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Cold, hard fact: The Killing Kind is pretty bad. And the fact that this came from the same pioneers of thrash and speed metal that brought us many a timeless classic makes it even more deplorable. Honestly, putting on this disc with great anticipation and experiencing the inevitable letdown that ensues, you may well find yourself throwing your hands up to the sky and wailing at the top of your lungs: “Oh Blitz, why hast thou forsaken us?!!” And really, how could a band with that much talent and so many well-deserved laurels come up with something this insignificant, this … annoying?
Well, first of all, The Killing Kind is very much a product of its time and therefore a victim of circumstance. Imagine: the country is America, the year is 1996, speed/thrash metal is frowned upon and considered hopelessly outdated whereas Pantera and other groove metal acts (not to mention countless mallcore/crossover/alternative trend hoppers) are still all the rage. At the same time, you have this veteran band whose music is all of a sudden completely out of style. Your record sales have been steadily decreasing, and you start thinking, “Welp, might as well embrace change and go with the times, at least to some degree.” Sounds pretty tempting, right?
As we all know, not even stubborn metal veterans like Overkill were able to resist the temptation. Instead, they followed up their 1994 release W.F.O., which was at the very least a pretty solid outing but found only little success, with The Killing Kind, their first full-on foray into groove metal territory. It’s not even the apparent lack of speed that makes this so underwhelming – there are brief outbursts of speed here and there (“God-Like” comes to mind), but most of the tracks remain mired in mid-tempo grooviness. No, apart from the annoying stop-and-go riffing, already rearing its ugly head on album opener “Battle”, the biggest issue on The Killing Kind surprisingly are – drum roll, please – the vocals. How can this be, you ask? After all, don’t Overkill have the indestructible Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth behind the mic, one of the best and most recognizable shouters in all of thrash metal?
Well, in fact, it’s not so much Blitz’s vocal performance that is the problem; the man still has some impressive pipes to this very day, let alone in 1996. It’s more the way his vocals are enhanced by all kinds of annoying samples, effects and generic gang shouts. And while it’s true that seemingly every band felt the need to use gang shouts in the mid 90s, on The Killing Kind, Overkill just went completely overboard with them. It already starts on the very first track with that incredibly stupid “yeah” chant that’s repeated after every line, and it goes on like that for pretty much the rest of the album. Those recurring “whoa-oa-oa-oa” gang shouts on “Certifiable”? Dear Lord. Why, just why? Almost every track has one of these what-the-fuck moments. Many songs actually start out promising enough but any good ideas are quickly ruined by such inexplicable brain farts. “Let Me Shut That for You” is the poster child for dumbness though, and pretty horrible from start to finish. It kicks off with almost forty seconds of inane “hey, hey, hey” and “yeah, yeah” shouts (repeated later) that will have you hit the skip button in no time. But rest assured: it’s not like you’re going to miss anything worthwhile.
Other tracks are not so much truly hideous as just plain boring. “Burn You Down / To Ashes” goes for a doomy, sinister Black Sabbath vibe but ultimately fails to grab your attention for its entire duration of almost seven minutes. “Feeding Frenzy” is a pointless instrumental that drags on way too long, while “The Cleansing”, starting with an electrified version of the famous theme from Orff’s Carmina Burana, is an up-and-down affair lacking focus and, apart from the intro, any truly memorable moments. “Cold, Hard Fact”, beginning with a few simple chords that could come from any of AC/DC’s more recent albums, doesn’t do much either. It’s basically just another non-descript mid-tempo track that goes by without making much of an impression.
Another huge problem on The Killing Kind are the lyrics. Boy, does this mindless tough-guy shtick get old fast or what? Maybe Overkill thought dropping the F-bomb and saying “muthafucka” every other line would make them sound badass and tough as nails, but in the end it just makes them sound like a bunch of undereducated dumbasses, which is a pity because they truly aren’t. Look no further than the aforementioned “Let Me Shut That for You”, which comes up with this unforgettable gem:
“Sit down and shut up
Sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up
Stoop mothafucka gettin' under my skin
Running, running that mouth again
Ah ah ah nothin' better to do
S.M.F. let me shut that for you!”
Luckily there are some rather nice tunes as well. They’re few in number and no more than decent, but still nice, at least in comparison to the rest. “God-Like” is easily the best thing on The Killing Kind, boasting rather speedy riffing and a very memorable chorus. It’s probably the song that comes closest to the sound of classic-period Overkill. The oddly titled “Bold-Face Pagan Stomp” sports a rather unusual, well, stomping rhythm but works very well due to its crushing riffing and nice melodic chorus. Then there’s “The Mourning After / Private Bleeding”, a rather simple piano-driven ballad. It sees Blitz using his clean singing voice and curiously enough ends up as one of the best tracks around. The melodies just have a way of sticking in your head and there’s some nice emotive soloing as well.
By and large, however, The Killing Kind is a pretty forgettable affair and doesn’t give us anything that Overkill haven’t done a hundred times better over the course of their distinguished career. As much as one would like to sugarcoat this – after all, we’re talking about the same legendary act that graced us with immortal classics like Feel the Fire, Taking Over, The Years of Decay or Horrorscope –, there really is no getting around the fact that The Killing Kind is nowhere near worthy of a band of that caliber. Yes, it was certainly a difficult time for Overkill and for metal in general. But that’s no excuse for a lackluster effort that incorporates some of the worst aspects of 90s heavy music while neglecting many of the trademarks that made Overkill great in the first place. If it weren’t for a select few decent tracks and a pretty awesome production – especially the guitars sound great –, this would be even more of a failure than it already is. Well, at least we can all take solace in the fact that Overkill recovered their mojo on later albums like, for instance, Bloodletting and Ironbound. Even the best stumble once in a while, and The Killing Kind is a prime example for this.
Choicest cuts: God-Like, Bold-Face Pagan Stomp, The Mourning After / Private Bleeding
I mean that quite literally, actually. Although I'm all for bands trying to change their style or do something that isn't like their old, classic, and original sound, they better be able to pull it off correctly. If not, that can be fatal. Overkill should have stuck to their lightning speedy thrash that they are known for, instead of this experiment.
