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Back in 1988, thrash had evolved significantly since the early days when it was dirty, scruffy and relentless, bands started achieving their own style, escaping from clichés and topics, some even introduced unexpected elements, turning the music melodic and progressive. Most groups were formed by enthusiastic kids who were lacking technical discipline and precision in the beginning but record after record, they refined their skills and developed their abilities as song-writers as well. Under The Influence meant a remarkable improvement for Overkill’s sound, which from the debut Feel The Fire was already professional and accurate, though they incorporated a truly higher level of complexity here, becoming serious rivals for people like Coroner or Watchtower, finally doing something musically superior and very elaborated. So the kids grow up and became great musicians, thrash was no longer noisy and unprofessional, next level was reached, the rest is history.
You can still find straight simple tunes here, particularly the opening classic “Shred” is constructed without complication, concentrating all efforts on that hyperactive uncontrolled Gustafson solo section, a humble instrumental background basis is what takes control during the rest of the tune, which includes just a couple of breaks, everything executed with efficiency and honesty as usual. Following tracks deny that methodology completely; “Hello From The Gutter” or “Never Say Never” are conceived with superior intentions, including a bigger diversity of structures and unexpected tempo shifts defined by riffs in constant modification. Arrangements are rigorous, reaching peaks on “Drunken Wisdom” or “The End Of The Line”, which also offer sudden rhythm changes, weighty slow riffing sections and persistent vocals. Definitely, Overkill went into another level, without refusing their genuine identity and predilection for indispensable speed & aggression. They’re providing their music of amazing technique, even certain melody and sophistication. The instrumental progression is admirable, songs aren’t designed with uniformity or simplicity anymore, now the stunning variety or riffs determines alternative structures and distinct tempos during the tunes. I must insist on the countless arrangements Blitz & co. provide this material of, making it rich and elaborated, fresh ideas and creativity are the rule. And contrary to most of their peers, more progressive doesn’t mean cheesy, some parts are kinda melodic and classy, though the band doesn’t renounce to intensity and brutality completely, actually some of these riffs and hooks are the most abrasive Gustafson ever played, along with Falck’s constantly energetic frantic drumming.
Their new schemes explore possibilities never before achieved on previous attempts. Not only their refined technical potential allow them to construct something more professional and consistent, their originality and inventiveness on the song-writing process makes these numbers advanced and diverse. Direction is absolutely focused, the performance is precise, nothing new on those aspects, yet the various stunning arrangements obey a more notably meticulous pattern, certainly this is next level. As I mentioned, there’s a tenuous touch of melody during the album, guitar lines become sophisticated at times, there ain’t many harmonies on other hand and the few acoustic lines are an exception, so generally aggression is supreme, even though Blitz’s casual voice and lyrical themes, along with those characteristic insistent choruses and the totally clean production turn this music slightly accessible and polite. They naturally don’t intend to be commercial but their sound has evolved and become refined, pushing away the underground and extreme nature of earlier material, thought that doesn’t mean their attitude has gone soft at all. All numbers with no exception are conceived honestly and fluently, they are more pretentions than ever before, following no preconceived vain scheme for incredible tiring technique like others who obeyed subgenre trends, this higher complex level comes naturally without denying Overkill’s identity. It’s remarkable Blitz & co. managed to keep a reasonable balance of complexity without getting exhausting or ruining the continuity of the music for an empty pose, maintaining as well the fury and aggression intact among the sophistication of their abilities and ways.
Under The Influence remains as one of the most challenging records of 1988, a time when everybody was playing thrash, trying to be impressively technical and inevitably making this kind of music generic and predictable. It was albums like this which made the subgenre prevail and become musically advanced.It would’ve been disastrous to get stuck in the same schemes; the times and the scene were in constant change, so thrash bands had to evolve. Luckily, Overkill gave continuity to their discography and made their music richer while others languished in obscurity, getting tedious, repetitive and exhaustingly technical with no direction, or simply getting stagnant, abusing of the same formulas again and again.
This is Overkill's third album,and they seem to be going for a more commercial sound here, without really leaving the sound of their earlier works. The album has many standouts, "Shred", "Hello From the Gutter", and "End of the Line" are all great, all time favorites of mine. They strike a great balance between thrash and a somewhat pop feel. This album gave Overkill their first minor hit in the form of "Hello from the Gutter", it cracked the top 40.
