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Overkill: Horrorscope - 100%

MetalManiaCometh, July 31st, 2020

There’s very few albums in my life that have had a huge impact in not only my music tastes but also on a emotional level. “Reign In Blood”, “Number Of The Beast”, “By Inheritance”, and finally “Horrorscope” are some examples that had that effect on me. “Horrorscope” was my first experience with Overkill and was an album that got me through hard times in my personal life and ever since then Overkill has remained my favorite band. Before I discovered “Horrorscope” I was already well educated in bands such as Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax, and Slayer (who was my favorite band before Overkill); you know, the popular stuff. But once I found “Horrorscope”, thanks to my brother handing it to me in a music store, my musical tastes grew tenfold.

Something about this record just popped out to me and was noticeably different from everything I’ve listened to thus far. Everything from the Merrit Gant and Rob Cannavino’s twin guitar attack, Sid Falck’s technically impressive drumming, D.D.’s distinct bass lines, and Blitz’s unique shrills and screams sent shivers down my spine and has changed my tastes in music forever. I don’t believe there’s one weak moment on this album as everything flows perfectly from shredding riffs to slower doom influenced song structures to mid-paced thrashing. I personally think the flow of this album works a little better than the previous album, “The Years Of Decay”, as it is more refined.

“Refined” is honestly the perfect word I can use for “Horrorscope” as I believe it really does refine the best elements that was found on the previous album. In my review for “The Years Of Decay” I stressed how varied the songs were by having all the speedy thrash riffing you’d ever want while injecting doom metal, a ballad, a punk influenced song, and more technically impressive mid-paced songs. “Horrorscope” has all of that but I believe does it just a little better. “Horrorscope” embodies all the best characteristics that it’s comparable, “Playing With Spiders / Skullcrusher”, has while focusing much more on that doom atmosphere than “Skullcrusher”. The same can be said for songs like “Thanx For Nothin’” and “Solitude” with their respective comparables being “I Hate” and “The Years Of Decay”. A natural progression for the bands sound and now with the introduction of 2 guitarists, it really does set up the difference between this album and the previous four.

Writing wise “Horrorscope” is chalk full of A+ soloing and riffing from Merritt Gant and Rob Cannavino who probably played their best performance here in their whole career. Sure, Bobby Gustafsons handy work isn’t here but I can’t say that Overkill “lost” their sound after he left as the writing proves that incorrect. Some of Overkills most distinct solos, and my personal favorites, are found throughout. From “Coma” with its dual shredding to “Blood Money” with its constant solos coming in and out of the song to “Nice Day....For A Funeral” with its solo starting off sluggish only to gain traction and speed as it goes, everything is exceptionally played and written. Hell, the cover to “Frankenstein” is handled extremely well. Honestly, I personally think this is Overkills most technical effort just under “Under The Influence”. There is just a big variety of song structures to be found here as Overkill utilizes the songs individual times to slow down the thrashing for a moving melodic grove and vice versa.

Sid Falcks presence here on the drums is absolutely stellar. I talked about how Sid really came into his own in “The Years Of Decay” but I think his best performance is to be found here. “New Machine” offers a lot of structural changes in the drumming as he goes in and out of tempo; going back and forth from speed to a slower tribal beat. Really, if you are drum lover, go listen to “New Machine”. The album is full of those type of drum tempo changes and Sid remains tight in execution. This would be Sids final album with Overkill but holy shit what a way to exit; nothing but phenomenal work on here and on the other classic albums he was apart of.

Getting to the bass, we get to D.D. Verni and his chunky bass lines. “Horrorscope” raises Verni’s bass in the production considerably more than it ever was (until W.F.O.). D.D. really goes to work here as he offers one of his most varied performances. Just as Sid and the rest of the musicians, there’s a lot of different tempo changes going on here on the album and I think that really benefits D.D.’s playing style. With songs like “Horrorscope” and “Nice Day...For A Funeral” that showcases his slow, thick groovey picking while “Live Young, Die Free” and “Infectious” offer something speedy licks, I’ll never understand why D.D. doesn’t get as much recognition he deserves.

Now we’re onto Bobby Blitz and his singing is as great as it ever been, maybe even a little better here than previously. Blitz’s screams and shrills are probably the best in the business but he’s not just a one trick pony as he does give a varied performance here. I always liked how he goes back and forth from his normal voice to a more melodic singing in “Blood Money” as it gives the listener a little more vocal variety and goes great with the riffing. “Soulitude” gives us a more intimate performance from Blitz just as “The Years Of Decay” did but I really love how the song begins to amp up, then slow it back down while adding a very tasty solo to top it off. Besides Blitz’s vocals, I believe lyrically the songs have some of the best writing they’ve done thus far. The songs focus on death, despair, or even saying goodbye and I believe that’s all intentional as the album is masked in thick, dark atmosphere which I find more so than “The Years Of Decay”. Blitz just really gives it his all on “Horrorscope” and I personally think this is his best performance in the bands 30 plus history.

After covering all the writing and performances I think the production is in need of talking about. Terry Date comes back to “Horrorscope” after he worked on the previous album and he really hits it out of the park here; improving his skills since “The Years Of Decay”. Everything’s clear, loud, and crunchy but isn’t over produced and just sounds natural. I’ve read some complaints that certain things were either too loud or quiet such as D.D.’s bass or Blitz’s vocals for a few examples and I don’t hear those issues here at all. You can hear everything while also not having one instrument or Blitz’s vocals take over the mix. I mean, compare “Rust In Peace” that came out a year before where the cymbals are too loud and Dave’s voice sounds low in many places within the mix and you’ll hear it’s night and day in quality. Terry’s production hits you right in the face with everything equally and it’s probably one of the best produced thrash albums of all time.

I’ve heard other criticisms such as the songs not being memorable compared to previous material, nothing really sticking, or not being as interesting as the previous albums and I’m not sure where these criticisms come from. “Horrorscope” is full of interesting riffing and some of the best solos in the genre while songs like “Coma”, “Bare Bones”, and “Live Young, Die Free” offer that itch that previous songs such as “Elimination” and “Rotten To The Core” have but surrounded by a much darker feel and vibe to them. The use of tempo changes within the individual songs are done just a little better than “The Years Of Decay” and really changes the dynamic; keeping things interesting.

“Horrorscope” is a land mark of the genre, offering fantastic performances, excellent writing, and a terrific production. With alternative and grudge on the rise at the start of the 90s, Metallica putting out “The Black Album” the same year as “Horrorscope”, and thrash metal taking a dive in popularity; it almost feels cathartic how well made “Horrorscope” is, especially after Bobby Gustafsons departure. I truly do believe that “Horrorscope” is the best album that the band has put out and really ranks up there with other classic albums from their contemporaries which honestly, can be said about Overkills previous four. It’s not the most complex album nor is it the fastest but it is extremely well written and excellently preformed which is what is the most important thing about creating music.

If I could give “Horrorscope” a 105% I would as I think this is an album that surpasses “The Years Of Decay” (which I gave it a masterpiece status with 100%) just by a smidge. If “Horrorscope” can cause a divide in the metal community, most importantly the thrash metal community, on which album is better between this and TYOD then there must be something there to cause that divide. From “Feel The Fire” to “Horrorscope”, Overkill produced probably one of the strongest collection of thrash classics out of the genre and with the classic era of the genre coming to an end in the 90s Overkill truly gave that classic era of thrash with “Horrorscope” a bang to end on.