So for starters, the riffs are so different. Yeah, they're still quick, and yeah, they're still heavy. But they are played in a very groovy style, and by the sounds of it there is an excessive amount of palm mutes. Just listen to the very first track, "Battle", and you'll see that it sounds like it's taken right out of Cowboy's From Hell by Pantera. The riff work, although still listenable, no longer contains that angry, thrashy speed and aggression that we had from these guys ten years earlier or so. Instead, they're just crunchier and heavier, with deeper distortion. Along with that, the solo work is less than impressive, as it seems to just screech out a lot of random notes and none of it seems as advanced as what we had before. The main solo on "Certifiable" is probably one of the best examples of this, while being one of the worst solos on here. To be fair, not all of it is terrible, but really it's nothing special and bores the hell out of me. All of the guitars just seem distorted deeper and it just does not fit what this band does. So with this, we also have a bass guitar that is boosted some. It's evident that they wanted it to be a more important part of the record as you can hear it in every song and it is toned in a way that intentionally makes the music heavier. In fact, the first forty seconds or so of "Feeding Frenzy" is completely focusing on just the bass. They were successful in making their music sound heavier overall, but they really didn't need to do so. If something isn't broken, don't fix it. On the bright side, at least they didn't try and go mainstream.
Along with everything else that was changed on this album, the vocals took the same approach. That approach was to be heavier, as the vocals are a lot deeper than before, and instead of being speedy and high pitched, they are lower and more harsh sounding. He really tries to have a 'tough guy' sound to his vocals, which completely brings them down (literally and figuratively). Although it technically makes it more harsh sounding, as far as quality goes, it's no good. This also slowed everything down, and now there's hardly any speed behind the vocals anymore, which gives us less energy too. Of all of the changes, the vocals were the worst. With the instruments taking more of a groove approach, maybe they could have gone somewhere with this. But the vocals didn't allow for that to work, and that's why I don't like this album nor any that should follow this, at least until The Electric Age, which is much improved from what we have here. One more thing that needs to be mentioned is the fact that they went rather soft on here, with the ballad "The Mourning After / Private Bleeding". They have done similar things in the past with slower songs, but they threw in a piano here. Surprisingly, it sounded pretty good. I just wish the rest of it would have had the same fate as this one.
There's a lot of change here. It's groove driven, and the instruments are toned different, and the use of bass is very excessive. None of that makes for awful music, and can be pulled off. I can't stand the vocals on this record though, and as they may not be bad either, I don't see them as fitting and I don't like them. If you're into Pantera, Hatebreed, DevilDriver, or anything that has a groove or 'tough guy' sound, then you'd probably dig it. If you don't like when thrash is mutated into something like this, then by all means stay the hell away.
Despite 1994's W.F.O. being a fairly straightforward, balls deep thrash record; a flurry of label and line-up revisions throughout the following year resulted in a massive paradigm shift in Overkill's core sound. Cannavino and Gant enjoyed a reputable swansong with the impressive live album Wrecking Your Neck - Live, but big changes were on the way. Could the dependable "Chaly-Express" deliver yet again in the face of mounting uncertainty?
The addition of Liege Lord's own Joe Comeau as a guitarist still blows my mind today, nearly twenty years later. Comeau brought with him virtual unknown Sebastian Marino, resulting in the lowest-profile Overkill line-up at the time of this release. It was therefore no surprise that the band was also dropped from Atlantic and began a period of self-reliance on the management front that lasted until 2010. Popular opinion is that the two new shredders brought with them an affinity for groovy, atonal riffing. Personally I believe Verni's writing style simply changed in the time period between pairs of axe-men, leaving little blame for Comeau & Marino regarding The Killing Kind's few shortcomings.
The inherent bounciness of a lot of these songs does carry them a significant way, and paired with what is perhaps Ellsworth's most off the wall vocal assault of all time yields plenty of returns in the "What the fuck?" category; even if many of the tracks aren't exactly memorable. Opener "Battle" and "God-Like" go hand-in-hand, as they represent a successful merger of Horrorscope-era thrash and killer groove patterns. I prefer "God-Like" for the monolithic main riff and killer chorus. "Certifiable" is a horse of another color altogether. It is the most straightforward, fastest cut here. Blitz's vocals are at their best here as well, the man has clearly lost his mind on this track. The random howling detracts from an otherwise spectacular song.
Experimentation makes it's first significant statement on "Burn You Down / To Ashes", a slower number that tries to be "Skullcrusher", but fails to flip many of the same switches. It just never gets cooking enough to warrant it's existence, as far as I'm concerned. Unconventional songwriting continues with two more tracks that look and feel the same: "Let Me Shut That for You" and "Bold Face Pagan Stomp". These two tracks feature the most infectious grooves and vocal patterns on The Killing Kind. Blitz's vocals on "Bold Face Pagan Stomp" ooze more attitude than even Paul Baloff, and are so much fun to sing along to. The gravely inflection present on most of the last LP has been dropped, and Blitz seems to "talk" over the riffs at many points here, which isn't necessarily unwelcome. He makes attempts at clean singing as well, but in my opinion he wouldn't perfect this vocal style until "Necroshine". Regardless of the quality of his voice here, he definitely gives it all he has, with surprises around every corner lyrically and vocally.
Sadly, after the obligatory instrumental "Feeding Frenzy", the album dips too low into mid-paced land, and the remaining tracks fail for many of the same reasons "Burn You Down / To Ashes" didn't pan out as planned. The production, however, is a massive step up from W.F.O., with a muscular guitar tone rivaling Horrorscope's massive slab of spectacular distortion. The drums sound nice and dry, again similar to the group's 1991 masterpiece, albeit with a less blistering performance. Tim Mallare contributes a lot to the overall "bouncy" feel to these tracks, with simple beats segueing into tribal-esque tom fills and patterns. He seemed to settle on a style here that persisted until his departure following RelixIV; so simply put: Mallare's best up to this point. Verni isn't as prominent as many would prefer, but does get his moments, like on "Feeding Frenzy" and "Burn You Down / To Ashes". Honestly, anything is an improvement after the disaster that was W.F.O.'s bass performance.