Overkill's third album is little different than their first two albums. It is less traditional thrash than their last records, but it doesn't veer off from the path much. The album overall feels less "hardcore" and has a somewhat happy feel to it. Party thrash metal, a real treat. This album is unremarkable, and won't matter to non-Overkill fans, this isn't an album that will really make anyone a fan of the band, but it's good enough and has many good tracks that Overkill devoted will find more than enough here to love. The songs are all fast, thrashy numbers, that fans of old-school thrash metal will enjoy. None of the songs here take themselves too seriously, and this is the albums real strength. It is a legitimately fun album to listen to.
Member performances wise, this is a tight album musically. None of the songs seem to push the band too far, and the songs always feel well done. Now, there aren't any technical stunts here, but the songs are complex enough to stay interesting for the duration of most of the songs. This is a band that knows what they can do and is sure to stay within their limits.
Many of the songs here feel like inferior versions of songs from their first two albums, and then received a light intention of pop into them. The sound is interesting enough to warrant interest from fans, but don't expect anything great. Few songs on this album truly are up to the level of other Overkill songs from this era. If you are just getting into Overkill from the beginning, do yourself a favor and pick up "The Years of Decay" or "Taking Over" and hold off on this album until later in your journey through Overkill's discography.
After two very impressive full-length releases, the pressure was on Overkill to deliver in a massive way with their third opus: Under The Influence. While the album was undoubtedly very popular and spawned the group's biggest hit "Hello From The Gutter", I have never been able to muster more than an indifferent reaction to it's neck-jerking rhythms and mayhem.
The deck was already stacked against this wrecking crew from the start, as band mastermind Rat Skates departed earlier in '87. They regrouped, recruiting Sid Falck from Di'Anno's Battlezone; who while an apt replacement, wouldn't show his true colors until The Years of Decay. Before I get into the songwriting, I have to address the production. The mix falls most in line with The Years of Decay's pluggy and compressed sonic profile. The bass drum boasts more of a natural, flat sound, but it fails audibly on almost all levels. You can barely hear the bass drum, its just a dry, dull thump. The rest of the kit is mixed too low, save for maybe the snare. Verni's bass gets perhaps the biggest spotlight other than W.F.O., with some interesting popping and clanging going on during some of the album's more enterprising moments. The massive guitar sound present on Taking Over has been scaled back quite a bit, and the guitars have little staying power, which is somewhat disappointing.
What really atom-bombs Under The Influence more often than not are surprisingly the vocals. Blitz's inflection at this point was no longer the operatic style often used on the first two albums, and not quite the raspy cackle present on most releases thereafter. In and of itself this isn't a major gripe, but so many of his vocal lines sound very rushed and atonal. The lyrics are generally pretty fun, but many of the songs devolve into just shouting the chorus ad-nauseam. The infamous Overkill "nebulous mass of filler" is present yet again, accounting for about half of the tracks. There are certainly moments of near brilliance, but they are almost always counterpointed by poor decisions. For example, "Brainfade" has an awesome breakdown about halfway in, but the sound clip laid over it ruins the mood. I will admit that I always have a soft spot for "Never Say Never" and the big hit "Hello from the Gutter". These two tracks work, discounting the negative attributes of the production.
As Under the Influences turns the corner around the halfway point, what little appeal remains seriously begins to decay, with "Head First" and "End of the Line" both being two of the bigger missteps present here. The latter wants to demonstrate a more epic slant, and while containing some nice melodies, it features a chorus that lands like a ton of bricks. In fact, toss "Mad Gone World" into the same boat, as Blitz really fails to get anything cooking, forcing Gustafson to spread himself too thinly. While the darker, more fisticuff stylings present on "Drunken Wisdom" are an interesting precursor to later cuts like "Blown Away" and "Gasoline Dream," there just isn't a whole lot more to see here. I hate to be the one to throw Under the Influence under the bus, but after years of failing to elicit anything even approaching a positive reaction from yours truly, it has to be done!
So in the end, thrashier is definitely not better; at least not in Under The Influence's case. The band would promptly get their shit together, and this remains Overkill's only lowlight until the mid-'90s. Blitz has disclosed in interviews that this is one of his least favorite records, representing a band forced to scramble and improvise to the point of damaging the compositions. As usual, he is spot on.
