 2005. Twenty years on from the mighty ‘Feel the Fire’, Overkill is the thrash band that refused to die. Ironically, for a band that continually knocked on the door of the big four (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax) in the late 80’s, but never quite got the break needed for worldwide domination, Overkill now remains the best bet out of the lot of them if a fix of authentic thrash in needed.
I love Overkill. Got everything they’ve ever done. They’re one of my favourite bands ever. Why? Well, besides their ability to hit the mark year in and year out with another quality slab of thrash, it is their unyielding attitude towards remaining true to their roots that I respect so much. Think about those aforementioned ‘big four’ and the path they’ve chosen over the past 20 years. Besides Slayer, the rest have certainly thrown in some shitty curve balls. Overkill has never harboured the ambition for mainstream acceptance – they’ve always rejected ‘trends’ and remained steadfast in their love for hard as nails thrash metal. If its old school – who gives a fuck! ‘Album number 14 (read that again – 14!! – call me when Slipknot gets there) represents nothing else but that attitude. Just like milk on your cornflakes, ‘Relixiv’ is integrally Overkill; Unmistakable. You know what to expect.
I’ve never been disappointed with an Overkill album. Sure, some have been decidedly better than others (I still have issues with 1993’s ‘I Hear Black’) and while they’ll probably never reach the heights of ‘Horrorscope’ or ‘Taking Over’ again, I have been extremely pleased with their last four or five efforts. ‘From the Underground’ is a criminally ignored underrated gem; ‘Necroshine’ positively kills, with ‘Bloodletting’ and ‘Killbox 13’ pushing a somewhat modern sounding production, courtesy of Colin Richardson.
As a comparison ‘Relixiv’ is probably somewhat of a let down, but still it sits nicely against the likes of ‘WFO’ and ‘Killing Kind’. The difference with ‘Relixiv’ is the somewhat simpler song writing and the stripped back, bare boned self-production. The thick, warm guitar tones that Colin Richardson produced on ‘KB13’ and ‘Bloodletting’ has been replaced by a rougher, edgier guitar sound that, despite the favourable thoughts it might form, actually takes away from some of the bands powerful bottom end, dynamics and ultimately their heaviness. Sound wise, it actually reminds me of ‘I Hear Black’, although I hasten to add that the song writing on ‘RelixIV’is more typical Overkill than that album. Long time fans will reconcile with this production change pretty quickly, others might say that it’s a mistake.
Production movements aside, you can be assured that ‘Relixiv’ is no more and no less than a well crafted, solid Overkill album. The musicianship cannot be faulted with new-era twin axemen Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer shredding the riffs in typical fashion whilst long time skinsman Tim Mallare throbs in double kick time with bass king D.D.Verni. As for the mainman – Bobby Blitz – well, you know the deal. The man sounds as fresh and just as snarly as he did 20 years ago! I hope he never dies.
This new disc may not be the bands best effort, but is has that unmistakable Overkill reliability about it. The raw, stripped back production will cause some argument, but otherwise ‘Relixiv’ is pretty much what the fans ask for. Trend-bucking thrash without a care for popularity. These guys are truly ‘Relics’ of another time and I wouldn’t want it any other way. With a new Overkill album in the death deck, all feels right with the world.
original review for http://www.pyromusic.net
While its amazing that Overkill has continued to survive as a thrash band for more than twenty years, their sounds has changed quite a bit, sadly for the worse. With the release of Relix IV its pretty much safe to say the Overkill of the late 80’s and early 90’s (when they made their best material) is never coming back, lest of course you seem them live. Relix IV delivers much of what Killbox 13 produced. While Killbox 13 was a bit of a let down, not having the aggression and intensity of Necroshine or the speed of Bloodletting, Relix IV does not have these downfalls. Relix IV continues what Killbox 13 started by making their new style heavier, a bit faster, more aggressive and overall better played.
The first improvement/good aspect of this album is the riffs (as always for Overkill). Compared the Killbox 13 they are amazing, comparing them to the best of Overkill’s works they are still not to bad. Songs like Wheelz (stupid song title) feature choppy repetitive head banging riffs that carry the song through a simple rhythm. Play The Ace produces similar style riffs but with a bit more variation, although repeated a lot they hit more notes and do more things thus making them a more dominant part of the song often coming into the spotlight. Overkill is one of the few bands that can keep simplistic head banging riffs enjoyable and not boring. Those two slow paced songs have counterparts that deliver faster paced songs where the riffs and rhythm become more complex. A Pound Of Flesh delivers shredding fast heavy guitar riffs from start to finish, thus making a shorter but more powerful song. The riffs for the song sound similar at times to some mid to late 80’s era Slayer material but a bit less aggressive and less dark with more integration work with the drumming. Loaded Rack features a throw back riff to the older Overkill style briefly in the beginning, dark, mid to fast paced, and augmented with some effect sounds, like on Horrorscope or the intro to Evil Never Dies but with thrash riffs. The song then transforms into the heavy/thrash style of the rest of the album, producing heavy shredding riffs. One of the better riffs on the album, although a bit trite and used, is the one introduced first on Love. It is similar in effect to the one of Necroshine, a riff that is almost irresistible to head bang too. Unfortunately the song breaks apart a bit after that (Blitz wales like a burnt out rock star during a vocal solo) only to do what should have been done immediately after the intro riff, get heavy and focus on louder screaming vocals. With the failings of the song, it still becomes one of the best Overkill songs to head bang to since Necroshine.
The album doesn’t have to many faults, the consistency of the album is great, no breaks in the sound or weak points in any of the songs as usual for Overkill. It really takes some listening to find something on this album that doesn’t live up to the standard set by it, that’s not to say its without flaw though. Bats In The Belfry becomes a little boring about halfway through and the generic chorus is used too much and what makes it enjoyable worn a bit thin. But as Overkill would have it, a great solo saves the ending along with Blitz really screaming and yelling loudly to place some authority and intensity for the end of the song. The only other song on Relix IV that really suffers is the intro track, not a complete mess, but it fails to do much. It lacks any of the raw aggression found on a few songs later in the album, the rhythm is a bit lacking, and the riffs are too generic to be that interesting. No other serious faults exist on the album, Blitz delivers his vocals the same way he has forever, good, aggressive, loud, and harsh… taking no prisoners.
Relix IV (what does that mean?) outdoes everything Killbox 13 presented buy taking the formula of Killbox 13 and mixing it with elements that made Necroshine and Bloodletting such good albums. This album fits all the criteria for a Overkill album, heavy, aggressive, easy to head bang to, harsh vocals from Blitz, and consistency. Its seems more and more evident now that with each passing Overkill release that us fans will not get another Feel The Fire or Years Of Decay. But what we are given is enjoyable for the time being, but ultimately will be forgotten among the more powerful Overkill releases. Listen to this if you liked Killbox 13, it will not disappoint you but it will not amaze you either.