For what it is, The Killing Kind carries this style quite well. I definitely believe this is the best Overkill release of the second half of the nineties. It definitely boasts an atmosphere and riffing style unique to itself, and has never been replicated since. Can you say "Red-headed step child"?
Any album's reputation will, at least in part, depend upon its comparative relationship with its creators' previous and subsequent output, as well as that of its contemporaries. Where Overkill is concerned circa the mid 90s, the former relationship is a bit of a tough one, not only given the classic status of their 80s output, but also the recent upsurge in credibility that they've enjoyed since the release of "Ironbound" in 2010. An album like "The Killing Kind" is mired by its affinity, albeit a less blatant one than other albums post-"Horrorscope", with the ongoing groove craze that was instigated by Pantera and Metallica. However, in relation to the much lauded 1991 effort "Horrorscope" and to a lesser extent its predecessor "The Years Of Decay", this album does share some commonalities that make it appealing to older fans of the band. However, it is in relation to contemporary releases via the so-called Big 4, as well as the handiwork of Sepultura, Pantera and Machine Head that really set this album apart and make it a certified diamond in the rough.
It's important to keep in mind that a mid-90s version of full out thrash metal, which does occur on this album at several junctures, is not going to sound much like the riff-crazed madness of "Eternal Nightmare", "Beneath The Remains", or even an "Under The Influence". In truth, what occurs on here can be likened to a shortened version of the largely mid-tempo, crunchy approach that was heavily heard at the turn of the decade out of the likes of Xentrix, Exodus and Evildead (think "The Underworld" in the latter's case). It's particularly noticeable on the first 3 songs on this album, and to a somewhat lesser extent on "Let Me Shut That For You" and "Cold, Hard Fact", where the riff set is fairly basic and informed by a heavy degree of repetition. It's has more of a driving, flowing feel than the stop and go grooving of "Necroshine" and the generally chug-crazed rocking of "From The Underground And Below", despite having most of the same musicians as those 2 albums in congress at this point.
Apples to apples, this album gets the job done largely through a combination of stellar performances out of the musicians, with an additional hint of innovation here and there. Blitz's vocals are their usual combination of sleaze and nasally raunch, and punch through the arrangement with an assortment of bluesy, upper-mid ranged snarls that occasionally make way for a cleaner style that he generally didn't employ very often after "Taking Over". But interestingly enough, and in direct contrast to the two albums that would follow this one, the guitar solo department features a lot of stellar playing, almost to the point of rivaling Dimebag Darrel in terms of activity, though being a bit more singing in character rather than a crazy mixture of technical shredding and left-field guitar effects. But more so even than all of that is the bass playing of D.D. Verni, who puts on one of the most memorable and elaborate playing displays since Cliff Burton's early days with Metallica on the instrumental "Feeding Frenzy", which is a little bit less technical than "(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth" but actually a bit more musically sophisticated and having a wider appeal to anyone who wants more than 4 minutes of straight-up bass noodling.
Nevertheless, it is important to point out that this isn't a fully thrash metal affair as would be the case when "Ironbound" was unleashed, thus the naysayers do have a legitimate gripe if said album is the only standard by which Overkill should be measured after Bobby Gustafson left the fold. There is a full out groove metal song heavily reminiscent of Pantera to be heard on "Bold Face Pagan Stomp", which also has elements of "Enter Sandman" during the intro buildup, but the vitality of Blitz's vocals and the occasional guttural chime-ins by Jon Comeau make this one easy to listen to. There's another mostly groove number with an extended quiet intro similar to "The Years Of Decay" to be heard also in "Burn You Down/To Ashes", but this would also open such critics to being hypocritical if they didn't denounce "Skullcrusher" and the title song from this band's iconic 4th album at the same time. Come to think of it, the only song on here that really comes up short is the piano ballad "The Mourning After/Private Bleeding", which basically attempts to channel Sabbath's "Changes" and comes off extremely disjointed and confused.
The jury is still out on whether or not Overkill was the first thrash metal band, though it came back a long time ago with a clear verdict regarding whether or not this band has a more consistent discography than the attention whores who are normally credited with getting the thrash ball rolling. It is likewise conceded that it's a cop-out to defend any album that Overkill has ever put out simply based on their exceptional output in their early days and in times more recent, but it is not the case that any given album that they've put out hasn't been solid to stellar with maybe one or two exceptions, and this one clearly isn't in that bunch. Anyone who just wants a kick ass album that plays at a somewhat slower tempo than the typical 1988 Bay Area or Teutonic release will find a winner here. There are some legitimate criticisms to launch at some of Overkill's 90s output, but dismissing a punchy slab of sheer metallic goodness like this is the exclusive territory of bastards, and regardless to what some might say, nobody likes a bastard...nobody.
Hands up, whose favorite Overkill album falls between 1993 and 2007? What's that? Zero of you? You mean to tell me that between Horrorscope in 1991 and Ironbound in 2010, Overkill released fuck all in terms of worthwhile releases? They're regarded as thrash legends and one of the only bands to fly the flag of thrash throughout the dark ages of the 90s and early 00s despite not actually releasing anything of quality for nearly two decades, none of which during that period even being a fully thrash release in the first place? Well how does that make sense?
I've alluded to this a few times and I've ranted about it outside of my reviews before, but despite considering myself an Overkill fan, placing Ironbound on my year end list in 2010, and claiming Feel the Fire to be the most perfect thrash album ever written and in my personal top five albums of all time, Overkill does not deserve the legacy they have. At all. Now I realize that Iron Maiden had a streak of albums most fans seem to dismiss (I personally believe they haven't made a full worthwhile album since Fear of the Dark, and even then that album half sucks) and Black Sabbath has a lot of forgotten albums and Running Wild tapered off tragically at the end of their career, but these bands all blazed paths and become gods of their respective genres through marvelous consistency and stellar songwriting. They were originals that took their respective fields by storm. Overkill on the other hand is a product of the times. Overkill blazed about as many trails as Warhammer.