Overkill's iconic 3rd album is quite a curious beast, being both the one that introduced the metal world to one of the most recognizable mascots of the 80s after Iron Maiden's own Eddie, and also one that is generally treated as the weakest of their 80s offerings. While there is a general accuracy to the notion that the 2 albums that preceded this one and the one immediately following it were superior, the gap is not quite as wide as generally believed, and is more of a matter of being overloaded with differing material than a lack of actual memorable songwriting. Likewise, this album contains some elements of what would later become Overkill's standardized sound post-1993, but for the most part it reaches back about as much as it does forward, and thus it doesn't share the same level of stylistic similarity that "Horrorscope" does with the modern thrash character that tended to dominate Overkill's post-80s sound.
But for all the historical relevance and evolution of sound, the actual character of "Under The Influence" is quite befitting of the sewer of horrors ruled by the great winged skull. As the first overtly thrash dominated album, there's no beating around the bush about where this album stands, as even at the onset of the opener "Shred" hits the nail on the head like an industrial strength pile-driver. The frenetic intro riff and beat is right out of the mid-80s Slayer formula, and mixes in nicely with a set of groovy, upper-mid tempo work that reminds a bit of "Bonded By Blood". This mixture of Bay Area and New York thrash influences pretty well dominates much of what is on here, stepping aside only occasionally for some older influences out of the band's previous efforts, all of which were at least partially conceived during the time when thrash and speed metal were joined at the hip.
However, even the most groovy elements found on here remind more of an Exodus approach rather than the so-called proto-90s character that some suggest first started to appear on here. This is particularly underscored by the elaborate character of the riff work, as even the heavily simplistic "Never Say Never" and "Brainfade" carry a heavy dose of 80s thrash cliches, not the least of which being the "Among The Living" sound of the intro of the latter. This is further bolstered by the extremely bombastic drum sound, which is along similar lines to what was heard out of Lars on "Master Of Puppets", though the newly acquired kit-man Sid Falck proves to be a bit less stiff and keeps a bit with a semblance of flow. Blitz's vocal sound is still a bit cleaner and archaic in character as well, having a bit more to do with Bruce Dickinson than later efforts, but the beginnings of his maniacal Bon Scott meets The Wicked Witch of the West snarl comes a bit more into view here than before. But perhaps most auspicious of all is Bobby Gustafson's lead guitar work, which has taken on a heavy amount of Jeff Hanneman influences and wails all over the place in a manner not heard before, arguably outclassing anything ever put out by either Kirk Hammett or Dan Spitz in terms of sheer technique.
It is important to note that while much closer to a consistent thrash metal album, "Under The Influence" still finds itself wandering into earlier 80s sounds, cutting a bit against the grain as being set by Metallica and Slayer at this juncture. The first and most obvious deviation is the live favorite and first music video "Hello From The Gutter", which sounds like a melodic leftover from "Taking Over" combined with a sped up rendition of Van Halen's "Panama" or "Unchained". It definitely hits the ears with more of a power metal feel, Blitz's vocal assault is a bit more restrained and consonant, and Gustafson's solo has a strict, methodical character that further reminds of an earlier 80s speed metal character. Along for the ride is "Drunken Wisdom", the band's first venture into doom territory, which comes mixed with a lot of melancholic acoustic guitar work that almost sounds like it could have influenced parts of Bathory's "Twilight Of The Gods". It blasts off into thrash territory about halfway through, but the general body of the song has a definite Black Sabbath feel to it, particularly reminding of the down-tuned heavy riff from the latter half of "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath". But the end all, be all of this album is the 3rd chapter of the ongoing Overkill self-titled saga that closes the album off, which takes the same thematic character of the previous two installments and translates them into a driving thrash anthem of terror that is close to Dark Angel in terms of intensity, yet slightly slower.
Ultimately, the reception of this album hinges upon its near schizophrenic mixture of older and newer practices, culminating in an album that could almost be construed as progressive given the deep contrast from one song to the next. This character of sound could be likened to a fish with lungs, or a lizard with fins, being just on the cusp of a massive evolutionary change in sound yet ending up in a near perfect 50/50 middle ground. Perhaps it could be argued that Overkill shied away from fully embracing the changeover that occurred in 1987-88, which cuts against the frequent criticism of some that Overkill are a mere product of their day than the other way around. But however people choose to remember the musical landscape of the late 80s, this album will hound all who listen to it like the forbidding mascot firing its retinal lasers at the adolescent dork in the sewer, commanding full obedience and repetitive neck-wrenching motions of the head.
