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Made them what they are today. - 95%

Diamhea, August 31st, 2012

The loss of Gustafson could have easily sounded the death knell for Overkill, as he wrote the majority of the classic The Years of Decay and embodied a large chunk of their creative unit. The band scrambled and improvised, recruiting Gustafson's guitar tech, Rob Cannavino along with seemingly unknown Merritt Gant from Faith or Fear. This beefed up the band's lineup with two unique, skilled guitarists; a coup that Verni was attempting to pull on Gustafson for some time before his departure. Despite well-placed uncertainty, after all of the smoke cleared, we were given Overkill's greatest album: Horrorscope.

Verni claims that starting on this album he writes all of the music with minimal input from the rest of the lineup. This obviously wasn't the case when Gustafson was present, and a drastic shift in the band's sound is obviously reflected here. The riffing style on Horrorscope is slower than on any of its elder siblings, but it takes advantage of this more deliberate, atypical approach with a number of groovy, crushing bulldozer-like cuts in "New Machine", "Nice Day...For a Funeral", and the title track. Overkill would later receive mixed opinions toward their infusion of groove elements, but it comes off as novel here. That's not to say that there is a lack of speed, as the opener "Coma" and "Live Young, Die Free" exhibit a blistering riff set, especially the section right after the solo on the latter. The remaining songs, save for the atmospheric, mid-paced closer "Soulitude" embody a best-of-both-worlds approach, fusing absolutely crushing riffs with Ellsworth's manic inflection.

The vocals are second only to the riffs in quality, as this is without a doubt Ellsworth's best vocal performance of all time, with Taking Over being a very close second. He totally drops his earlier operatic intonation for a gritty, dark performance that beats out even The Years of Decay in memorability. His approach is most impressively showcased on the mid-paced classic "New Machine", as Ellsworth roars "Nailed to the cross by just words, crucifixion complete!" with the chugging, ascending main riff leaving destruction in its wake behind him. The song gathers some speed about halfway through with the requisite thrash break, embodying all of Horrorscope's best qualities condensed into one single track. The only real deviation in Ellsworth's delivery is on the emotional closer "Soulitude", in which his inflection cleans up a bit as per the song's atmosphere. This track deserves its own special mention, as the doomy bass riff that makes up the bulk of the track is just incredible, especially the way the previous track "Nice Day...For a Funeral" fades into it. The best solos are also present here, making it the definitive closer to a near-flawless album. Think of it as Overkill's "Fade to Black," which makes sense as it follows a rather similar progression along with much of the appeal.

Falck's swansong with the group is also by far his best performance. Terry Date brings the best out of the Overkill formula with an unbelievably dry, snappy drum mix that adds to the neck-jerking mayhem even more. I'm not one to gush often, but this has to be the best produced drum performance I have ever heard on a thrash album. There are quick tom rolls and more surging double-bass than on any of the group's earlier material, giving the rhythm section a stronger backbone than ever. Verni's popping, clangy bass isn't as prominent as usual, but still present enough to add to the dark atmosphere being conveyed here. I feel that if the bass was too prominent it would take the spotlight away from the six-string theatrics, which in this case would be a shame.

Every track on here is a classic save for two. "Bare Bones" has never sat quite right with me. The overlong piano intro already puts added pressure on the track to deliver, but it ends up sounding like a dumping ground for the ideas that couldn't or wouldn't fit elsewhere. "Frankenstein" is a cool, well done cover but feels unnecessary on the whole and ends up interrupting Horrorscope's amazing second half. I'm not even kidding, the last half of this album save for "Frankenstein" is Overkill's finest hour.

While many agree with me, I can still find more that consider The Years of Decay the band's best work. My rebuttal? Next time THINK before you SPEAK. Thanks for nothin'.

(Revised/Updated 1/23/14)