But Bastard! “Sonic Reducer” was in their setlist back in 1979! That was on Feel the Fire, and you just called that the best thrash album ever!
Suck out farts, you idiot Borisite. Claiming Overkill as the first thrash band because they were playing a punk cover of a punk song that they tacked on to the end of their first album six years later makes as much sense as claiming Judas Priest used to play doom metal because Sad Wings of Destiny isn’t as fast as Defenders of the Faith. Overkill gets the same revisionist apologies that Exodus get, with fans claiming they would be as famous as the Big Four if their respective debut albums had shipped just a bit sooner. Maybe they had these songs written earlier than 1985, sure, of course they did, but using that same logic, do you really think Metallica wrote “Metal Militia” or Slayer wrote “The Antichrist” the morning before they entered their studios in 1983? I get it, Overkill was one of the first, and I’m not denying that, but I am denying that thrash was great because of Overkill. Overkill was great because of thrash.
But Bastard! They released tons of great albums all throughout their career! Look at The Years of Decay and even new stuff like The Electric Age!
Hey Forced Naysayer, we agree on something here. Overkill has plenty of classics, any thrash fan who doesn’t love the first five albums should have their opinion immediately invalidated. But think about it, all of their good albums were released during the period when the thrash scene was at its peak worldwide. Thrash fell out of favor, Overkill start playing shitty groove metal. Thrash gets cool again, Overkill shits out a legitimately great album in Ironbound. Was that really an accident? You expect me to believe that they played the kind of music that was the most popular all throughout the 90s and 00s while thrashing during the 80s and 10s because that’s just what they were naturally writing? Having Randy Blythe guest on Immortalis shortly after Lamb of God released the very popular Sacrament had nothing to do with trying desperately to stay relevant despite running out of ideas over a decade ago? I’m not buying it. It was safe and financially intelligent to release thrash again, so they shifted their way of thinking and writing back to a thrashier mindset as opposed to the dumb stomping groovy crap they’d been doing.
Now, I clearly have a deep seeded frustration for Overkill being given a free pass on writing 9 lame albums in a row, but surely they’re not all that bad. Every band has a stinker or two or at the very least a slight dip in quality over a long career, hell I mentioned earlier that Running Wild, my favorite band, really went out with a whimper, so why do I still consider them legends? Here, and I hate to admit this, it has almost everything to do with the fans and the hype around the band. Not one single Running Wild fan considers The Brotherhood or Rogues en Vogue to be proof of the band’s supremacy, whereas Overkill fans readily fly the flag of “THEY WERE ALWAYS AWESOME”.
But Bastard! You have to take those albums for what they are! You can’t hold them against the classics because they’re a different entity! Look at those albums in their own respective microcosms!
Can it, you butthole.
Actually, I think I’ll do that, it’ll probably help prove my point. Hell, I’ll even pick my favorite of this era, just to show that even the best they had to offer during this streak wasn’t even really worth that much. So ladies and gentlemen, if you’ve waded through the previous 900 words without wanting to stab me in the gullet, I present to you, the third (and best) album in the bum streak, 1996’s The Killing Kind.
I’ll give this album props for cleaning up that horrawfully terribad production from W.F.O., and it even starts off on a somewhat promising note, with “Battle” being a highlight for many fans of the album. Me personally, I think the track is overrated and silly. I mean, the dorky BUGGADUGGADUGGADUN *boondoon* YEEEEH is just goddamn irritating. The song also suffers from a problem that many of these songs suffer from, and that’s that they just don’t really go anywhere, there’s no climax. They mainly follow a fairly simple structure but they don’t feel like they lead to anything worthwhile. By the time you realize the song is over, you’re already a minute or two into the next track. The riffing is also focused more on hard chugging as opposed to nuts-first thrashing that the band was so good at doing in the 80s. I realize I can’t expect the band to do the same thing throughout their entire career, but the fact remains that they just aren’t nearly as good at this groovy, Pantera-y style they go for during this era. They keep it heavy, no doubt about it (tracks like “Let Me Shut That for You” and “God-Like” prove that in spades), but the style they go for is just damn boring.
I suppose I’ll deviate from my normal reviewing style and be amateurish for a second, and blatantly split up some time to point out the good and bad songs on the album. As previously hinted, “Let Me Shut That for You” is a fun, high energy track with a catchy main riff and chorus, though there is a long noodly section in the middle that I’m none too fond of, it still stands as a clear highlight of the album, melding the newer groove material perfectly with their ever prevalent punk attitude. “God-Like”, while not quite as memorable, is another rip roaring thrasher that keeps the pace up and tries adding a fresh, mid-nineties flavor to the sound they were championing on Horrorscope. “Feeding Frenzy” is by far the best track here, starting with a bluesy, Sabbath style bass jam before transitioning into insanely fun, high-octane thrash metal. This is what Overkill is good at and needs to focus on more. This is also the only instrumental track on the album, which raises the question that maybe Blitz himself could be to blame. Honestly, no, he isn’t the problem. His snarl, while distinctive and charismatic, reminds me of Zetro in the sense that he’s actually quite annoying when you sit and think about. On its own, his voice can be headache inducing, but in the context of the band, it fits perfectly and I could neither imagine another frontman in Overkill nor him fronting any other band. He’s crazy and unrestrained, and I can only imagine blood squirting out of his eyes during any given song. His over-the-top and completely balls out style is one of the defining characteristics of Overkill’s sound (next to D.D. Verni’s “look at me I’m loud and important!” bass). And here, Blitz once again proves why he’s one of the biggest draws of the band. “Certifiable”, despite being one of the lame songs on the album, has some truly raw vocals from him, with his classic crescendo in the bridge culminating with one of my most heartfelt “MOTHERFUCKER”s I’ve heard outside of Samuel L. Jackson or Joe Pesci.