"Under The Influence" is the 3rd studio album from New Jersey badboys Overkill, one of my favorite bands. Well after the speed metal-infused thrash attacks of their wicked first two efforts, the boys decided to drop the speed metal influences and go for an all-out thrash assault. You'd think that Overkill going straight for the throat with pure thrash would produce a masterpiece, right? Well "Under The Influence" has some pretty great highlights but suffers a great deal from some totally useless songs and moments that just go nowhere, leaving an opening for that greatest sin of a metal album: unmemorable songs! AAAAAAUUUGGHH!
In addition to becoming thrashier Overkill also headed in a more technical route, something a number of thrash bands were pulling at the time to keep the songs more interesting. This helps the group and also doesn't give'em many favors either. Easily the high point here, and of any Overkill record, is that cancer-raping madman himself, Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth. His nasally, bombastic shrieking and clean singing isn't as unhinged as on "Feel The Fire" or especially "Taking Over", but the man still more than kills his fair share of poseurs despite scaling back his aggression on here. Bobby Gustafon's guitar-shredding is probably better on here than he last two albums; he's comfortably come into his own, composing some much more complex solos and a wider array of riffage. Poor DD Verni's bombastic bass gets toned down a little in this mix, but not so much where he still isn't inaudible like the average thrash album; beware his killer intro to "Head First"! The lowlight here is new drummer Sid Falck, replacing the awesome Rat Skates. He's not awful but man is he average; he usually just plods along during most songs no matter what the speed and tone are, not to mention for some reason it's mixed too loudly. The worst is in "Hello From The Gutter", where I'm trying to listen to some catchy riffs and Blitz singing about sewer children while all I hear in the background is CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK! Again he's not bad, like Lar$ or Dave Holland bad, but man oh man is he mundane.
As previously mentioned, this album has it's fair share of highlights, but it tends to be outweighed a little by the fact that a number of the songs, while not bad, leave little to no imprint. Take for example part III in the "Overkill" saga. It relies way to much on atmosphere and gets to the meat and potatoes of the song way to late in in. "Never Say Never" is a solid cooker with fair aggression to it but the song ultimately proves to be forgettable. "End of the Line", oft cited as the weakest track on here, again noodles around too much but it is at times packed with cool Iron Maiden-like semi-melodic riffs.
There is good fun to be had on here too though. The opener "Shred"...well actually it sucks, sounding more like something Dokken or even Poison might have coughed up! Nah, I'm kidding of course. No this song does exactly that, and it does it well, probably being heavier than anything on the first two albums (save maybe for "Hammerhead") and remains one of the most aggressive numbers in the group's 80's output. Live/fan favorite "Hello From The Gutter" is quite fun, despite the aforementioned loud-ass drumming; hooky singing and quite a bit of catchy riffs thrown around. "Brainfade" is another cooker along the lines of "Never Say Never", but with stronger lyrics, more solid riffage and a better chorus. Then there's a personal favorite in "Head First", a quirky fastish affair with more catchy riffage, a fun solo and sarcastic shouting from Bobby that never fails to tickle me. "But I got a nickel that says you will!"
Overall, a decent album but not without some aggravating flaws; the loud, mundane drumming is often irritating and many songs are unfortunately pretty forgettable. Still the better songs shine nicely and the performances of the original bandmates are a treat anyway. I don't find myself revisiting this album often, and I don't recommend it for anyone interested in starting on Overkill; go with "Feel The Fire", "Taking Over", "Years of Decay" or something recent like "Ironbound" first, then maybe give this one a shot if you have nothing better to do.
Barring the arguable importance of any of their stylistic 'comebacks' later in history, Under the Influence was perhaps the most important album in Overkill's career, the 'make or break' moment where they had ridden in on two fairly spectacular recordings, already had a deal with one of the larger US majors, and needed to start churning out the hits that might place them in league with any of the 'big four' thrash bands who were selling hotcakes (though many would say the East Coasters deserve a quarter of that accolade themselves) and inspiring generations of heshers. So it's sad to say that, while strong, this was somewhat of a disappointment for me. After Taking Over, I expected only the world, but what I got was the sewer. A charming sewer, granted, and one that would introduce us formally to the group's long-term horned, batwinged skull mascot, but like Chaly, who we all wanted very badly to incinerate that douchebag on the cover, it comes up slightly short of its mark.
