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The Atmosphere Thickens... - 87%

Metal_Jaw, December 25th, 2012

So long 1980's, hello 90's. As the world of heavy metal slowly but surely folded in on itself, a few bands escaped into the new decade relatively unscathed, like Judas Priest with "Painkiller" or Megadeth with "Rust In Peace". East Coast outfit Overkill made it look pretty easy too, especially after an accomplishment like "Years Of Decay" and the unfortunate dismissal of guitarist Bobby Gustafson. Even still, never a band to stop at anything, Overkill took to the new decade like it was any other, and let loose their 5th studio album "Horrorscope". While this one has a number of forgettable tracks like its two predecessors, the stronger stuff keeps the album floating overall.

The production always kind of rubbed me the wrong way on here. Bobby Blitz's vocals are mixed too low in my opinion, and the bass isn't as noticeable as it could be either. The guitars are fine however, but the drumming can be quite a bit too loud too often. What is it with that Sid Falck anyway? Did he just not like not having his drumming noticed? I mean, his work on here is the best yet, with loads of fast, very precise hammering and amazingly quick kick-drumming, but I mean really! DD Verni's bass is more understated like I said, but higher than the usual metal record; his work is almost always appreciated and adds some nice layers the the overall sound. Bobby Blitz still kills, practically carrying the album like often does with his screaming, raspy charisma, though on here he adds a sense of mood and dread to his voice and utilizes actual singing quite a bit. Replacing Mr Gustafson is the duo of Rob Cannavino and Merritt Gant. Even these two guitarists together can't replace the immense soloing and memorable riffwork of Bobby; as such though their guitarisms are considerably more simple, their work doesn't change the overall sound of the music and it's still readily recognizable as Overkill.

The sense of mood notable on "The Years of Decay" is even greater on here; this probably one the group's most atmosphere-driven albums their discography. Unfortunately the amount of songs on here that don't click is even greater too. You'd think we'd expect better from Overkill at this point. We've got "New Machine", which is sort of a boring, groovish, generic song with nothing too special going for it. The odd 'Bare Bones" is more aggressive but equally unmemorable, and hampered further by a weak chorus and a really odd intro permeated by a piano riff. "Blood Money" is another speeder, but again fails to do much for me personally thanks again to an uninteresting chorus and not-so-special riffage. I'm sure I might get some flack for this, but I don't really like "Live Young, Die Free" either. Yeah, aside from a pretty good solo, it just passes without very memorable riffs or even that great of a Bobby Blitz performance.

Well, what does the great Metal_Jaw think is SOOO special on this album then, hmmm? Well, opener "Coma" is pretty wicked, a thrashy speeder accompanied by a spooky intro, a searing, evil guitar solo and some of Blitz's more unhinged vocal work. The groovish, heavy speeder "Thanx For Nothing" is quite cool as well, though the solo goes on a bit too long. The title track is a classic, bludgeoning its way into the listener's puny mortal psyche with its brutal, mid-paced mosh riffs and a number of moody little solos and breaks. Also of note is "Infectious", a neat number that mixes speed metal and mid-paced aesthetics to make a pretty cool-sounding song, though leaning a bit more towards the latter. The tense, evil "Nice Day...For A Funeral" is decent enough, but leads via an atmospheric segway into the closer "Soulitude", an utterly fantastic thrash ballad and probably one of the group's most underrated songs.

Overall, "Horrorscope" is hampered down somewhat by the new guys, an iffy production and a few throwaway songs. At the end of the day though it still is one of the band's better efforts; there are some pretty strong, classic cuts on here (namely the title track, "Coma" and "Soulitude"), and of course Blitz and DD never stop rocking. Enjoy "Horrorscope" for what it is; it's also often considered to be the group's last solid album for a long while at this point in time. After this one, Overkill began to slip away, as a number of good bands at this time did, into the much-despised alternative metal camp: they went to groove...