So with Blitz in top form as always and the production cleaned up considerably from the nearly unlistenable pangy bassy mess that was W.F.O., that leaves the instrumental performances and the songwriting, and oh lord are these ever the culprits with why this album and era in Overkill’s career so damn dull. I’ve used the word “dorky” to describe the verse of “Battle”, and I think it fits well with the verses in “Bold Faced Pagan Stomp” as well. Allow me to elaborate on that, because I realize it’s an odd choice of word. It reminds me of the little ditties I used to write when I had been playing bass for nary a few months. And let me tell ya, there is nothing dorkier than a twelve year old version of me. It’s just amateurish and reeks of veterans not trying very hard. The vocal patterns in the latter track are weepingly hilarious to me. I hate to continually quote sections of lyrics in the reviews I’ve been doing lately, and I realize this is probably a few lines too many to make my point, but you just have to see this to understand:
Come a kick kick in the dick kick,
Gonna make ya sick kick, suffer you that!
Come the blood spills, get ya kick thrills,
On a will kill?
Suffer you pain.
In a pac wac, got a two on one track,
On a hit n' run smack, suffer you that!
Not tho be the romp or the kick kick whap stomp
Stomp stomp stomp
Suffer you that!
What in the living hell did I just witness? I understand Overkill were never bursting at the seams with poetic genius but Christ on a cracker that’s on the Five Finger Death Punch sub-level of lyrical ineptitude. Reading those lines don’t do them justice, you have to hear the bouncy stop-start pattern in which they’re delivered over the slow, churning groove riff to get the full effect of how nonsensically dumb the whole thing is. If “Bold Faced Pagan Stomp” wasn’t bookended by two of the only three tracks I like, I’d skip it every time and claim it was never written. And you know the worst part about all this? “Bold Faced Pagan Stomp” is, along with “Battle”, probably the least terrible of all the bad songs on the album.
A few of the songs are bad in the sense that they just don’t do anything. “Cold Hard Fact” and “Certifiable” (despite having that memorable moment in the bridge) just go by with little consequence. Even worse yet is “The Cleansing”, which I will go on record as saying sounds like a precursor to Godsmack. Listen to that slow, brooding riff that the entire song rides on, listen to that droning, lame chorus, listen to just how uninspired and lazy that song is. That outro with the low “Jesus, cleanse me…” feels like it goes on for three solid minutes. That right there is another problem that plagues this album, the songs, despite sometimes just blurring by, all seem longer than they really are, if you can believe it. The worst offenders of this phenomenon are the aforementioned “The Cleansing” and “Bold Faced Pagan Stomp”, the latter of which I could swear is eight minutes long. And rounding out the album are the two “doomy” tracks, “Burn You Down/To Ashes” and “The Mourning After/Private Bleeding”, which continue the trademark of being dull lowlights while also being grating on the nerves. Both of these tracks spend a majority of their running time focusing on gloomy and droning passages while suddenly picking up near the end before collapsing back in on themselves. Why they chose to put two similarly structured (yet out of the ordinary for the band) tracks on the same album is beyond me. Maybe it’s just me, but they have always bored the shit out of me when the band tries these slower songs because they’re an energetic band, these slow and gloomy numbers have always just been entirely too dry for any semblance of entertainment. It’s always baffled me that some fans actually prefer this side of Overkill. I dunno guys, the angrier and punkier the better, this slower style just doesn’t work for a band with the kind of attitude that Overkill exudes.
And that is the one thing I’ll concede willingly about The Killing Kind, and that is that the attitude of the band is still here in spades. That’s always been one of the main draws of the band in the first place and another one of those defining characteristics that make them stand out in the crowded thrash scene. Their New Jersey origins really shine through in their “We don’t care what you say, FUCK YOU” attitude, and even on these dumb and lazy songs that populate the album, that swagger is still there, and it still helps the album stand up and identify itself as an Overkill album. It’s the only constant throughout this entire tragic 9 album streak that keeps the albums from being 100% worthless. While there is a split during this era, with the band focusing on primarily low and groovy stuff for the first five albums and then picking up the pace and getting slightly thrashier (while retaining the heavy groove element) for the next four albums, they keep that perfect marriage of punk and metal in spirit. Most crossover bands wish they could have the attitude as nailed down and concise as Overkill have it, and it’s that attitude that helps keep The Killing Kind at least mildly entertaining throughout its duration.
But even with that swagger and amount of fucks not given, the album ends up dull on the whole, with only one standout “great” track and a couple other decent ones bogged down in this boring, slimy mire. Overkill is best when they’re at their most pissed off and aggressive, and it shines through with fast, angry, aggressive metal with a punk edge. This slow, Pantera style does not wreck my neck in any way, and that’s what Overkill does best.
Originally written for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/
The Killing Kind represented another shuffling of the deck for the Overkill roster, bringing in ex-Anvil guitarist Sebastian Marino, and perhaps more surprisingly, ex-Liege Lord screamer Joe Comeau, to replace Merritt Gant and Rob Cannavino. Both had been playing in a local New York power metal act called Ramrod, which is possibly where the connection was made with the 'kill, and with them comes a more muscular sense of percussive rhythm, one of The Killing Kind's most distinguishing features. This is also an album in which Bobby Blitz decided to go entirely over the top, bat shit crazy, and thus the vocal and lyrical patterns here are a lot more fun than the two previous albums, even if they're not exactly brain-searing memorable.
Throughout the 90s, the Overkill crowd was largely a curious mix of remnant heshers, hardcore fans, bikers and punks, and I think this album definitely plays to a 'tough guy' personality more than its predecessors, but as far as the songwriting is concerned, the content is decidedly varied. You've got the more groove-oriented mid-paced sequences in opener "Battle", "Bold Face Pagan Stomp", "The Cleansing" or "Cold, Hard Fact"; the atmospheric, dark ballads like "The Morning After / Private Bleeding" or the far more interestingly structured "Burn You Down/To Ashes" with its moody bass and eerie clean guitars; and then some testicle-kicking, hi-octane 80s thrash in the form of "God-Like" which I frankly wish there were more of. Sadly, not a lot of these songs have ever really stuck with me. I purchased the album, spun it a few times and then gladly designated it to the dusty CD rack, with nary an urge to break it out and pummel along to it; but that doesn't take away from its well-rounded, dynamic flow of fisticuffs.