I don't know if it's the result of the band rushing this out the door, or the transition to the new drummer Sid Falck, but something about the production here just never sat quite right with me. It's not 'bad', mind you, but I felt like the bass was often a little too pluggy and the vocals didn't seem quite so forceful or confident as they had on the first two albums, occasionally too distant from the other instruments the mix. The band was once again working with Alex Perialas, who helmed Taking Over and also did some of the engineering on the debut, but this album doesn't seem as balanced and level as its predecessor. That aside, the guitars, drums and vocals are all clear and distinct enough for you to enjoy them individually, and the riffs are meaty and hammering enough to stir up a mosh pit and get the band their first major video airplay with "Hello to the Gutter", which feels like melodic Van Halen hard rock riffing diffused into punk restlessness and grating but unforgettable vocals. The drums feel like standard muscular rocking, which suits this tune in particular, but the salient chorus provides the song's salvation, and it's no wonder this became a fixture for gigs and another fan anthem in line with "Wrecking Crew".
There's not quite so much depth here as there was with Taking Over, but apart from "Hello..." you're treated to a handful of staples like the petulent "Shred", which opens the record with some of the band's fastest and most aggressive riffing to its day, only to transition into a bouncy fist-baller redolent of the material Anthrax or M.O.D. were writing at this same time. Or "Mad God World", with its treacherous grooves and lunatic chorus, and "Brainfade", with some sticky and interesting guitar progressions. It's the latter half of Under the Influence that fires off a few blanks. There is plenty of variation to be had, between some of the clean and tinny guitar intros, surgical riffs, and chunky mid-paced crowd pleasing, but songs like "End of the Line" seemed inconsistent, each measuring off some solid mosh rhythms with zipping leads and vocal patterns that never completely hooked me on the line. It's still an album I can listen to in completion, thanks to the pacing, charismatic lyrics and nostalgic appeal, but my enjoyment is not distributed evenly throughout.
Of course, sized up against a lot of the average American thrash choking up the record shelves of the late 80s, Under the Influence was still good enough to keep the band hovering in the average metalian's radar. I remember coming away from this with a similar impression that I got from State of Euphoria or ...And Justice For All: that the album felt mildly overproduced, and that it's modern compunctions lent too much of a sterile, plastic wrapping to what otherwise might have proven poignant songwriting. Compared with the more ripping, raw force of records like Razor's Violent Restitution or Tankard's The Morning After, or the dry, disturbing emanations off Slayer's South of Heaven, Under the Influence seemed somewhat 'assembly line', a series of mosh anthems akin to late 80s Anthrax or Zetro era Exodus which were hammy and fun rather than soul searing, belligerent excess. Not necessarily a negative in this case, since a number of the songs are strong and memorable enough to have earned a stable spot in the band's set lists; but while Under the Influence is still worth owning for any Overkill fan, and admittedly superior to anything the band has produced since, I could sense even in my teens that some thrashing summit had been reached, and this was the band coming down the far side of the hill, back to the city and their day jobs.
Under The Influence, Overkill's 3rd effort, seems often to be overshadowed by the two great albums that come before and the two after. The best known song here, Hello from the Gutter, seems to live (appropriately in a way) in the shadow of Elimination from the next album. There's that weird production. But within that extremely 80's album cover is a great, gritty work of thrash, and a bridge between modern and early Overkill.
Feel the Fire and Taking Over were both have some very distinct speed and NWOBHM influences, but Under the Influence develops the somewhat groovy sound more known as Overkill, slowing things down and spending some quality time on the sixth string. Bobby Blitz also shifts from the (relatively) clean vocals of the first two albums to the smoker's rasp gravel and growl he's know more for.
The groovy nature of the sound is further emphasized by the production. DD Verni is relatively high in the mix in most Overkill work but his clanking pick bass is even higher here, and the guitar tone I can only decsribe as "squishy". The combination adds some extra thud to the groovier tracks like the opener "Shred" (which true to its name, rips out some nasty solos), the crushing-like-a-hangover "Drunken Wisdom" and "End of the Line", and also adds an odd tone to the higher pitched songs like "Hello from the Gutter".
The highlights here are, well pretty much the whole damn album, the only remotely weak songs are "Headfirst" and "End of the Line" which have parts that can come off monotonous, though are still decent (End of the Line has an excellent creepy interlude in the middle). "Shred" and "Never Say Never" kick things off with speed and snarling determination from Blitz, "Hello from the Gutter" raises a 40 to all your broken dreams and breaks from the rest the album with a higher pitched classic main riff. "Mad Gone World", "Brainfade", and "Drunken Wisdom" join in the angry WTF-fest and feature some distinct touches -"Here it comes (PAUSE) Brainfade!", the pause in Drunken Wisdom before the solo where the song pauses for Bobby to chew out the subject of his wrath, and said wicked solo suddenly cuts out at the end into radio static.
The album closes with the title track, the third part of the Overkill song series, and features one of the most evil main riffs you'll ever hear. It ties this album in with the two before it, while the album also establishes Overkill's sound for years to come, and does a damn good job of it.
Arguably the first ever full-out thrash band, Overkill have had a surprisingly underground fan base and never really broke out into the big scene. What is even more frustrating to me is that they really have yet to release something that qualifies as "bad" compared to the rest of the aforementioned big scene thrash bands, yet some people still nit-pick their material for whatever reason. "Under the Influence", the third and penultimate album with core songwriter Bobby Gustafson, is the album that usually gets the most flack out of their "classic" material, despite being one of their most consistent and thrashiest releases ever.
I really can't stand this album getting so much negativity because I have yet to see a real stand-out argument against this album except for the fact that it's NOT one of the other first five Overkill albums (the ones usually regarded as their best). Personally, I think I understand what the denouncers are trying to get at, and simply just don't agree with them. Take the supposed "lack of variation" this album has, a reason I had to loosely pull from the vague arguments of others. They see it as a detractor, but I feel it's actually them noticing how consistent this is over, say "Taking Over". That one, while definitely being another stellar album as to be expected from Overkill, focused a lot on individual song strength/variety. This is obviously not a bad thing, but when bands do this, there are usually some tracks that REALLY stick out as being either excellent or lackluster. With "Under the Influence", all the songs are pretty much at the same level: none sticking out negatively, while still having almost all being of excellent quality.
The other major point brought up is the songwriting, and how the band took a "safer" or "less risky" approach, and therefore proclaims a decrease in quality. I called bullshit on this right away. This is thrash metal, damn it. The riffs are always plentiful in each song, the performance is energetic and life-like, and there is the usual aura of "poser-killing" present throughout the entire LP. And, as I mentioned, a "riskier" songwriting method usually leads to an unbalanced product of really good and really forgettable songs, killing the flow of the whole thing. A lot of the variation lies in the different tones of each song, actually, as there's a good balance of "upbeat" and darker compositions.
Of course, the song structures are not the only positives of this album. As I said before, this feels a lot thrashier compared to the other classics, maybe even the most thrash-sounding, and it owes a good deal of that to the production. Pretty much every instrument has been brought up volume-wise, including D.D.'s bass, which was already extremely audible to begin with. All of this combines to create an even greater wall of sound that still retains actual melody and discernable notes while thrashing about maniacally(something I've always loved about this band, since they do it consistently), despite being quite possibly their least melodic album. One of my few gripes with the succeeding (and, admittedly, better) album was that it was a little too quiet, which is actually the opposite here. Obviously as well, the instrumentation is near flawless, as every member is a near master of their respective instrument. There are intricate bass lines, blistering guitar solos, rapid drum beats, and shrieking banshee wails that all culminate into a gargantuan aural assault of skill and precision.
Song wise, there are a ton of neck-breaking moments to be found. Speedier tracks such as the opener "Shred", the third part of the Overkill saga "Under the Influence", and the semi-hit "Hello from the Gutter" all provide great headbanging, while mid-paced crushers like "Brainfade", "Never Say Never", and "Head First" steamroll over the listeners without an iota of boredom in sight.
But the track that deserves the most individual mentioning is the partially doom metal track "Drunken Wisdom", because Overkill, while being an undoubtedly outstanding thrash band, can actually write some damn good doom metal (and some awesome ballads as well, but that's a different story).
This song annihilates any claim that the album was too similar and didn't have enough advanced songwriting, all at once. Opening with a classical sounding acoustic intro, it transitions to a heavy-as-fuck riff, then goes into a fast section with that really nice chorus. The following guitar solo is horrifically underrated, and is probably one of Bobby's best ever. Needless to say, the main riff afterwards is incredibly thrash metal, and most likely the highlight of the entire album.
I'm actually not that surprised that the last review of this was 4 years ago. This is usually the release that garners the least attention, most likely due to being wedged between to highly regarded "masterworks" (this actually happens quite a few times with many other bands). Still, I cannot stress enough how great this album is, and it definitely shouldn't be ignored simply because that is the general consensual agreement.