I also feel as if The Killing Kind proved another natural evolutionary step towards modernity, perhaps the first of significance since The Years of Decay. Prior recordings had some punch and heft to them, but this felt like it was truly structured to thrust the band back into the spotlight they had skirted with the early records. The drums here sound great, Mallare's fills and change-ups driving a lot of the almost tribal subtext of the songs, while Blitz is fucking everywhere, supplementing his rabid, impish inflection with everything from quirky rhythmic effects, call and response and even some creepy chanting in the bridge of "God-Like". Both Comeau and Marino are solid lead-smiths, and as they zip back and forth they never lose momentum, plus most importantly: the flesh of the rhythm guitars on this record seem to finally have found equal footing with D.D. Verni's acrobatic bass lines, and thus The Killing Kind maintains a refreshing equilibrium.
In the end though, the level of polish to this record is not enough to earn it high accolades, nor would I ever consider it one of the more successful outings in the Overkill canon. As barked and belligerent as the vocals get through the record, the chorus passages don't have the same staying power as many the band wrote for the 80s, and I'm not feeling the inherent bounciness of a lot of the grooves. Even when they're played at a higher speed or a set-up for a more complex pattern, songs like "Battle" are admittedly vapid and sound like little effort was placed in anything other than getting the studio levels right. The lyrics are also pretty bad here, played more for phonetic thrills than gravitas. The cover of the album is truly one of their most boring, I liked the icon as it was presented on W.F.O. but this comes off like a cheap computer graphic, not nearly so poignant as it might have. Overall, this is better than the two leading up to it, and if you're curious to hear a blend of say...80s Overkill/Metallica with Machine Head, then it strikes the right matches, but the wind of ages quickly snuffs them from the memory.
For some reason after Bobby Gustafson's departure, Overkill's guitarists have come and gone in pairs. First it was Connovino and Grant. They left just prior to the recording of this particular release and were replaced by Sebastian Marino and Joe Comeau, the latter having also been a vocalist in his previous band, Liege Lord and would perform a lot of backing vocals in Overkill. He would also later leave the band to pick up a singing job in Annihilator. The change in guitarists doesn't really have an influence on the music though since it is Blitz and Verni who are writing it. With the two albums preceeding this being reviled - as far as Overkill goes - for their Panteraish groove influences and the following album, From the Underground And Below, suffering the same fate, it is no wonder that the same groove-influence is by and large present on The Killing Kind as well. A lot of the songs rely on a small amount of slow and simplistic riffs being repeated often as the driving force. It stands in fairly stark contrast to the speedier, riffier style that the band utilized on their 80s albums.
The worst offenders of this kind are the C-section of The Cleansing, the whole of Bold Face Pagan Stomp and Cold, Hard Fact, but the thing is: Overkill makes it work. As simplistic as the verse riff of Battle is, or how groovy and fitting Bold Faced Pagan Stomp would be for Pantera, it doesn't matter because Overkill have made it work for them. The aforementioned riff of Battle is just one note repeated in staccato in rhythmic manner and then stopped at the half time of the bar for the one-two notes of the bass to take over and later on the guitar riff changes so for the last half of the bar it follows the bass. It's slight changes and little bits and pieces in the structures of the songs that gives The Killing Kind its own flair. Battle also has the ever-changing vocals of Blitz on the short bridge-part, God-Like has the effectized roar in the beginning of the last chorus - a very small thing, but oh so damn effective - while Certifiable has the "Motherfucker!" in the middle of the C-section of the song.
What also works in the album's favor is the sheer amount of aggression the band has managed to pour into it. Though in light of what the band has done before it is no surprise. Overkill has done this kind of viciousness before with songs like Feel the Fire, Elimination and I Hate. Most of the credit goes to Blitz and his vehement vocal delivery. Like he could convince the listeners of The Years of Decay that he and the band actually hated them, the fans themselves, he can convince the listeners now that he is about to explode from the frustration in the previously noted "Motherfucker!" part in Certifiable or that during Let Me Shut That for You, he will do exactly that if the listener doesn't keep his yap closed. The album relies a whole lot on the attitude Blitz portrays with his vocals and lyrics. There's an embarrassing amount of posturing present in the lyrics and they're not the best the band has produced even if it fits the aggressive, grooveish sound on the album. Cold, Hard Fact and Bold Faced Pagan Stomp are the main culprits in this territory, with a lot of gang vocals and shouting between parts of songs that almost sound like Blitz came up with them on the spot. But if not given much thought and taken in stride - as a part of what Overkill were at the time - Blitz's convincing snarl makes it all sound credible.
This brings up another point on the album; the two songs that don't fit. First off there's the ballad, The Mourning After/Private Bleeding. A proper ballad with a piano and all that transforms into a power version when the guitars and drums kick in; altogether a song that is totally out of place on an album like The Killing Kind. Blitz's vocals might've worked on ballad-style songs ten years prior to the recording of this album when he still had a clean voice worth something, but at this point he just has his screech. The song has a couple of good melodies - one for the guitar and one for the vocals, both appearing at the same point - but it's for a short time so there's no saving it. The song also features probably the best solo on the album, but these measely things are its sole merits and they are very much undermined by its distinct flaws. The other song that's sticks out from the rest of the album is Burn You Down/To Ashes which is the Playing with Spiders/Skullcrusher of this album, in other words a lengthy, slow, oppressive and doomy song that is constantly evolving even though Burn You Down/To Ashes isn't given the time to develop itself into the massive and intense crusher that was its predecessor. The band seems to be in a rush to get to the faster parts again so the listener doesn't get bored; there's about a minute and a half of groovy, mid-paced thrashing near the end of it. While not being a classic like Playing with Spiders/SKullcrusher, it's an effective song that fittingly divides the album's thrashier pieces from the groovier pieces so while the ballad doesn't in any earn a place on The Killing Kind, Burn You Down/To Ashes does.