Overkill's 3rd full length albums, is more of the same that we came to expect from the guys. One noticeable change is Blitz' vocals, he must have started hitting the cigarettes pretty hard after Taking Over, because from here on out his voice become really gruff and raspy. One thing you can say about Blitz' vocals on the later albums, is he is instantly recognizable, sounding a bit like Udo mixed with Bon Scott. The music is still classic Overkill, fast and aggressive, but still retaining that traditional metal melody and over all feel. The production on this album is pretty bad, the first 2 albums sounded much better, this one souds really lifelss. It's a shame too, some of the songs are hurt pretty bad by this.
The album kicks off with "Shred" which is a fan favorite, it has a nive driving rythym to it, and some really over the top vocals. There's a really fast break-down about half way through the song, it sounds a bit of out place on the album, but would kick ass live. "Never Say Never" is a mid paced number, with a really cool pre-chorus and chorus. Some interesting bass work, and riffs.
"Hello From the Gutter" is probably the most well known Overkill song. And for good reason, it's INSTANELY catchy, and just a really fun song. Great song from beginning to end, nice solo, and great vocal delivery. "Mad Gone World" has some really nice verses, but where they speed up for the chorus, it sounds really dis-jointed, you'll think your cd must have skipped. "Brainfade" is a kick ass thrasher, a little faster and more aggressive than the others. This is one of my favorite songs on the album, it's definetly a pre-cursor to their next album, The Years of Decay.
"Drunken Wisdom" is a slow paced, doom type song. I'm not really a fan of it, it's not a bad song, but it's not what I wanna hear from Overkill. It does speed up at the end and sounds pretty awesome for the last minute or 2. "End of the Line" starts off with a riff that reminds me of the riff in Slayer's "Jesus Saves" I'm not sure why. It has a really catchy chorus, but it's just a little too long for it's own good. "Head First" has a really punk feel too it, it's a really good song though. Probably sounds awesome live.
The album ends with Overkill III, and this is probably my favorite song on the album. One of Blitz' best vocal performances, I just love the way he sounds on this song, especially during the chorus "Before my dreamssss come to liiife!" sends chills down my neck. The music is more traditional than thrash, like the original Overkill song. I would love to hear this song live, but I doubt that will ever happen.
Under The Influence is a legendary thrash album. This album and others like it really helped the thrash scene peak in the late 80s. It’s probably my favorite Overkill album. It’s certainly better than their later work. The songs are much more melodic and first-rate than their following albums, such as Horrorscope. Apparently, some people on archives don’t feel the same. But that has no influence on my 96% grade.
This is everything a thrash album should be. The album starts fast and heavy with Shred. Track one has a powerful riff and impressive chorus. It is a premonition of things to come, for the rest of the album is just as quality. Hello From The Gutter has to be one of the top ten thrash songs ever. An amazing riff and immaculate chorus leaves you dumbfounded. The lyrics are great too, “The Big Apple’s rotten, rotting in the heat!” Bobby Gustafson is quite apt with the guitar, as D.D. Verni is with his bass. Put them together and you have deafening metal with intense solos. This song is sacred to many thrash fans. Blitzes vocals are a little screechy, but it adds character, and he’s still a very accomplished thrash lead singer. In fact, I like his vocals. Mad Gone World is almost as notable, with an especially fast chorus and energetic riffs. The song is fast and angry with lyrics hinting that a delusional man composed it. Brainfade keeps up the pace, as does Drunken Wisdom half way through the album. Brainfade has a funny clip of some whiny guy talking, pretty much the topic of the song. It’s most likely personal. The great tracks keep coming until they conclude with Overkill III. Bobby Gustafson perfects every chorus with his flawless guitar playing, and Blitzes striking vocals add the final touches. Give Sid credit on the percussion too, especially for keeping up with those fast riffs.
Therefore this is a classic Overkill album. Hello From The Gutter is an elite thrash release that helped thrash peak in 88’. Unfortunately the scene went downhill from there. If you’re a thrash/speed fan chances are you own it, but if not, what are you waiting for? New bands need to recreate a sound like this. If an album similar to Hello From The Gutter debuted today, I’m confident thrash would make a full return. Anyway this album is in a class of it’s own, fully deserving of its 96%.
While Overkill were late starters on the thrash scene, they more than made up for it by being one of the most prolific bands of the late '80s. Under The Influence was their third album in two years when it was released in 1988, and the rapidity at which the albums had been released had no effect on the quality of the material whatsoever.
So what were Overkill serving up for the Wrecking Crew? Well, it was a good dose of solid riffing, bass with attitude, some of the most imaginative drumming to be heard in the entire scene, and perhaps the second best thrash vocalist in Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth, bettered only by Joey Belladonna.
Bobby Gustafson proved himself one of the most versatile guitar players of the time, multitracking crushing rhythm and searing lead guitars on the same songs. To make up for the lack of a second guitar, DD Verni's bass is high in the mix, sacrificing a bit of bottom end to fill the mid range gaps. The two blended together incredibly well to produce a distinct sound which set Overkill apart from the crowd.
The shout–along of "Hello From The Gutter", while a little cheesy now, was a typical Overkill thrasher– a catchy main riff, backed by the rock solid rhythm section, topped with Ellsworth's distinctive voice and some tasty leads.
No one ever did this band any favours as they fought their way up from the gutters (Hello!), which is reflected in some of the dark lyrical themes running through their songs. Broken dreams, the depths of drunken despair, the end of the line, all may have seemed lost, but there was definitely hope there for Overkill. "Shred", "Never Say Never" and "Headfirst" had more positive themes coming through, like new beginnings and pride in being yourself.
But at the end of the day, no one really gives a fuck what a band sings about as long as they have the songs to get the mosh pit going. Overkill more than deliver in that department on this album, or in fact on any album. And they have one of the coolest mascots ever in Chaly the skull bat thing!
And shred they do, indeed. Although, it’s not shred in the traditional Yngwie Malmsteen sense. It’s more like shred as in rip your fucking face off, sew it to your ass and keep feeding you chili until you blast shit all over your own face! All right, maybe not that extreme, but you get the picture. This is definitely not the best Overkill album, but it is surely not the worst. It has its fair share of memorable moments, like "Shred", a favourite among Overkill fans, and a good, fun, singable thrasher.
Blitz, DD, Bobby and new drummer Sid Falck also give us such tasty numbers as "Never Say Never", which is somewhat of an ode to the band’s career thus far, "Brainfade" a typically fun number from the ‘Kill and "Head First" which is just oh, so groovy. Not to mention "Drunken Wisdom" and "End of the Line", to of the finest tracks the band has done over the length of their long career.
The highlight, however, has got to be "Hello from the Gutter", a true thrash giant. It is much like "Elimination" from THE YEARS OF DECAY or "Deny the Cross" from TAKING OVER in that it has that unmistakeable Overkill swagger, although it’s not really a swagger so much as a cocky twitch.
This album also captures the band in the middle of their first transition period. FEEL THE FIRE and TAKING OVER were undeniably similar in their classic speed/thrash leanings. On UNDER THE INFLUENCE we see a more aggressive Overkill, more in the vein of what Exodus or Slayer were doing around the same time. They haven't quite perfected it at this point, but it's damn enjoyable none the less.
There are only two songs which kind of bring the album down a bit. "Mad Gone World" starts off nicely enough, but never really seems to find a focus, and "Overkilll III" is a rather big disappointment. It’s not like the song sucks, but it just doesn’t live up to the memory of the first two chapters. That’s really the story of this album, though. It just doesn’t quite live up to the first two magnificent beasts that are FEEL THE FIRE and TAKING OVER. That’s not to say it’s not a great album in its own right, just not as great. Anyway, buy it, love it, hurl yourself into your stereo, whatever.
By this album, Overkill had gotten rid of most of their speed metal influences, and became an all-out thrash band. There are still melodic bits in the songs here and there, but they are more of a power-metal style than a speed-metal style.
Kicking off the album is "Shred", whose riffs are pretty much the epitome of New York thrash. The single note repeated under the verses, at efficient speed - something Anthrax and Nuclear Assault also employed extensively. The first side of the album is similar to that, and also includes Hello from the Gutter, which was a hit of sorts, and even had a video.
The second side of the album features longer and more epic songs. Drunken Wisdom combines aggression and melody nicely, and has a nice juxtaposition in the middle of a vicious Slayer-esque thrash solo that gets louder and louder, and noiser and noiser, and then a clean break of a riff that pretty much forces you to headbang now, survive later. End of the Line has a nice catchy chorus and some pretty well-done soloing, almost in the Iron Maiden style at times. Head First and Overkill Part III are also pretty nicely done.
It's Overkill, people - you really can't miss with them. This is yet another great album by them.