All in all, The Killing Kind features a surprisingly small amount of full blown groove. It mostly comes up as an influence on the slower thrash moments and of course, the aforementioned Bold Faced Pagan Stomp which does stick out quite a bit. But as mentioned before, this is not a bad thing as Overkill do good by people. It is evident that it is not the same kind of 80s-based thrash as Taking Over or Under the Influence, but it is doubtful anyone expected that with I Hear Black and W.F.O. coming out before this one.
Overkill's fourth output of the nineties is an aggressive and in your face affair that has some the groove influx that most thrash bands were incorporating into their sound, but retains the thrash elements that makes this an enjoyable listen.
The first thing noticeable is Bobby Blitz's vocals. He sings with attitude and aggression and he spits out the vocals with a fiery rage that is much different from the way he sings on the 80s albums from the band. He belts out the chorus in "Battle" with a piercing scream that lets everyone know he means business. The guy sounds like raspy, pissed off Rob Halford, if that makes any sense. Anyways, listening to Blitz's vocals is one of the highlights of this album.
On the musical side of the coin, there are a fair amount of thrashers and also a couple of songs that are different from the Overkill formula. The aforementioned "Battle," "God-Like" and "Cold Hard, Fact" are violent thrashers that show no groove influence whatsoever and are Overkill at their best. "Burn You Down/To Ashes" and "The Mourning After/Private Bleeding" are unorthodox cuts with the former having a brooding intro that explodes into a doom riff and has Blitz singing in a whispering kind of tone. The other features a piano of all things and is actually very catchy and an interesting listen.
While this album has many good moments, it has one major flaw and that is the gang shouts. I don't know why the band fell in love with these, but the use of them is totally annoying. "Let Me Shut That For You" becomes completely ruined because of the shouts in the main riff of the song. It has a neat mid-section too, but the listening experience is ruined by the "hey, hey, hey" during the main riff. "Bold Face Pagan Stomp" is another ruined by the obnoxious barks of "pagan, pagan" in the beginning of the song.
Thankfully there is an instrumental which has no shouts at all. "Feeding Frenzy" showcases the talents of DD Verni and shows everyone why he is one of the top bassits in metal. The way he plucks the notes is unconventional and the speed at which he does them is astounding. In case anyone is wondering, the bass does not dominate the sound like on "W.F.O" as it mixes in comfortably with the rest of the instruments.
With songs like "Cold Hard, Fact" and "Battle," it is hard to go wrong with this album. Any fan of the band is going to enjoy this. Hearing Bobby Blitz's aggression and brutal attitude adds character to "The Killing Kind." This is certainly no album to ignore and very impressive considering it came out at a time when thrash was hard to find.
This is where Overkill really start to become different. They really start to use alot of groove here, though its not quiet as groovy as From The Undeground and Below or Necroshine. There's some really good thrashers on here, mixed with some half-assed groove metal, and ballads, which really gives this album a weird twist. This is Overkill's most inconsistent album.
Certifiable and Cold Hard Fact are the best songs on here. The formal has awesome thrashy riffs and guitar work, and the latter is a great thrash metal song with a bit of groove mixed with it, though in this song, the groove is used right. Feeding Frenzy is an instrumental piece with some sweet bass work. Battle and God-Like are also pretty good. I'd like Battle better if it didn't have that stupid "JUST KILL ME, KILL ME!" sample. Those are the good song, now onto the crap of this album.
Bold Faced Pagan Stomp and The Cleansing are just groove metal songs that are mediocre at best, and shitty at worst. Both are very boring, and don't really do much for me at all. Especially, The Cleansing which, towards the end, has an annoying "JESUS CLEANSE ME!!!" chant that lasts for about a minute. This is defiantly my pick for one Overkill's worst songs. The Mourning After is a ballad that for what it is, is alright. If this was done by a band like Skid Row or some other 80s glam band, or even Iron Maiden, I would like it more, but to have Overkill do this is pretty bazzare. Overkill shouldn't be doing power ballads, they should stick to thrash where they belong. Overrall, this album is alright, it's not as awful as their next album, but it really isn't great either. Pick it up after you get their classic albums and W.F.O.
Yes it can. It’s been two years since W.F.O. came out and following that a nice little live album package. I might be alone on this one but W.F.O. had a feeling of hanging on to thrash by the finger tips kind of straining itself. Killing Wind is when they started to embrace a new sound, more groovy, and this resulted in some fans shunning this. Even if this isn’t pure thrash it’s still good metal and sounds a lot more genuine compared to the last two records. The guitar duo of Cannavino and Grant left and left Overkill with another lineup change (surprise). Sebastion Marino and Joe Comeau joined for the next few years (Comeau would later join Annihilator) and though not the most memorable lineup it did get the job done. The production is definitely a lot more clean and even than W.F.O. for sure. The song writing is a bit more interesting, as they add all sorts of new ideas into the songs and arrangements. There were some problems with this new sound emerging though. For one thing, they added something I fucking hate in metal, samples. Sometimes it works like at the beginning of a song but most of the time it’s just fucking stupid like the ones in Battle (“It’s not like you can just kill me…”). And a second thing, this album would lead the band directly into the complete shitstorm of Overkill’s discography From the Underground And Below. Also back to what I said about new ideas in the songwriting… well this was a good thing and a bad thing. The bad part of it was that it kind of made this album inconsistent.
It starts with Battle. It’s the first of the thrashers and starts off interesting and heavy. It contains two things that are really shitty, the corny samples and the annoying as fuck “Yeah” thrown in there but overall it’s a solid Overkill song. Godlike is another thrasher and it thrashes a bit more than Battle with faster chaotic riffing. The opening/verse riffs are very nice thrash riffs. Blitz sounds insane and very hardcore on this song. Not in the Hatebreed way though… There are some very nice solos that lead into a slow section. What the hell, that sounds like a fucking death metal growl at the end! Certifiable, the last of the thrashers (for the time being) starts off fast and doesn’t let up. Everything about this song fucking rules even that weird “Whoooaahooh!” crap. The vocals, again, are fucking vicious. “You better! Let Me! In! Mother FUCKER!” Another good thing, this song does without all samples, thank god.
Burn You Down/ To Ashes changes things a bit, starting out with a slow bass part, with the eerie guitar coming in. A pounding drum fill leads the song into a heavy depressive chug with several layers of guitar. It gets softer again with just bass and Blitz singing softly with a contrast of vengeful lyrics. It continues to get heavier and everything turns thrash at 4:20. After 6 minutes of thrashing it ends with some very nice outro acoustic guitar playing. Great range vocally on this song as well. Well what’s a better way to fuck up the emotive feeling than with some fast aggressive drum beats? Let Me Shut That For You is an interesting thrashy/groovy song with Overkill’s infamous gang vocals. There are these great parts scattered in the song if you listen for them where Blitz does this ridiculously fast vocal part dueled with it. (“Gotta gotta gotta get me some.”) They kind of throw a random slow part in there, maybe just because they can. Like previously said it might be kind of hard to pull of those really stupid lyrics without it sounding… well stupid but it works. Bold Face Pagan Stomp is pure groove metal for the most part. Some of it is surprisingly enjoyable but in, let’s say, the prechorus it sounds really really shitty. There’s a cool groovy solo thrown in too; is this fucking Pantera or something? Feeding Frenzy starts out with just bass. Check out that second bass part, almost reminiscent of N.I.B. It’s in fact a very fucking good instrumental. They definitely could have tapped another minute or two on there.
The Cleansing. Well… I’m not sure what to say, I have mixed feelings towards this song. It starts out great with this evil sounding slow part. But then it turns into very groovy Necroshine music. It isn’t bad but it’s kind of a disappointment. Listen at 1:45. That one vocal line alone makes me cringe. The chorus is pretty cool, I guess. The ending is interesting with overlapping vocal patterns but… I don’t see where the fuck people are getting Blind Guardian from. You can’t compare that one vocal part to Blind Guardian… I mean come on. The Morning After is so emotional, its so different and… it fucking sucks. The piano ruins it. There are parts that would be kind of cool but it just doesn’t work. I think I kind of stand alone in the fact that I hate most Overkill ballads with a passion. Solitude was horrible, this is even worse, and nothing can out shit the shit that is Bastard Nation. Years of Decay was good but I don’t think they could mimic that kind of greatness again. Cold Hard Fact is a very heavy half thrash song with groove drums. It has a wonderful chorus and the guitarist belts out a nice solo.
When you sit down and compare this album to W.F.O. they are slightly similar in the structure that the songs are put in order. You’re started off with a thrasher that sets the mood. This is followed by a couple other headbanger songs. The interesting shit is kind of thrown in the middle. Then you have a horrible ballad and a solid thrasher to round things off. The difference is that Killing Wind took that formula and made it better and more interesting. For the ones that couldn’t take this only had to sit through another two albums before the wonderful modern thrash of Bloodletting. This style Overkill experimented with on this album compared to something like Feel the Fire leaves you with a thought of wondering if this album could actually be good. Well, yes it is for the most part. Give it a shot. You may be pleasantly surprised.
This was the first Overkill album that I got - when it first came out, in approximately April of 1996. For the longest time I had wondered if this band was worth investigating, but me being about 12 to 15 years old, and having little money, I never quite made the plunge, until I heard "Battle" on the radio (yep, at the time there was a METAL show on the radio... it slowly and surely went mallcore, though!)...
Booya, thraaaashh!!!! Well, some of this album anyway... in the context of other Overkill works, this can certainly be viewed as an oddball one, given the proclivity for ballads, and certain kinds of hushes all over the world (no kidding), but when all is said and done, it works very well. There's only a few absolute raging beginning-to-end thrashers here, and those are pretty much the first three songs. Battle, Godlike, Certifiable... three songs that compare well with just about any three consecutive Overkill songs out there.
Burn You Down to Ashes is where things start to sound a bit different... the bass intro leading into Blitz actually SINGING (yes!), making this sound just a bit like the title track of Years of Decay (that's probably the closest thing this album can be compared to - given the immediacy of the first few songs, and the experimentation of the last few)... then of course things kick into monster high gear... Overkill!! And another corpse!
Let Me Shut that for You is probably the highlight of the album, along with the opener, Battle... SIT THE FUCK DOWN!! SHUT THE FUCK UP!! And of course that middle portion with Blitz singing "there's a kind of hush... all over the world". It's tough to pull off something like that without it sounding eight ways to stupid, but somehow Overkill manage to get the fucken job done. There's not a loser song on this LP, even given that half of them go into crazy interludes.
Boldfaced Pagan Stomp is yet another thrasher, and then Feeding Frenzy is a bass-driven instrumental. Like on every Overkill work, the bass is very prominent, though not nearly as loudly mixed as on WFO...
The Cleansing is an interesting number, especially at the end, where they go into this multiplexed vocal section (Blind Guardian, anyone!) with Blitz singing "Jesus cleanse me now!!" - at least, I think it's all Blitz, though it may be Sebastian Marino on vocals too. They cut to only the vocals at the end, and usually (see: Robb Flynn) this would turn into an unmitigated disaster, but here it's surprisingly effective.
Next up is one last ballad, The Mourning After - you know I'd take you with me if I could!! - the gang vocals come back again, and this is pretty much the second coming of Soulitude... I think the effect was intentional, given the transition from The Cleansing, which is a bit similar to the transition from Nice Day for a Funeral (from the Horrorscope LP).
We close with one final monster thrasher, Cold Hard Fact... HERE IT COMES!!! One final bass-driven interlude, though this one is pretty fucking intense, and then it's all over, pal.
Does this album rock fucken hard from beginning to end? Why yes, as a matter of fact it does!! Completely awesome, and probably their most underrated album. Not the first Overkill album to get (Wrecking Everything is probably the best starting point) but certainly not one to avoid.